Instead of doubling down and trying to make the next best Apple Watch killer, Fitbit is focusing on potential users and prices. Today, the company launched the new $159 Versa Lite smartwatch, a pared-down version of the $199 wearable it came out with last year. It will also bring the newly announced Inspire and Inspire HR fitness trackers, priced from $69 to $99, to all consumers.
The Versa Lite doesn’t look very different from the original $199 Versa, but Fitbit removed a few features to keep the device’s price down. The Lite doesn’t have the ability to track floors climbed, count swim laps from your wrist (although it can track swimming workouts), play music, or show on-screen guided workouts.
The Versa Lite also doesn’t have onboard Wi-Fi, but it can still receive smartphone alerts when your smartphone is nearby. It also has a new updates feature that will initiate a small update download every time the user syncs the device to the Fitbit mobile app. The Lite won’t be the device that keeps you in the loop at all times like the Apple Watch or even the original Versa does—but it still keeps the digital world on your wrist. As far as battery life goes, Fitbit estimates at least four days of all day and night use on a single charge.
Those are big features to leave off a Fitbit OS-device. However, Lite will still be useful for users who want an all-day and all-night activity and sleep tracker that monitors heart rate continuously and can connect to the GPS in your phone to map outdoor workouts. Ever since Fitbit launched its first smartwatch, the Ionic, it has developed a pattern of expanding its smartwatch family by making cheaper devices. The Versa itself was made to be a more affordable (and stylish) version of the Ionic, and now the Versa Lite continues that tradition by being a further simplified version of the Versa.
Not only does Fitbit want to get customers onto its platform with affordable devices, but it also wants to give customers more options. Representatives emphasized the importance of making devices for those who have never worn a wearable and those who are just starting out on their fitness journeys. That transition can be intimidating, so Fitbit is hoping that the Versa Lite can be a cheaper, more focused device for those users.
Inspire, Ace, and paid services
In addition to the Versa Lite, Fitbit is also making the new Inspire and Inspire HR available to all. Announced a few weeks ago, the Inspire line of fitness trackers was first made for Fitbit’s healthcare partners—but now, both devices will replace the Zip, Flex 2, and the Alta and Alta HR in Fitbit’s consumer family.
Replacing all of those devices means the Inspire trackers must be quite versatile. Users can wear the trackers in clips or wristband attachments, and the touchscreen is more flexible and usable than the old, tap-only screen on the Alta trackers. Both will also have the new on-device dashboard that shows stats like steps, calories, and distance at a glance.
As the name suggests, the Inspire HR has Fitbit’s continuous heart-rate monitoring technology, and it will be able to do a few things the regular Inspire can’t: track sleep stages, track workouts with more than 15 on-device exercise modes, and use Fitbit’s connected GPS feature.
Fitbit also redesigned its Ace fitness tracker for kids in the new Acer 2 device. This time around, the kid-friendly tracker is a bit bulkier, but it is also stronger in the face of the inevitable mishandling that comes from children. The devices have new animated watch faces and new band colors, both of which may encourage kids to wear the devices all day long and be active regularly as a result.
Fitbit has a few new services in the works to complement its new devices. First, Fitbit is planning a redesign of its mobile app for later this year. The goal is to make the entire app more streamlined, put health insights (a section called Fitbit Focus) front and center, and integrate social aspects more elegantly. Second, there’s the Fitbit Rewards beta program that gives users points for completing daily activity tasks like passing a step goal or clocking in a sufficient number of hours of sleep. These points can be used to redeem rewards from partnering companies such as Adidas and Deezer.
This is part of Fitbit’s experiments before it reportedly launches a “paid premium service” later this year. Besides the rewards program and possible Fitbit Coach (the company’s guided exercise programs that cost $39 annually), it’s unclear what that premium service would include. But like Apple and many other device makers, Fitbit appears to be embracing the idea of services being a main revenue stream going forward.
You can preorder the $159 Versa Lite, the $69 Inspire, and the $99 Inspire HR from Fitbit’s website beginning today. The $69 Ace 2 tracker will be available starting this summer. Check back on Ars for our reviews of the Versa Lite and Inspire HR in the coming weeks.
Listing image by Valentina Palladino