Fast forward to now and what do you see? The iPod earbud effect via Apple Watch. Just as we knew iPod was a hit when we could see those bright white earbuds everywhere, Apple Watch is, well, everywhere these days. What about the competition?
New. Cheap. Immature.
Product differentiation is a thing to be reckoned with. To compete against an industry leader, a competitor must have similar features, but at a lower price. Or, even better features, but at roughly the same price as the leader.
Fitbit’s Versa smartwatch is the Apple Watch competitor that comes in with similar features at a lower price. Almost. How much? $200 (actually, a nickel less than $200). That makes it less than Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE at $329. The problem is that we’re not really comparing apples to Apple. Fitbit Versa is not Watch Series 3 with LTE and GPS, but is it a good and less expensive alternative?
It depends. What do you think of this?
Looks like Apple Watch, no?
So, you get similarities in size and fashionable watchbands, plus built-in fitness and sleep tracking, a heart rate monitor, options for notifications and alerts, music, and up to four days of battery life.
As noted above, a competitor to an industry leader has to have more for less. Fitbit Versa does not have more– yet– but has a few differences. Similarities are Fitbit Pay vs. Apple Pay. Store and play up to 300 songs or sync Pandora stations. Yes, it comes with calendar, text and app alerts, and can send replies to text messages if your smartphone is a recent Android model.
Apps? Not as many as Apple Watch, but enough to get started, including one for iPhone.
What about fashion? Comparatively speaking, this is no contest. Watch has more than Versa. Far more. Apple has dozens and dozens of Watchband options, multiple case options, and fare more. But maybe Versa has enough to get the value conscious, non-Apple customer to pay attention.
Apple Watch comes in two sizes; 38mm and 42mm. Think male and female. Fitbit Verson comes in a single size and it’s small– 34mm. Watch has slimmer bezels and a bigger screen, but onscreen there are plenty of similarities, too.
Watch? Or, Versa?
What about that four day battery life in Versa?
Battery life might be the one strong suit in Versa, but perhaps more because of the display and lack of applications than anything else. Versa’s display is LCD vs. Watch OLED. The latter is bright and has more contrast.
One of my favorite Watch features is the built-in heart rate monitor. It is so good it can measure and detect an irregular heart rhythm and send notifications. Fitbit Versa also has a heart rate monitor but does not have the same alert capability built-in.
The price nearly doubles when you get Watch Series 3 with LTE. That means you can go on the go without iPhone. Siri still works. Data still flows. Things still work. Versa does not have Siri, or Alexa, or Google Assistant. Apple also has a trade-in program to upgrade to a new Watch each year.
What I like about Versa is both the attempt and the end result. Versa is not Watch. But it is competitive, especially for the budget-minded shopper without an iPhone. For now, Watch is an iPhone accessory.
What about all the other Watch challengers?
Yeah, I wonder about them, too. Where did they go? You seldom see one in the wild. Online tech magazines seldom writer about Watch competitors. Maybe Watch is to smart watches what iPod was to portable music players.