The Fitbit Versa 3 is arguably the best fitness-tracking smartwatch out today, particularly if you have less than $300 to spend. At only $230, it’s highly comfortable and easy to use, while its tracking features are comprehensive for its price, covering heart rate and blood-oxygen sensors, the ability to monitor skin temperature, and built-in GPS. However, as good as it is, it isn’t the only low-cost and high-functioning smartwatch. Another contender is the Apple Watch SE, which, despite being priced at around $300, does pretty much everything the more expensive Apple Watch Series 6 does, even throwing in a timer to ensure you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
Both devices have their strengths, but which is the best? We pit them against each other in a head-to-head comparison to find out. By looking at their specs, designs, displays, health and fitness tracking features, batteries, and special features, we also help you decide which is the right one for you.
|Fitbit Versa 3||Apple Watch SE|
|Display size||1.58 inches||1.78 inches / 1.57 inches|
|Body size||40 x 40 x 12mm||44 x 38 x 10.4mm / 40 x 34 x 10.4mm|
336 x 336 pixels
|324 x 394 pixels (40mm) / 368 x 448 pixels (44mm)|
|Touchscreen||1.58-inch AMOLED display||1.78-inch/1.57-inch Retina LTPO OLED display (1,000 nits)|
|Wireless interface||Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, NFC||Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, NFC|
|Ambient light sensor||Yes||Yes|
|Heart rate sensor||Yes||Yes|
|Battery life||7+ days||2+ days|
|Price||From $230||From $309|
|DT review||4.5 out of 5 stars||4.5 out of 5 stars|
Design and display
The Fitbit Versa 3 doesn’t look too dissimilar from the Apple Watch SE, featuring a “squircle” shape that boasts a curved outline and rounded edges. It is a touch more squarish than the Apple Watch SE, which looks just a little rectangular. Other than that, both watches sport an aluminum frame, although the Fitbit comes only in black, while the Apple Watch SE can be bought in silver, Space Gray, or gold. This makes it seem a little more luxurious than the Fitbit, as does the wider choice of straps.
There isn’t a massive difference between the Apple Watch SE and the Fitbit Versa 3 in terms of display quality, although Apple’s device just about edges it. The Versa boasts a 1.58-inch AMOLED screen, while the 40mm Apple Watch SE has a 1.57-inch Retina OLED. The Versa offers a resolution of 336 x 336 pixels, and Apple’s watch offers 394 x 324 pixels. This works out at 323 pixels per inch for the Apple Watch SE and 300 ppi for the Fitbit, a difference that is slight but just about noticeable. If choosing the 44mm Apple Watch SE, you’ll get a 1.78-inch screen with 448 x 368 pixels. This works out at 325 pixels per inch, which makes for a slightly more impressive visual experience.
These differences aren’t massive, but with a slightly superior screen and more color and strap options, the Apple Watch SE takes this opening round.
Fitness and health tracking features
The Fitbit Versa 3 and Apple Watch SE are fairly well-matched as fitness-tracking devices. Both smartwatches can be used to track steps, distance, calories burned, and active minutes. They also offer 24/7 heart tracking, as well as sleep tracking and menstrual health tracking. The Versa 3 also comes with built-in GPS, as does the Apple watch. One difference, however, is that the Versa can track your blood oxygen levels, something which the Apple Watch SE cannot do.
Otherwise, both watches offer similar features: Barometer, compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, and water resistance. That said, the Fitbit app is more comprehensive than Apple’s Fitness app, providing more detail on your workouts and progress, making it more suited to committed fitness enthusiasts. There’s also the option to subscribe to Fitbit Premium for $10, entitling you to an even greater level of detail.
In terms of accuracy, both devices are pretty much as reliable as each other. Our review of the Fitbit Versa 3 found that it and the Apple Watch SE regularly give very similar readings for such metrics as calories burned, distance covered, and average heart rate. So, given the inclusion of a blood oxygen monitor and the greater level of detail, this round goes to the Fitbit.
Battery life is one of the Fitbit Versa 3’s strong points. Our review found it lasted for seven days without needing a recharge, during which time it was worn overnight and used constantly to monitor our reviewer’s heart rate. By contrast, the Apple Watch SE will last you for around two days before needing a recharge.
As for charging, the Fitbit Versa 3 can be recharged in about an hour, while the Apple Watch SE will take around an hour and a half. This means we have another win for the Fitbit.
As you can imagine with a fitness-oriented smartwatch, the Fitbit Versa 3 isn’t quite as versatile as the Apple Watch SE, though it does have its uses. It lets you do various things that aren’t workout-related, such as reply to messages on Android smartphones, control music streaming, and pay for in-store purchases via Fitbit Pay. It also offers a Do Not Disturb, as well as the ability to use a wide variety of normal, non-health-related apps.
In contrast, the Apple Watch SE boasts many of the special features you’d find with the Apple Watch Series 6. For instance, it includes an updated emergency SOS option, which lets you call for help in an emergency, and it now supports international calling. It can also detect if you’ve had a bad fall and offer assistance, and it can alert you when you’re in situations where loud ambient noise could potentially damage your hearing. As mentioned in the intro, the watch can even detect when you’re washing your hands and start a 20-second timer to help you clean as thoroughly as possible.
On top of this, WatchOS offers a slicker, more intuitive experience than Fitbit OS. Notifications for apps such as Twitter are handled very well, while interacting with most applications via the watch is an easy, enjoyable experience.
Also, you can opt to buy a cellular version of either the 40mm or 44mm Apple Watch SE, allowing you to make and receive calls without needing your phone. The Fitbit Versa 3, like all Fitbits, lacks this option.
Price and availability
The Fitbit Versa 3 is available now from Fitbit, with an official retail price of $230. You can also find it from major retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy, where you may be able to find it at a discount if you’re lucky.
The Apple Watch SE starts at $280 for the 40mm model or $310 for the 44mm. If you wish to add LTE (to make calls without your phone), this will set you back an additional $50. Almost needless to say, you’ll also have to pay a monthly subscription for a cellular connection. The watch is supported by all major carriers and can also be bought through most retailers, with Amazon offer a $30 discount on the 40mm model the last time we checked.
It’s a narrow victory, but the Apple Watch SE gets our vote as a better smartwatch overall than the Fitbit Versa 3. The Versa 3 is slightly better as a fitness-tracking watch, with a more comprehensive set of tracking features and a longer-lasting battery. However, the Apple Watch is simply a more useful smartwatch as a whole, with a beautiful design and display, fantastically smooth software, and a range of excellent special features, such as its emergency SOS, cellular connectivity, and hand-wash detection.
As such, the question of which watch to go for depends on your priorities. If you want a great fitness-tracking watch, get the Fitbit Versa 3. If you want a great all-around smartwatch (and pretty darn good fitness tracker), get the Apple Watch SE.
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