Fitbit Versa 3: hands on with the Fitbit OS 5.1 upgrades

Fitbit update rolled out to the UK and Europe as Sense and Versa get Google Assistant

Fitbit OS 5.1 update Fitbit Sense update Fitbit Versa 3 update
(Image credit: Fitbit)

Fitbit really hit it out of the park with Fitbit Versa 3 but at launch the fitness watch was missing a few features that were on the features list. Fitbit OS 5.1 arrived in November and added Bluetooth calling and Google Assistant, and also gave the power of speech to both Alexa and its newly-arrived Google rival. BUT – and it's a big but – this only rolled out in America. Until now. 

Fitbit did say that T3's native UK and elsewhere would get Google Assistant and the other goodies, but that we'd have to wait. A 'late 2020' roll-out was promised for the UK, Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand and Singapore (English language only). Fitbit does take its own sweet time over these updates – in fact we're still waiting for our Fitbit Sense to have a functioning ECG.

Well, we waited, it is late 2020, and here they are! Via a software update this morning  we now have access to Google Assistant. Not only that, but we can receive and respond to calls via the watch, although of course it does need to be paired to our phone.

We can't say that everything is working quite as it's meant to be, however.

Fitbit Sense software update

(Image credit: Fitbit)

First up, despite the promise of 'audible replies' – ie: Google Assistant is meant to actually speak to you – at the moment we are still only getting responses in text form. But that's fine. However, excitingly, if you choose Amazon's Alexa as your digital PA, confidante and buddy, she will speak to you. 

The Bluetooth call answering works as you expect . Receive a call notification, accept it and you can now speak to people via your watch! Yes, whether it's a work call, loved one, or someone informing you that you have been in contact with someone with covid and must now self-isolate for 10 days, Fitbit Versa and Sense now let you handle the convo via your wrist!

This will not work on earlier Fitbits as none of them have mics built in and most of them lack speakers too. 

You will probably find you need to turn the volume up to max to make calling work, unless you are somewhere deathly quiet, such as a church, or a London restaurant. However, once you have done that, via a handy on-screen icon, you can chat away like Dick Tracey, will.i.am, Inspector Gadget, or Apple Watch users.

This is part of Fitbit's general strategy of making its fitness devices more like smartwatches. Google, the maker of Google Assistant, is technically now the owner of  Fitbit – subject to regulatory approval in multiple territories – and would obviously like all its devices to be integrated with Google and hooked into its Wear OS smartwatch ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the Fitbit/Google merger is still not quite signed off and possibly as a result you can't, for instance, access your Fitbit workout and weight data via Google Assistant on the Versa at the moment. On the plus size, that means when you ask 'Hey Google, what is my weight?' it won't reply, 'Terrible – you need to diet immediately. Seriously, does your cereal bowl need a lifeguard or what?'

How to update your Fitbit Versa 3 or Fitbit Sense to OS 5.1

Fitbit Versa 3 review

(Image credit: Fitbit)

We don't have any particular advice here, other than to make sure the Fitbit app on your phone is up to date, and wait to be notified. While you wait, why not check out the Fitbit Boxing Day sale? Yes, it's started already.