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Apple Watch SE vs Fitbit Versa 3 (2021): Which New Budget Smartwatch Wins?

The new Apple Watch SE gives smartwatch shoppers an interesting cheaper alternative to the latest Apple Watch Series 6. With the new Fitbit Sense carrying the flag for the popular fitness tracker brand, this places it squarely against the Fitbit Versa 3. So exactly how does these two fitness smartwatches stack up against each other? We’ve compiled a detailed comparison below to help you choose which to get.

Apple Watch SE vs Fitbit Versa 3 Fitness Smartwatch Comparison Chart

ModelApple Watch SEFitbit Versa 3
 Apple Watch SE - Gold Aluminum Case with Braided Solo LoopFitbit Versa 3 - Midnight/Soft Gold Aluminum
PriceCheck Price at Amazon.comCheck Price at Amazon
DisplayRetinaAMOLED
Always-onNoYes
Screen Size1.58″1.58″
Resolution324 x 394 pixels336 x 336 pixels
Dimensions1.73″ x 1.5″ x 0.42″1.59″ x 1.59″ x 0.49″
Colors33
Call & Text AlertsYesYes
Water ResistanceUp to 50 metersUp to 50 meters
Heart Rate MonitorYesYes
ECG MonitorNoNo
PedometerYesYes
AltimeterYesYes
Calorie Burn TrackerYesYes
Sleep TrackingYesYes
Swim TrackingYesYes
Female Health TrackingYesYes
Fall DetectionYesNo
Skin TemperatureNoYes
CompassYesNo
GPSBuilt-inBuilt-in
CellularAvailableNo
Wi-FiYesYes
BluetoothYesYes
NFCYesYes
StorageYesYes
CompatibilityiOSiOS, Android
Battery Life18 hours6+ days
Fast ChargingNoYes

Design

The Apple Watch SE has slimmer bezels while the Fitbit Versa 3 has an always-on display.

On the left is the Fitbit Versa 3 (Pink Clay/Gold) and on the right is the Apple Watch SE (Gold Aluminum with Pink Citrus Solo Loop).

If you’ve seen the Apple Watch Series 5 or Fitbit Versa 2 before, you’ll find the Apple Watch SE and Fitbit Versa 3 to be strikingly similar in design. A lot easier to spot are the new bands they now come with: the Solo Loop for the Apple Watch SE and the infinity band for the Fitbit Versa 3. The Solo Loop doesn’t have any clasps or buckles and comes in two forms, a stretchable silicone and a braided yarn. Meanwhile, the Versa 3’s infinity band is a silicone band with a figure eight clasp.

While the case of the Apple Watch SE looks much the same as previous models, it has noticeably slimmer bezels that enlarge its screen real estate. However, it doesn’t have an always-on option like the Series 5 or 6, or the Fitbit Versa 3. In addition, the Versa 3 has a more rounded shape and sleeker lines compared to the Versa 2. Its AMOLED display is brighter too, though the Retina LTPO OLED display of the Apple Watch SE is still more impressive.

The Apple Watch SE is available in Space Gray, Silver, and Gold aluminum cases and you can select the band type and color it comes with. Moreover, there are 40mm and 44mm size options, allowing you to personalize your choice right away. In comparison, the Fitbit Versa 3 only has one size and three color combinations: Black, Midnight Blue/Gold, and Pink Clay/Gold.

Activity Tracking

The Apple Watch SE and Fitbit Versa 3 have similar health and fitness features.

You’ll get numerous fitness tracking features on both Apple Watch SE and Fitbit Versa 3.

Because the Apple Watch SE lacks the ECG functionality of the Series 5 and the Fitbit Versa 3 now has built-in GPS, these two smartwatches are a lot closer than other models in terms of health and fitness tracking capabilities. Both have heart rate monitors along with the standard array of sensors that will keep track of your workouts and record your key metrics such as calories burned, active minutes, distance traveled, etc. They also have altimeters that note changes in elevation for more accurate computations. As they’re both water-resistant up to 50 meters, you can wear either Apple Watch SE or Fitbit Versa 3 to track laps in a swimming pool.

The Apple Watch SE and Fitbit Versa 3 also have dozens of goal-based exercises that they can automatically track for you once you start. There are also guided breathing sessions if you need a few minutes to calm or center yourself, as well as female health tracking to log your periods and/or ovulation. A new Sleep app on the Apple Watch SE helps you hit sleep goals though sleep tracking on the Fitbit Versa 3 can offer deeper insight into your sleep quality.

One important feature unique to the Apple Watch SE is fall detection and emergency SOS. The device can detect if you’ve taken a hard fall and notify your emergency contacts immediately, which is immense if you’re immobile. In addition, this will now work even when you’re traveling overseas, as it can perform international emergency calling using the side button.

Fitbit offers even more focused training guidance and health metrics with its subscription service Fitbit Premium. New users can get a free 90-day trial with the Versa 3. Interestingly, Apple is now getting into this scene with its upcoming Fitness+ subscription, though it looks to be focused on workout videos from professional trainers. Getting an Apple Watch SE also gets you three months of Apple Fitness+ for free when it launches later this year.

Smart Features

The Apple Watch SE has more advanced smart features than the Fitbit Versa 3.

Use custom Apple Watch SE watchfaces to tailor your smartwatch experience to your needs.

Despite steadily making a lot of progress over the years, the Fitbit library of apps is still behind the larger and more diverse WatchOS. Moreover, the Apple Watch SE runs on WatchOS 7, bringing a new slew of advanced features and optimizations. One such notable feature is Apple’s new Family Setup, which gives parents the ability to manage their kids’ Apple Watches for location alerts and message monitoring.

Connectivity-wise, the Apple Watch SE and Fitbit Versa 3 are toe-to-toe except for a crucial difference: you can get a cellular-enabled Apple Watch SE so you can leave your phone at home. Otherwise, both smartwatches have GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and even NFC for contactless payments via Apple Pay and Fitbit Pay, respectively. There’s a compass on the Apple Watch SE though, giving it a slight advantage for outdoor navigation.

Fitbit has upgraded the voice assistant capabilities of the Versa 3 compared to its predecessor, giving it a speaker to go with its mic along with Google Assistant support in addition to Amazon Alexa. Meanwhile, Apple continues to improve Siri and it works wonderfully well on the Apple Watch SE, especially asking her to translate foreign languages on the fly.

You can stream songs from the entire Apple Music library to the Apple Watch Series 5. On the other hand, Fitbit added Deezer and Pandora to the Versa 3, allowing you to store and play music and podcasts from the device. If you prefer Spotify, the Versa 3 remains limited to controlling your phone’s app.

Battery Life and Other Features

The Fitbit Versa 3 has a lot longer battery life than the Apple Watch SE.

Wear the Fitbit Versa 3 for up to a week with occasional GPS use.

For all of the improvements that Apple has made to its smartwatch, they’ve yet to crack its battery life to promise more than a day of use. As such, the Apple Watch SE continues to have the same 18-hour battery life as the Series 5, which should be more than sufficient for a full day of use including exercise tracking. You’ll likely need to recharge it every day just before bed if you want to track your sleep and be able to continue wearing it the next morning.

On the other hand, the Fitbit Versa 3 has a runtime of 6 days on a full charge. It’s definitely a lot more impressive and useful for full-day and all-night tracking. Note that turning on the always-on option or GPS will drain battery life much faster though. Still, you’ll be able to get plenty of use before you need to plug in the Versa 3. Even better, it comes with a fast charger that lets you get up to a full day of juice after only 12 minutes, making it perfect if you need to go quickly.

Verdict

The Apple Watch SE is a more powerful smartwatch while the Fitbit Versa 3 makes for a more capable fitness tracker.

Apple Watch SE

The better smartwatch

Apple Watch SE - Gold Aluminum Case with Braided Solo Loop

Fitbit Versa 3

The better fitness tracker

Fitbit Versa 3 - Midnight/Soft Gold Aluminum

With a more powerful S5 SiP (System in Package) and WatchOS 7, the Apple Watch SE is simply the better all-around smartwatch packed with lots of cool features. It’s leaning more as a health improvement device and will be well worth its cost if its emergency features come into play. You’ll need to keep an eye on battery levels, but with its impressive display and smooth graphics that’s going to be enjoyable.

Serious fitness enthusiasts and those who want a smartwatch they can wear for days should opt for the Fitbit Versa 3, as the Fitbit app can give you that extra boost or motivation to achieve your targets and the Versa 3’s battery life is miles ahead of Apple’s. With built-in GPS and music storage, it no longer has the weaknesses of the previous Versa, so it’s really an outstanding smartwatch if you’re on a budget.

FAQs

๐Ÿ“Œ Does Apple Watch SE have always on display?

No, the Apple Watch SE lacks the always-on option that was introduced in the Apple Watch Series 5.

๐Ÿ“Œ Should I get the Apple Watch SE or Apple Watch Series 3?

If you want a feature-rich smartwatch for less than $200, the Apple Watch Series 3 is arguably the best one you can get. However, if you can afford to spend a bit more, the Apple Watch SE will prove to be the better choice in the long run.

๐Ÿ“Œ What does the Fitbit Versa 3 do?

The Fitbit Versa 3 can do pretty much everything the previous Versa smartwatches can and more. It has 24-hour heart rate tracking for all-day activity, sleep tracking, and a long list of smart features including phone notifications and voice assistants.

๐Ÿ“Œ Does the Versa 3 have GPS?

Yes, the Fitbit Versa 3 has built-in GPS so you can track outdoor runs without relying on your smartphone.

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Derick Bondoc

Managing Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, gaming and snacks.