Hands-on: You can finally reply to messages from the Fitbit Versa and Ionic

By | 7th May 2018

When we reviewed the Fitbit Versa, we told you it was only a so-so smartwatch. In fact, same with the Fitbit Ionic. When they launched, you weren’t able to respond to any notifications that came through to your wrist, even though that’s something most other smartwatches can do.

But that’s changing today — Fitbit is rolling out quick replies to the Versa and Ionic. This means you can respond to app notifications using pre-populated messages or emojis, right from your wrist.

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Once your device receives the update, quick replies will be turned on automatically for every notification that comes through to your watch. Initially I thought this feature was only going to work with SMS and maybe a few other apps, but it works with pretty much every messaging app I have installed on my phone.

When you receive a message through WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Slack, or any other messaging app on your watch, just click on the notification to expand it. Scroll down to the bottom, tap Reply, and you can choose from five different pre-set messages or scroll over to the emoji tab, as pictured above. You can respond to previously received messages too, by pulling down your notification shade and tapping on a message.

If you don’t like any of the pre-populated messages, you can override any one of them on a per-app basis, or for all messaging apps. Custom responses can be up to 60 characters long, and contain emojis.

One important thing to note: quick replies only work for apps that support in-notification replies on your smartphone. This means any app that offers the ability to reply from the notification shade on your phone will work with quick replies on the Versa and Ionic. This can be a positive or a negative, depending on what type of user you are.

On the positive side, this means apps that support Google’s Smart Replies in notifications, such as Google Allo, will also give you the option to reply with Smart Replies on your watch. As you can see in the first image above, I have the option to select Reply by using Fitbit’s preset quick replies, or by selecting any of Google’s Smart Reply suggestions. I love this. For those times when you don’t want to respond with a simple “Okay” or “Yes”, you can actually respond with contextual messages that sound a little more personal.

Unfortunately you can’t use quick replies with Gmail since that app doesn’t support in-notification replies on smartphones. Thus, you have the ability to archive or delete Gmail messages right from your wrist, but you can’t respond to them. I don’t usually want to respond to emails with “Yes” or “Sounds good!”, so this isn’t a huge deal to me.

This update makes the Versa and Ionic feel like finished products. Before they felt like fitness trackers with big screens that could only do a few “smart” things, but now they feel like full-fledged smartwatches.

Next: Fitbit vs Garmin: Which ecosystem is right for you?