To button up or not to button up? When it comes to wearable devices, the answer is that you should always go for physical buttons. And while smartwatches abound, fitness trackers tend to prefer touch screens and capacitive buttons. But it looks like there may be good news for fans of physical buttons. A new leaked photo of the Fitbit Versa 4 indicates that the side button is back, baby.
the photo comes from 9to5Googleand for the most part, it looks almost identical to the Versa 3, except if you focus on the right side, where you can see a small raised button.
It may not look like it, but it’s actually a significant design change. Previous iterations of the Versa, one of Fitbit’s most popular devices, had a physical side button. Then, with the Versa 3 in 2020, Fitbit did away with it in favor of a smooth notch. This was technically a “button”, but it wasn’t something you could actually press in a traditional sense. Instead, when you tightened it properly, the Versa 3 vibrated. The Fitbit Sense, which came out the same year, also shared the same design.
On the surface, this seemed sensible. In theory, no buttons meant no accidental presses and a sleeker profile. It actually resulted in a horrible user experience.
A very short press on the button on the Sense or Versa 3 will do nothing. And if you use too much pressure, it still might not do anything. Or, instead of waking up the screen like you intended, you might end up activating the long-press shortcut instead. For some reason, the top half of the button tended to be more responsive than the bottom half. If you browse the Fitbit and Reddit forums, you’ll find many customers complaining and sharing tips on how to get this button to work.
This is not a new problem. There are plenty of fitness trackers out there that don’t have none button or crown type. Instead, they rely entirely on touch screens. For example, with the Garmin Vivosmart 3 and Vivosmart 4, you had to tap the screen to confirm your choices. That meant nailing the perfect cadence and pressure every time. If he didn’t master it, it meant that a simple two-second task could end up taking several minutes to solve. And while the Garmin Vivosmart devices are the example I’m using here, there are several touchscreen-only fitness bands that have the same issues.
Sweaty fingers are also a problem. Touch screens often don’t register wet fingers and also make it difficult to use capacitive buttons. The irony is that these are devices meant to be used while exercising, so they effectively become more difficult to use just when you need them most.
A well-designed physical button is a simple solution to all these problems. When you see a physical button, you don’t have to learn how to use it. You just push and it does what you want. If you want to get fancy, you can program nifty shortcuts, like pausing your music, and never have to look at your watch. A physical button doesn’t care how sweaty your fingers are. It will always do its job.
I recently reviewed the Garmin Vivosmart 5, and one small change ended up being a game changer in a tracker series that was always finicky. that change? Add a physical button. The combination of a touch screen and a button was perfect. I was able to use the touchscreen when it made sense, like scrolling through menus. But you could also always rely on the button to go back to the home screen, the previous screen, or end a workout. Adding the button single-handedly eliminated one of the worst weaknesses in the tracker series.
This is most likely the reason why, if this leaked photo is to be believed, Fitbit has reverted to an older design. If so, that’s a smart move, and it’s further proof that you get the best portable experience when using a touch screen. Y physical buttons.