Fitbit Sense 2 assessment: it doesn’t make a lot sense


When I reviewed the Fitbit Sense two years in the past, it was an ambitious smartwatch. Its successor, the Sense 2? Eh, not a lot. It’s hyperbole to say the Sense 2 is an entire downgrade, however I don’t assume you’ll be able to really name it a smartwatch, both. This, my buddies, is what I’d name a premium health tracker — and for those who view it from that lens, it’s an excellent one. But is it actually $300 value of health tracker, particularly because the Pixel Watch is just $50 extra, has practically all the identical well being options, and is a lot smarter?


Falling behind in smarts

Before I get into why the Sense 2 isn’t a smartwatch, we have to set the stage. In 2020, the Sense was loads good. It had a novel stress-tracking electrodermal exercise (EDA) sensor, FDA-cleared electrocardiogram (EKG) sensors, blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) sensors, temperature sensor, contactless funds, and the selection between Alexa and Google Assistant. It was a viable different to the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 — even when it didn’t have mobile connectivity and its third-party app ecosystem was meh.

Loads can occur in two years. Since then, the Series 8 and Galaxy Watch 5 have caught as much as the vast majority of the Sense 2’s well being options whereas widening the hole by way of smarts. There’s additionally now the Apple Watch Ultra and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro to take care of. The Sense 2’s most important benefit is weeklong battery life, however that every one however disappears for those who allow the always-on show. In my testing, enabling the AOD meant three days on a single cost at most.

If you need weeklong battery life, you’re going to should disable the always-on show.

And then there’s the Pixel Watch. It’s clear that Google, Fitbit’s guardian firm, sees that as the way forward for its wearable lineup. The Pixel Watch makes use of Fitbit’s platform for its well being and health options; Fitbit CEO James Park even launched the Pixel Watch on the Made by Google occasion. And it has all of the options you’d count on from a smartwatch, together with a voice assistant, emergency calling, and good house management. If you learn between the traces, all of it seems like a loss of life knell for the Fitbit as a smartwatch.

Fitbit spokesperson Jonathan Moll instructed The Verge that the Sense 2 was designed to “prioritize the most important features our users care about and use the most, including heart rate tracking, sleep tracking, and stress management.” It is smart that Google would take steps to distinguish the Sense 2 from the Pixel Watch. There’s no motive for one firm to have two competing smartwatch platforms, and it is smart for Fitbit to to slender its focus to health. But it seems like Google nerfed the Sense 2 a bit an excessive amount of.

For instance, you’ll be able to’t use Google Assistant on the Sense 2. This is bizarre. On the unique Sense and the Versa 3, you’ll be able to choose between Alexa or Google Assistant. Now, your solely possibility is Alexa. Fitbit spokesperson Jonathan Moll instructed me, “At this time there are no plans to deploy Google Assistant on Sense 2 or Versa 4. We look forward to bringing this feature to future devices.”

Regardless of whether or not you want digital assistants, their presence on smartwatches is a given today. Sure, there’s Alexa — however that’s a complete different good house ecosystem. Why wouldn’t you place Google Assistant on a Google smartwatch? The complete theme of the Made by Google occasion was that every one these units work collectively! If not, what’s the purpose precisely? I’m really misplaced on the thought course of right here.

Previously out there third-party apps like Starbucks and Spotify don’t appear to be an possibility anymore. At least, they weren’t listed as suitable with the Sense 2 once I tried to obtain them from the Fitbit App Gallery. Fitbit’s third-party ecosystem was already paltry, so that is one more baffling resolution.

Google might have nerfed the Sense 2 a bit an excessive amount of

The addition of Google Maps and Google Wallet takes a few of the sting out. Except, I can’t let you know how properly both app works as a result of they’re not out there but. It’s not unprecedented for firms to launch options after a product hits cabinets. But if you mix this with Google taking away earlier third-party apps, it certain is a head-scratcher. 

The Sense 2 has a mixture Bluetooth / Wi-Fi radio, as did the Sense, however the Wi-Fi is deactivated, per Fitbit’s official spec sheet. Moll instructed The Verge, “Historically, Wi-Fi was used for updating firmware and music storage. Sense 2 and Versa 4 now use Bluetooth to update firmware, and do not have music storage capabilities.” Add offline music — which the Sense supported for Deezer and Pandora — to the casualty listing.

App menu on the Sense 2

The UI is similar to what you’ll discover on the Pixel Watch. But Google Assistant is lacking this time.

All that is odd. The Sense 2’s redesigned UI definitely makes you’re feeling prefer it’s meant to be a smartwatch. The refreshed design is spiffier than earlier variations of Fitbit OS. It seems precisely the identical as Wear OS on the Pixel Watch. For instance, swiping left and proper will allow you to view widgets. Pressing the button brings up an app listing. Swiping up brings up notifications, and swiping down will get you to the short menu. It’s an excellent enchancment, efficiency doesn’t lag, and all the things seems a lot nicer as properly.

Despite its UI, the Sense 2 isn’t actually a smartwatch by 2022 requirements. It’s a health tracker masquerading as one. 

A refined but comfortable redesign

The Sense 2’s software program feels prefer it’s been intentionally restricted — or centered, for those who desire — however the bodily {hardware} has been improved throughout. You can inform Fitbit’s put numerous effort into streamlining the design in order that it’s extra snug for on a regular basis put on. 

The Sense 2 is lighter than its predecessor, although it’s possible you’ll not discover the change in weight. I didn’t once I in contrast them one after one other. I did, nonetheless, discover the Sense 2 is a lot thinner. The Sense had this tapered, trapezoidal form on the facet the place the sensor bump dug into your pores and skin. It was a way of masking the thickness when truly in your wrist. The Sense 2 doesn’t want to try this. And so far as numbers go, the Sense 2 is 11.2mm thick, whereas the Sense is 12.4mm. The distinction in thickness is roughly that of a penny.

It was refreshing to put on such a light-weight system after testing the Apple Watch Ultra. It didn’t catch on any sleeves or jacket cuffs, even once I was sporting a number of layers whereas climbing. It was additionally comfortable for sleep monitoring and all-day put on. I hardly seen it whereas operating or figuring out, which is a pleasant change of tempo from the chonkers I’ve been testing as of late. 

The new design additionally means utterly totally different sensor arrays — each on the underside of the watch and within the show. Where the Sense had a metallic high ring for EKG and EDA readings, the Sense 2 builds that functionality immediately into the show’s bezels. The result’s it seems much more just like the Apple Watch. And whereas I want these bezels have been thinner, I’m glad Fitbit is making use of the “wasted” area. 

The Sense 2 on top of the Sense

The Sense 2 (high) is thinner and lighter than its predecessor, and it has a bodily button the place the Sense had an terrible inductive groove.

But the perfect change is that Fitbit changed the Sense’s infuriating inductive groove with an precise bodily button. That groove was a confounding design selection. Not solely was it susceptible to unintentional presses, however the haptics additionally weren’t sturdy sufficient for those who have been making an attempt to make use of the long-press shortcut. I typically sat there urgent, confused why my shortcut wasn’t launching. I ultimately bought the hold of it, however peruse any Fitbit discussion board or subreddit, and also you’ll discover loads of annoyed customers. 

I had none of those points with the bodily button. Plus, it’s a lot extra satisfying to press one thing and know it’s registered. The button, whereas raised, doesn’t protrude too far. I haven’t skilled any unintentional presses to this point — even whereas sporting a number of layers and a winter coat.

A considerate device for stress administration

Fitbit clearly put numerous effort into stress monitoring. With the Sense 2, Fitbit’s made some significant enhancements to the lineup’s most unusual function.

Quick refresher: The Sense watches measure stress through an EDA sensor. EDA sensors detect minuscule adjustments in your pores and skin’s sweat ranges. That, together with different metrics like coronary heart price variation, can be utilized as an indicator of stress. Or, as Fitbit dubs it, “body responses.” Previously, the EDA options labored extra like spot-checks that customers needed to provoke. The Sense 2 upgrades the unique’s EDA sensor to a cEDA sensor. The “c” stands for steady, that means now you can get computerized alerts in actual time. 

Picture of the “Mindfulness activities” screen on a wrist-worn Sense 2.

The EDA scan is one of some advisable actions for those who obtain a physique stress alert.

Basically, if the Sense 2 detects a physique response, you’ll get a nudge to log your temper. You’ll additionally see prompts to take just a few stress-relieving actions like a guided meditation, a two-minute EDA scan, or occurring a brief stroll. 

It works! Mostly. In my expertise, the alerts lagged a bit and infrequently got here at inopportune occasions. For instance, I had a little bit of a automobile rental snafu once I visited Iceland final week. It was 4:30AM ET at Keflavik International Airport, I hadn’t slept on the flight, my cellphone was malfunctioning, and the automobile rental company was so new none of its data was on Google but. It labored out, however I used to be one misfortune away from hyperventilating right into a paper bag. You’d assume the Sense 2 would’ve been buzzing incessantly on my wrist. Instead, it solely notified me about half-hour after all the things was sorted. When prompted to log my temper, I hit the “Frustrated” emoticon.

By that point, I wasn’t capable of do a guided meditation session, go on a stroll, or sit nonetheless sufficient for a two-minute EDA studying to alleviate my stress. I used to be in a automobile, giving my husband instructions to our subsequent vacation spot. Another time, I bought a physique response alert whereas trekking up Seljalandsfoss waterfall within the freezing rain and wind. I logged my temper as “excited,” however I wasn’t concerned with something however being current within the second. It grew to become a recurring theme. Whenever I had highly effective physique responses, I used to be too preoccupied to do greater than observe how I used to be feeling. And that’s if I even seen the alerts, to start with.

The Sensor arrays of the Sense (left) and Sense 2

The sensor arrays are totally different as properly. The Sense 2 (proper) has a “continuous” EDA sensor to detect physique responses.

The execution is perhaps just a little clunky, however Fitbit’s stress administration function continues to be the perfect I’ve ever examined. I didn’t at all times reply to alerts as meant, however total, it is good to take a step again and acknowledge how you’re feeling in a high-stress second. I appreciated that Fitbit acknowledges that bodily stress will be constructive or adverse and that it might not at all times align together with your temper. 

The stress knowledge can also be offered thoughtfully. For occasion, you get each a Stress Management rating and a weekly abstract. The former seems at your physique responses, exertion stage, and sleep patterns to provide you an thought of how your cumulative stress might affect you on a given day. The weekly abstract visualizes what number of physique responses you bought every day within the earlier week, in addition to your most typical moods. 

Stress administration will be difficult, particularly for those who’re somebody who tends to disregard bodily indicators till burnout kicks in. (It me.) The mixture of quantified knowledge and logging is a useful visualization device, and I appreciated it wasn’t linked to athletic efficiency. 

Side view of the Sense 2’s physical button and display

The bodily button is a great addition. You also can see the brand new embedded sensors within the bezels.

Sleep monitoring

Fitbit’s at all times had a few of the greatest total sleep monitoring options. It’s lately added profiles, which categorize you as a kind of animal based mostly in your sleep patterns and offer you sleep hygiene insights based mostly on these patterns. (It’s much like what Samsung does with its Galaxy Watches.) You get a brand new profile on the first of each month. I’d like to let you know the way it works, however there’s a catch. You’ve bought to put on it for 14 nights out of the month as a way to get a sleep profile for the following month, and it solely provides profiles on the primary of the calendar month. In September, due to my assessment queue, I solely bought 12, which meant I didn’t get a profile for October and received’t get one till November 1st, six weeks after I began utilizing the Sense 2.

I acknowledge that I’m an edge case. This reviewer life has me continually rotating between units, and I’ve solely bought two wrists. Customers sticking to one Fitbit can have much less of a difficulty, however there’s no good motive to tie sleep profiles to the primary of the calendar month moderately than updating them on a rolling foundation.

The value is just not proper

I’ll be blunt. If you desire a sturdy tracker that may stand up to excessive components or one with hyper-accurate GPS knowledge, this ain’t it. The Sense 2 has built-in GPS, however for those who actually care about correct route maps, you’re higher off with a Garmin or one other health watch with multiband GPS. Case in level, you solely have to take a look at these screenshots of a latest hike to see that Fitbit’s GPS isn’t the best. The similar goes for those who’re in search of in-depth coaching plans and extra uncooked knowledge. 

Then once more, Fitbit’s at all times been a platform for common customers. Its biggest power is that it has at all times offered uncooked knowledge in a digestible format. That’s what makes the Sense 2 — and different Fitbit units — nice for constructing more healthy habits in a mild, holistic method. It’s bought nice restoration instruments in its Sleep Score, Daily Readiness Score, and, now, stress administration options, in addition to easy however handy instruments for logging energy, weight, and water consumption. Its Active Zone Minutes metric is superb for serving to learners visualize whether or not they’re getting an enough quantity of train per week.

So the Sense 2 is an effective total well being tracker however a not-so-great smartwatch. Compared to dirt-cheap health bands, you’re getting a prettier design and a singular tackle stress monitoring. I’m simply undecided why anybody would pay $299.95 for a fancier health tracker with fewer total options when you may get an entry-level smartwatch for much less. I can perceive wanting a health tracker and not a smartwatch, however in that occasion, there are additionally extra inexpensive choices. 

View of the Fitbit Sense 2

RIP future Fitbit smartwatches.

For iPhone customers, the Apple Watch SE prices $249. For Android customers, the 40mm Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is $279.99. I imply, come on, the Google Pixel Watch prices solely $50 greater than the Sense 2 at $349.

Fitbit’s different trackers muddy the water much more. The $229.95 Versa 4 has the overwhelming majority of the Sense 2’s options, and even the $179.95 Charge 5 has an EKG sensor. If you simply desire a fundamental tracker, the Inspire 3 is out right here for $99.95. Unless you discover the Sense 2 on sale for beneath $200 or actually need stress monitoring, this isn’t an excellent deal.

Somebody at Fitbit (or Google) didn’t do the mathematics proper. It would’ve been a better transfer to retire the Versa line and let the Sense 2 take the place of the Versa 4, particularly for those who have been going to nerf the smarter options on each units. But that’s not what occurred, and even when it had, it’d simply be delaying the inevitable. The Sense 2 is a casualty of Google’s ambitions for the Pixel Watch. And it’s potential that we’re solely a Pixel Band away from all Fitbit trackers sharing an identical destiny.

Photography by Victoria Song / The Verge

Agree to Continue: Fitbit Sense 2

Every good system now requires you to comply with a collection of phrases and situations earlier than you should utilize it — contracts that nobody truly reads. It’s inconceivable for us to learn and analyze each single one in all these agreements. But we began counting precisely what number of occasions you must hit “agree” to make use of units after we assessment them since these are agreements most individuals don’t learn and positively can’t negotiate.

To use the Fitbit Sense 2, you must pair it to your iOS or Android smartphone. That means agreeing to your cellphone’s phrases and companies, in addition to its privateness coverage.

There are two necessary Fitbit agreements:

There are additionally a number of elective agreements, like connecting through Bluetooth to your cellphone, contacts, pictures, digicam, Face ID, Media, notifications, mobile knowledge, and background app refresh. If you select to allow Alexa, you’ll should comply with Amazon’s phrases for that as properly. Integrating with another third-party companies can even require you to comply with that app’s phrases and privateness insurance policies.

Keep in thoughts that Fitbit would require you to log in with a Google account by 2025, which implies agreeing to these insurance policies as properly.

Final tally: Two necessary agreements and a number of other elective agreements


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