Fitbit this month released its new generation of fitness trackers and smartwatches, including the Inspire 3, Versa 4, and Sense 2. The Sense 2 is the most popular Fitbits smartwatch to date.
But is it enough to justify the $299 price tag? We break everything.
Fitbit Sense 2 video review
* Update: The video incorrectly indicates that support for third-party apps and Spotify will likely be available soon. We received confirmation from Fitbit today that this is not the case. No third party support or music integration planned with Sense 2 or Versa 4.
**Update: With the removal of third-party support and usable music player, my recommendations have been modified and can be found more precisely in this article compared to the video.
Fitbit Sense 2 Features and Upgrades
The upgraded features of the Fitbit Sense 2 include:
- Better positioned side button, easier to use
- Simplified user interface
- Continuous Electrical Activity (cEDA) to track the body’s stress response throughout the day
- More than double the exercise activity options (over 40 to choose from)
- Optimize bluetooth range and sync
- Future features, including Google Wallet and Google Maps with interactive display and turn-by-turn directions right on the watch
This is all in addition to the other functions that are offered. Features like HRV, sleep, skin temperature, blood oxygen tracking, built-in GPS, Alexa integration, and of course, the huge library of watch faces to always display.
However, third-party support, google voice, and music playback support have been removed from Sense 2, while they were originally available.
To give you the best sense From Sense 2, I’m going to break this review down into 12 things you should know. Each will focus on a different aspect, from design and features to precision.
While the previous Fitbit Sense had a button of some sort, most people felt it was set too low and was difficult to use. The new button has been lifted this time around, and I’m happy to report that it’s now in a very plain and easy to use place.
The button has a variety of functions. One click will turn on the screen. Another click will take you to the settings menu. A double click will take you to a list of your favorite apps. And if you press the button, you’ll access Alexa.
Push-button function can be customized. For example, instead of Alexa, you can set an alarm, start a workout, or access Fitbit pay.
Fitbit Sense 2 design
New in the Fitbit Sense 2 is a kind of transparent bezel towards the edge. This look is a departure from the original Sense and the new Fitbit Versa 4, which essentially has the same screen. I’m not a huge fan, but it’s a slight change.
Outside of that small change, the AMOLED touchscreen still looks great. It’s very bright and easy to see outdoors, especially at the maximum brightness setting.
The entire device is very lightweight, weighing in at just 24 grams. That’s 27% lighter than the original Fitbit Sense and now makes it nearly as heavy as a regular Apple Watch.
Fitbit Sense 2 user interface
As with the other new generation Fitbits I’ve been testing, we’re getting a streamlined user interface with the Fitbit Sense 2. In my opinion, having a simple and easy to use interface is one of the big selling points of all Fitbits overall.
Using Fitbit Sense 2 is very simple. Swipe up to adjust settings, swipe down to see notifications, and swipe left or right to cycle between different apps and widgets, like weather, workouts, and heart rate.
All UI elements can be edited and arranged on the Fitbit app. You also have the ability to change watch faces. The library of available watch faces is huge, and many of them look great. I’ve been swapping them out every few days because I like so many of them, and most of them come with their own style for the always-on display, if I choose to use it.
Fitbit Sense 2 Workout Tracker
Fitbit has added a lot of exercise options. There are more than double the previous number, with 41 options by my count.
For outdoor workouts, you also have GPS built in with your Fitbit Sense 2. This means you don’t have to run around with your phone (unless you want to listen to some music).
The Fitbit Sense 2 does a great job dividing your workout into your post-workout summary. This isn’t a sports or running watch, so don’t expect to find anything but basic metrics here like speed, heart rate, and distance.
Fitbit Sense 2 Accuracy
After a reasonable amount of testing, I have to say that I am very impressed so far with the accuracy of the GPS.
The Fitbit Sense 2 GPS isn’t perfect, but it does it very well. It drops a bit here and there compared to more expensive watches with dual GPS systems, but that should be more than accurate enough for most users.
I’m a little less impressed with the heart rate accuracy. The Fitbit Sense 2 does a good job of tracking your resting heart rate. During exercise, he appears to be struggling.
Heart rate readings tend to be later than most other readings, and often take several minutes to make up. This is practical for longer endurance exercises where your heart rate is more stable. However, for high-intensity or interval training, I wouldn’t trust it.
Fitbit Sense 2 stress tracker
The new body response sensor in the Fitbit Sense 2 measures continuous electrical activity (cEDA) to track your body’s response throughout the day.
When a physical response is detected — such as feeling nervous, angry, or even excited — you will later be asked to record how you were feeling at the time, to better understand and record what was happening at the moment.
Fitbit will give you a stress management score based on your body’s response over the past several days. You also get what they call Exertion Balance, which is how effort is balanced against short-term wear and tear, as well as how stress affects your sleep.
There’s a lot to unpack here and I’m curious to try and figure out exactly how to generate these numbers. It looks interesting and possibly useful as a proxy for HRV (heart rate variability) data, but the overall value is not clear yet.
The Fitbit Sense 2 also lets you manually record how you’re feeling at any time, manually take an EDA scan, follow a guided breathing exercise, or do one of the various meditation exercises included with the app.
Enhanced synchronization range
Fitbit Sense 2 has improved Bluetooth range and sync. With Bluetooth 5.0, you can tell that the connection is much stronger, for a wider distance, to maintain a decent connection with your phone.
The sync range has been extended from nine feet to 30 feet. This is a small but useful improvement. If you tend to leave your phone at home and rely on your smartwatch to receive notifications, or even to make calls, this increased sync range is valuable.
I haven’t been able to test the calling functionality, as it hasn’t been rolled out on Sense 2 yet. If you have an Android, you’ll soon be able to text and perform voice-to-text conversion with Fitbit Sense 2 as well.
Google Wallet and Google Maps
Among the list of things I haven’t been able to test yet are the upcoming Google Wallet and Google Map features.
There’s no exact release date for these features, but I’m hoping they’ll arrive near the October Google Pixel watch release. There is currently a Fitbit Pay app, which you can use as a wallet for now.
Fitbit Sense 2 health metrics
When it comes to health metrics, the Fitbit Sense 2 has a comprehensive list of what it tracks during sleep, including breathing rate, heart rate change (HRV), skin temperature, oxygen saturation, resting heart rate, and overall sleep.
These numbers may take some time to analyze accurately, but what I’ve seen so far has impressed me very much. These numbers seem to match my other accuracy tested devices.
Fitbit uses these health metrics to give you a readiness score to help you determine how ready you are for more training or exertion.
I want to point out here that many features, such as the daily standby score, are unlocked behind a Fitbit Premium membership. You get six months free when you purchase a Fitbit Sense 2, but if you want to continue after that, it will cost about $10 per month.
Using Alexa on Fitbit Sense 2
Fitbit Sense 2 supports Alexa integration. This can be used for anything like asking questions or controlling anything in your home that you’ve set up through Alexa, like smart lights and appliances.
Notably absent is the Google Voice integration. This was previously available on the original Fitbit Sense.
Fitbit Sense 2 removes third-party support
One of the biggest drawbacks of the new Fitbit Sense 2 (and Versa 4) is the removal of all third-party support. Not only does this mean that there are no additional apps to help fill in any gaps, but it also doesn’t mean that there is no music support.
Getting music support, through Spotify and other apps, was a very popular feature of the original Sense, and removing it seemed like a pretty big drawback. So, if you want the ability to download and play music through Fitbit, I suggest you buy the previous model.
Fitbit Sense 2 battery life
Fitbit says the Sense 2’s battery life is about six days, with the always-on display enabled, about two to three days.
Since I like to have an always-on display and often wear my Fitbit for outdoor workouts at maximum brightness and with GPS, it generally lasted me about two days. This is suitable for a smartwatch like Fitbit Sense 2.
I think for most people, especially those who don’t use the always-on display, they’ll get pretty close to the full six days between battery charges. The battery also charges fairly quickly, taking just 12 minutes to get a full day’s worth (again assuming you’re not using this always-on display).
Overall, the Fitbit Sense 2 is a great combination of a smartwatch and a fitness tracker, with a unique stress-tracking feature that many may find useful. The new upgrades come at the expense of supporting third-party apps and removing music support.
Without music or app support, at $299, the Fitbit Sense 2 is a tough sell. This now looks less like a smartwatch and more like an expensive fitness tracker. Unless third-party support or a music player has been added, I’d suggest one of the cheaper Fitbit fitness trackers or wait for the Pixel Watch.
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