There are a whole lot of issues the Fitbit Sense does that the Apple Watch can’t. Fitbit’s newest smartwatch can observe your stress stage and enable you to settle down. It information your nightly pores and skin temperature to assist predict if an sickness is approaching. It allows you to select between Alexa and Google Assistant (or at the least it’ll quickly). And the battery lasts for days and days.
But whereas Fitbit has accomplished an admirable job in constructing a smartwatch that is really completely different—and in some methods higher than Apple’s newest wearables—the Sense finally tries too laborious to be an Apple Watch various. Where Apple has slowly added options to its Watch in an effort to maintain issues easy, Fitbit’s quest to leapfrog Apple has given the Sense too many issues to do. Rather than embracing the simplicity of the Versa and distilling the effortlessness of its sleep detection right into a watch that adapts to the person, the Sense provides sufficient complexity to make the entire expertise extra frictional that it needs to be.
Fitbit does not want to return to the drafting board, however the Sense isn’t the next-gen smartwatch Fitbit wants, at the least not but.
A well-known, refined design
If you’ve been taking note of Fitbit over the previous few years, the Sense will look very acquainted. It’s not fairly a carbon copy of the Versa, nevertheless it’s very comparable, with a design that’s a bit extra rounded however nonetheless sq.. It’s a smidge larger than the Versa 2 however an identical to the Versa 3’s dimensions (40.48 x 40.48 x 12.35mm). The Versa 2’s mechanical button has been changed by an inductive one, which provides the Sense a glossy, seamless aesthetic.
The bands look very very similar to those on the Versa 2 as effectively, however you received’t have the ability to swap your previous Versa bands onto the Sense. That’s because of the new quick-release mechanism that’s light-years simpler over the clunky pin technique on the earlier Versas. It’s very very similar to Apple’s technique on the Apple Watch, however even simpler, as there’s no sliding. The straps simply snap out and in. If you’ve collected a bunch of Versa bands, shopping for a set of latest ones isn’t excellent, however for many it’s a suitable tradeoff.
The Sense’s OLED display screen jumps to 1.58 inches from the the Versa 2’s 1.39 inches. And it has rounded corners now identical to the Apple Watch, which helps the Sense’s show mix into its bezels. There’s nonetheless a bit more room between the display screen and the sides than I like, however Fitbit OS’s darkish UI principally makes the sides of the display screen invisible to the bare eye.
In earlier Fitbit opinions, I gripe so much concerning the continually altering and finicky chargers, however the Sense lastly will get it proper. It’s magnetic just like the Inspire, however sturdy sufficient so it received’t shift unfastened, attaching with a agency snap. And in a primary for Fitbit, the Sense helps quick charging, so that you received’t need to hold it connected to a charger for very lengthy. In 12 minutes (Fitbit’s beneficial power-up time), I went from 4 p.c to 27 p.c, greater than sufficient to get my although a full day of use.
Sensors and sensibilities
The Sense seems to be good, however the design isn’t the factor that’ll persuade most individuals to purchase it. You get the same old metrics on which Fitbit has constructed its popularity, together with best-in-class sleep monitoring and Active Zone Minutes, which routinely report and provide you with a warning to intense train even in the event you’re not monitoring a exercise.
But inside its small body you’ll additionally discover an array of latest sensors the likes of which you received’t discover in one other shopper smartwatch:
- PurePulse 2.0 optical heart-rate sensor
- Sp02 blood-oxygen sensor
- EDA sensor (electrodermal exercise to examine stress)
- ECG app
- Skin-temperature sensor
That’s an undoubtedly spectacular array of skills. While Fitbit isn’t reinventing the wheel with the Sense—all of those sensors can be found in a roundabout way, form, or type on the sensible wearables—it has completely raised the bar for what a smartwatch can do.
I wasn’t capable of take a look at the ECG app because it solely just lately obtained regulatory approval within the U.S. Fitbit says the function ought to roll out to Sense homeowners in October. I’ll replace this assessment with outcomes and impressions when it arrives.
The remainder of the sensors all do what they’re purported to do, albeit with a little bit of effort. The EDA sensor to examine your stress stage is essentially the most labor-intensive, as you want to maintain your palm over the face of the watch, ensuring to press the steel sides, for at the least 2 minutes to get a studying. You’ll get haptic suggestions in the beginning and end, however the considerably clunky and prolonged inplementation looks like one thing that will shortly find yourself on Apple’s cutting-room flooring.
The means it really works is two-fold. First, there’s a stress administration rating that mixes your heart-rate, basic fatigue, and sleep information to generate a quantity starting from 1 to 100, with 100 being utterly stress-free. You don’t have to make use of the sensor to generate a each day rating, however in the event you do, you’ll contribute to your mindfulness, which ought to naturally decrease your general rating.
Then, after every take a look at, you’ll be alerted to any EDA responses (modifications to the sweat ranges in your pores and skin) in addition to the place within the scan they had been recorded. Premium subscribers can then head to the Mindfulness tab within the Dashboard to get a higher breakdown of their rating, simply one of many quite a few methods Fitbit has positioned a premium on subscribing to Premium. You get six months free with each Sense buy, however after that subscribers might want to shell out $80 a 12 months to get a chart monitoring their session together with some periods for managing stress.
There isn’t any perception as to what prompted the triggered responses or the influence that they had in your general rating, however the level of the train is to settle down and finally attain zero EDA responses, not not like the purpose of the preinstalled Relax app. It all requires a great deal of effort and back-and-forth with the app, so my guess is anybody who’s truly in a position to do this most likely doesn’t want it within the first place.
The pores and skin temperature sensor additionally requires a little bit of persistence. Since it’s not designed to supply an on-demand studying, it takes three days to determine a baseline. From there, it’ll observe your nightly traits so you possibly can spot any alarming modifications. At the second, the metrics are tied to Premium, however Fitbit guarantees to open it as much as non-paying clients “in the coming months,” so non-paying Sense customers ought to nonetheless have the ability to entry their graphs after their trial ends.
Like the EDA app, nevertheless, the skin-temp sensor looks as if a piece in progress and I’m not satisfied it’s residing as much as its potential. I’m unsure it will truly assist me diagnose an sickness in real-time, and neither does Fitbit, because it’s not truly alerting customers to sudden modifications of their pattern traces. Fitbit plans on bringing pores and skin temp monitoring to the Versa household utilizing these system’s present sensors, so it stands to purpose that it has larger plans for the pores and skin temp sensor on the Sense.
All of those sensors have an effect on battery life as effectively. Fitbit claims six-plus days of battery life for the Sense, however I didn’t get anyplace close to that. Perhaps I used it a little bit greater than the typical individual, however I’ve to cost it after 2.5 days when utilizing the always-on show, and after 4.5 days with it off. Either means, it’s the worst battery life I’ve gotten in a Fitbit watch shortly.
Changes for the higher and the more serious
While the Sense’s new sensors are its important promoting level, the star of the present is a function that’s been round for some time. Fitbit is lastly giving customers a peek into the info collected by its Sp02 sensor by way of its new Signature clock face, and whereas the timing conspicuously matches up with the launch of the Apple Watch Series 6, it’s a welcome addition to the Sense.
Like the remainder of the Sense, it’s not fairly as elegant because it may very well be. You can solely view your studying in a single day and you want to have the Signature face energetic to report the outcomes. Plus, it takes about an hour every morning earlier than the quantity seems on the face. But it’s a wonderful addition to Fitbit’s clock face assortment, which has grown into a formidable catalogue.
The remainder of the Fitbit OS 5.0 modifications depart much less to be desired. Fitbit OS continues to be extra of a method than an finish, and also you received’t get the identical stripped-down cell OS expertise that you just get on the Apple Watch. Apps are very rudimentary and it’s nonetheless not all that sensible. The Alexa integration is okay and augmented by the inclusion of a speaker, nevertheless it nonetheless struggles with sure duties (akin to Routines and music identification) and you want to say, “Ask Fitbit” if you need to see one thing in your watch. Perhaps Google Assistant will repair that, however I’ll have to attend to check it.
Fitbit has retooled issues simply sufficient the place your muscle reminiscence will must be retrained, and most of it isn’t for the higher. Quick settings at the moment are off to the left of the display screen, swiping up reveals the brand new widgets, that are mainly shortcuts to Today (which is now a standalone app) and Fitbit’s different apps. Presumably builders will assist widgets, however with a less-than-robust app library, that is still to be seen.
The button has modified as effectively and now capabilities solely as an influence button fairly than again button. That tripped me up numerous occasions, and in the event you’ve ever used a Fitbit watch (or some other wearable for that matter), you’ll want some severe mind retraining.
Should you purchase a Fitbit Sense?
For $330, the Fitbit Sense falls practically completely in between the $279 Apple Watch SE and $399 Apple Watch Series 6. However, it might as effectively be in no-man’s land. It would possibly have the ability to do some issues that the Apple Watch can’t nevertheless it’s laborious to justify selecting it over both of these watches. Even in the event you’ve sworn off Apple, the issues the Sense does finest—sleep monitoring, train monitoring, and battery life—can all be discovered on the Versa 3, which prices $100 much less.
And it’s laborious to not see the Apple Watch’s fall detection, Emergency SOS, always-on altimeter, and noise monitoring and never suppose Fitbit isn’t leaning into its strengths as a lot because it may very well be. The new sensors are fascinating and could be extraordinarily helpful sooner or later, however I’d fairly see breakthroughs in the way in which the Sense senses the person.
The early Fitbits had been outstanding for the way little you wanted to work together with them, however the Sense flips that script. By piling on sensors and options to seemingly compete with Apple, the Sense has added as a lot complexity as functionality.