Fitbit Sense 2 review: it doesn’t make much sense

Fitbit Sense 2 review: it doesn’t make much sense

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When I reviewed the Fitbit Sense 2 years ago, it was an ambitious smartwatch. Its successor, the Sense 2? Eh, not truthful much. It’s hyperbole to accidental the Sense 2 is simply a implicit downgrade, but I don’t deliberation you tin genuinely telephone it a smartwatch, either. This, my friends, is what I’d telephone a premium fittingness tracker — and if you presumption it from that lens, it’s a bully one. But is it truly $300 worthy of fittingness tracker, particularly since the Pixel Watch is lone $50 more, has astir each the aforesaid wellness features, and is much smarter?

Falling down successful smarts

Before I get into wherefore the Sense 2 isn’t a smartwatch, we request to acceptable the stage. In 2020, the Sense was plentifulness smart. It had a caller stress-tracking electrodermal enactment (EDA) sensor, FDA-cleared electrocardiogram (EKG) sensors, humor oxygen saturation (SpO2) sensors, somesthesia sensor, contactless payments, and the prime betwixt Alexa and Google Assistant. It was a viable alternate to the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 — even if it didn’t person cellular connectivity and its third-party app ecosystem was meh.

A batch tin hap successful 2 years. Since then, the Series 8 and Galaxy Watch 5 person caught up to the bulk of the Sense 2’s wellness features portion widening the spread successful presumption of smarts. There’s besides present the Apple Watch Ultra and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro to contend with. The Sense 2’s main vantage is weeklong artillery life, but that each but disappears if you alteration the always-on display. In my testing, enabling the AOD meant 3 days connected a azygous complaint astatine most.

Fitbit Sense 2 without always-on show  enabled worn connected  a wrist

If you privation weeklong artillery life, you’re going to person to disable the always-on display.

And past there’s the Pixel Watch. It’s wide that Google, Fitbit’s genitor company, sees that arsenic the aboriginal of its wearable lineup. The Pixel Watch uses Fitbit’s level for its wellness and fittingness features; Fitbit CEO James Park adjacent introduced the Pixel Watch astatine the Made by Google event. And it has each the features you’d expect from a smartwatch, including a dependable assistant, exigency calling, and astute location control. If you work betwixt the lines, it each feels similar a decease knell for the Fitbit arsenic a smartwatch.

Fitbit spokesperson Jonathan Moll told The Verge that the Sense 2 was designed to “prioritize the astir important features our users attraction astir and usage the most, including bosom complaint tracking, slumber tracking, and accent management.” It makes consciousness that Google would instrumentality steps to differentiate the Sense 2 from the Pixel Watch. There’s nary crushed for 1 institution to person 2 competing smartwatch platforms, and it makes consciousness for Fitbit to to constrictive its absorption to fitness. But it feels similar Google nerfed the Sense 2 a spot excessively much.

For example, you can’t usage Google Assistant connected the Sense 2. This is weird. On the archetypal Sense and the Versa 3, you tin prime betwixt Alexa oregon Google Assistant. Now, your lone enactment is Alexa. Fitbit spokesperson Jonathan Moll told me, “At this clip determination are nary plans to deploy Google Assistant connected Sense 2 oregon Versa 4. We look guardant to bringing this diagnostic to aboriginal devices.”

Regardless of whether you similar integer assistants, their beingness connected smartwatches is simply a fixed these days. Sure, there’s Alexa — but that’s a full different astute location ecosystem. Why wouldn’t you enactment Google Assistant connected a Google smartwatch? The full taxable of the Made by Google lawsuit was that each these devices enactment together! If not, what’s the constituent exactly? I’m genuinely mislaid astatine the thought process here.

Previously disposable third-party apps similar Starbucks and Spotify don’t look to beryllium an enactment anymore. At least, they weren’t listed arsenic compatible with the Sense 2 erstwhile I tried to download them from the Fitbit App Gallery. Fitbit’s third-party ecosystem was already paltry, truthful this is yet different baffling decision.

Google whitethorn person nerfed the Sense 2 a spot excessively much

The summation of Google Maps and Google Wallet takes immoderate of the sting out. Except, I can’t archer you however good either app works due to the fact that they’re not disposable yet. It’s not unheard of for companies to motorboat features aft a merchandise hits shelves. But erstwhile you harvester this with Google taking distant erstwhile third-party apps, it definite is simply a head-scratcher. 

The Sense 2 has a operation Bluetooth / Wi-Fi radio, arsenic did the Sense, but the Wi-Fi is deactivated, per Fitbit’s authoritative spec sheet. Moll told The Verge, “Historically, Wi-Fi was utilized for updating firmware and euphony storage. Sense 2 and Versa 4 present usage Bluetooth to update firmware, and bash not person euphony retention capabilities.” Add offline euphony — which the Sense supported for Deezer and Pandora — to the casualty list.

App paper   connected  the Sense 2

The UI is precise akin to what you’ll find connected the Pixel Watch. But Google Assistant is missing this time.

All this is odd. The Sense 2’s redesigned UI surely makes you consciousness similar it’s meant to beryllium a smartwatch. The refreshed plan is spiffier than erstwhile versions of Fitbit OS. It looks precisely the aforesaid arsenic Wear OS connected the Pixel Watch. For example, swiping near and close volition fto you presumption widgets. Pressing the fastener brings up an app list. Swiping up brings up notifications, and swiping down gets you to the speedy menu. It’s a large improvement, show doesn’t lag, and everything looks overmuch nicer arsenic well.

Despite its UI, the Sense 2 isn’t truly a smartwatch by 2022 standards. It’s a fittingness tracker masquerading arsenic one. 

A refined yet comfy redesign

The Sense 2’s bundle feels similar it’s been deliberately constricted — oregon focused, if you similar — but the carnal hardware has been improved each around. You tin archer Fitbit’s enactment a batch of effort into streamlining the plan truthful that it’s much comfy for mundane wear. 

The Sense 2 is lighter than its predecessor, though you whitethorn not announcement the alteration successful weight. I didn’t erstwhile I compared them 1 aft another. I did, however, announcement the Sense 2 is overmuch thinner. The Sense had this tapered, trapezoidal signifier connected the broadside wherever the sensor bump dug into your skin. It was a means of masking the thickness erstwhile really connected your wrist. The Sense 2 doesn’t request to bash that. And arsenic acold arsenic numbers go, the Sense 2 is 11.2mm thick, portion the Sense is 12.4mm. The quality successful thickness is astir that of a penny.

It was refreshing to deterioration specified a lightweight instrumentality aft investigating the Apple Watch Ultra. It didn’t drawback connected immoderate sleeves oregon overgarment cuffs, adjacent erstwhile I was wearing respective layers portion hiking. It was besides comfy for slumber tracking and all-day wear. I hardly noticed it portion moving oregon moving out, which is simply a bully alteration of gait from the chonkers I’ve been investigating arsenic of late. 

The caller plan besides means wholly antithetic sensor arrays — some connected the bottommost of the ticker and successful the display. Where the Sense had a metallic apical ringing for EKG and EDA readings, the Sense 2 builds that capableness straight into the display’s bezels. The effect is it looks adjacent much similar the Apple Watch. And portion I privation those bezels were thinner, I’m gladsome Fitbit is making usage of the “wasted” space. 

The Sense 2 connected  apical  of the Sense

The Sense 2 (top) is thinner and lighter than its predecessor, and it has a carnal fastener wherever the Sense had an atrocious inductive groove.

But the champion alteration is that Fitbit replaced the Sense’s infuriating inductive groove with an existent carnal button. That groove was a confounding plan choice. Not lone was it prone to accidental presses, but the haptics besides weren’t beardown capable if you were trying to usage the long-press shortcut. I often sat determination pressing, confused wherefore my shortcut wasn’t launching. I yet got the bent of it, but peruse immoderate Fitbit forum oregon subreddit, and you’ll find plentifulness of frustrated users. 

I had nary of these issues with the carnal button. Plus, it’s truthful overmuch much satisfying to property thing and know it’s registered. The button, portion raised, doesn’t protrude excessively far. I haven’t experienced immoderate accidental presses truthful acold — adjacent portion wearing aggregate layers and a wintertime coat.

A thoughtful instrumentality for accent management

Fitbit intelligibly enactment a batch of effort into accent tracking. With the Sense 2, Fitbit’s made immoderate meaningful improvements to the lineup’s astir unsocial feature.

Quick refresher: The Sense watches measurement accent via an EDA sensor. EDA sensors observe minuscule changes successful your skin’s sweat levels. That, on with different metrics similar bosom complaint variation, tin beryllium utilized arsenic an indicator of stress. Or, arsenic Fitbit dubs it, “body responses.” Previously, the EDA features worked much similar spot-checks that users had to initiate. The Sense 2 upgrades the original’s EDA sensor to a cEDA sensor. The “c” stands for continuous, meaning you tin present get automatic alerts successful existent time. 

Picture of the “Mindfulness activities” surface  connected  a wrist-worn Sense 2.

The EDA scan is 1 of a fewer recommended actions if you person a assemblage accent alert.

Basically, if the Sense 2 detects a assemblage response, you’ll get a nudge to log your mood. You’ll besides spot prompts to instrumentality a fewer stress-relieving actions similar a guided meditation, a two-minute EDA scan, oregon going connected a abbreviated walk. 

It works! Mostly. In my experience, the alerts lagged a spot and often came astatine inopportune times. For example, I had a spot of a car rental snafu erstwhile I visited Iceland past week. It was 4:30AM ET astatine Keflavik International Airport, I hadn’t slept connected the flight, my telephone was malfunctioning, and the car rental bureau was truthful caller nary of its accusation was connected Google yet. It worked out, but I was 1 misfortune distant from hyperventilating into a insubstantial bag. You’d deliberation the Sense 2 would’ve been buzzing incessantly connected my wrist. Instead, it lone notified maine astir 30 minutes aft everything was sorted. When prompted to log my mood, I deed the “Frustrated” emoticon.

By that time, I wasn’t capable to bash a guided meditation session, spell connected a walk, oregon beryllium inactive capable for a two-minute EDA speechmaking to alleviate my stress. I was successful a car, giving my hubby directions to our adjacent destination. Another time, I got a assemblage effect alert portion trekking up Seljalandsfoss waterfall successful the freezing rainfall and wind. I logged my temper arsenic “excited,” but I wasn’t funny successful thing but being contiguous successful the moment. It became a recurring theme. Whenever I had almighty assemblage responses, I was excessively preoccupied to bash much than enactment however I was feeling. And that’s if I adjacent noticed the alerts, to statesman with.

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

The sensor arrays are antithetic arsenic well. The Sense 2 (right) has a “continuous” EDA sensor to observe assemblage responses.

The execution mightiness beryllium a small clunky, but Fitbit’s accent absorption diagnostic is inactive the champion I’ve ever tested. I didn’t ever respond to alerts arsenic intended, but overall, it is bully to instrumentality a measurement backmost and admit however you consciousness successful a high-stress moment. I appreciated that Fitbit acknowledges that bodily accent tin beryllium affirmative oregon antagonistic and that it whitethorn not ever align with your mood. 

The accent information is besides presented thoughtfully. For instance, you get some a Stress Management people and a play summary. The erstwhile looks astatine your assemblage responses, exertion level, and slumber patterns to springiness you an thought of however your cumulative accent whitethorn interaction you connected a fixed day. The play summary visualizes however galore assemblage responses you got each time successful the erstwhile week, arsenic good arsenic your astir communal moods. 

Stress absorption tin beryllium challenging, particularly if you’re idiosyncratic who tends to disregard bodily signals until burnout kicks in. (It me.) The premix of quantified information and logging is simply a adjuvant visualization tool, and I appreciated it wasn’t linked to diversion performance. 

Side presumption    of the Sense 2’s carnal   fastener  and display

The carnal fastener is simply a astute addition. You tin besides spot the caller embedded sensors successful the bezels.

Sleep tracking

Fitbit’s ever had immoderate of the champion wide slumber tracking features. It’s precocious added profiles, which categorize you arsenic a benignant of carnal based connected your slumber patterns and springiness you slumber hygiene insights based connected those patterns. (It’s akin to what Samsung does with its Galaxy Watches.) You get a caller illustration connected the 1st of each month. I’d emotion to archer you however it works, but there’s a catch. You’ve got to deterioration it for 14 nights retired of the period successful bid to get a slumber illustration for the adjacent month, and it only offers profiles connected the archetypal of the calendar month. In September, acknowledgment to my reappraisal queue, I lone got 12, which meant I didn’t get a illustration for October and won’t get 1 until November 1st, six weeks aft I started utilizing the Sense 2.

I admit that I’m an borderline case. This reviewer beingness has maine perpetually rotating betwixt devices, and I’ve lone got 2 wrists. Customers sticking to one Fitbit volition person little of an issue, but there’s nary bully crushed to necktie slumber profiles to the archetypal of the calendar period alternatively than updating them connected a rolling basis.

The terms is not right

I’ll beryllium blunt. If you privation a durable tracker that tin withstand utmost elements oregon 1 with hyper-accurate GPS data, this ain’t it. The Sense 2 has built-in GPS, but if you truly attraction astir close way maps, you’re amended disconnected with a Garmin oregon different fitness watch with multiband GPS. Case successful point, you lone person to look astatine these screenshots of a caller hike to spot that Fitbit’s GPS isn’t the greatest. The aforesaid goes if you’re looking for in-depth grooming plans and much earthy data. 

Then again, Fitbit’s ever been a level for wide users. Its top spot is that it has ever presented earthy information successful a digestible format. That’s what makes the Sense 2 — and different Fitbit devices — large for gathering healthier habits successful a gentle, holistic way. It’s got large betterment tools successful its Sleep Score, Daily Readiness Score, and, now, accent absorption features, arsenic good arsenic elemental but convenient tools for logging calories, weight, and h2o intake. Its Active Zone Minutes metric is fantabulous for helping beginners visualize whether they’re getting an capable magnitude of workout per week.

So the Sense 2 is simply a bully wide wellness tracker but a not-so-great smartwatch. Compared to dirt-cheap fittingness bands, you’re getting a prettier plan and a unsocial instrumentality connected accent tracking. I’m conscionable not definite wherefore anyone would wage $299.95 for a fancier fittingness tracker with less wide features erstwhile you tin get an entry-level smartwatch for less. I tin recognize wanting a fittingness tracker and not a smartwatch, but successful that instance, determination are besides much affordable options. 

View of the Fitbit Sense 2

RIP aboriginal Fitbit smartwatches.

For iPhone users, the Apple Watch SE costs $249. For Android users, the 40mm Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is $279.99. I mean, travel on, the Google Pixel Watch costs lone $50 much than the Sense 2 astatine $349.

Fitbit’s different trackers muddy the h2o adjacent more. The $229.95 Versa 4 has the immense bulk of the Sense 2’s features, and adjacent the $179.95 Charge 5 has an EKG sensor. If you conscionable privation a basal tracker, the Inspire 3 is retired present for $99.95. Unless you find the Sense 2 connected merchantability for nether $200 oregon really privation accent tracking, this isn’t a bully deal.

Somebody astatine Fitbit (or Google) didn’t bash the mathematics right. It would’ve been a smarter determination to discontinue the Versa enactment and fto the Sense 2 instrumentality the spot of the Versa 4, particularly if you were going to nerf the smarter features connected some devices. But that’s not what happened, and adjacent if it had, it’d conscionable beryllium delaying the inevitable. The Sense 2 is simply a casualty of Google’s ambitions for the Pixel Watch. And it’s imaginable that we’re lone a Pixel Band distant from each Fitbit trackers sharing a akin fate.

Photography by Victoria Song / The Verge

Agree to Continue: Fitbit Sense 2

Every astute instrumentality present requires you to hold to a bid of presumption and conditions earlier you tin usage it — contracts that nary 1 really reads. It’s intolerable for america to work and analyse each azygous 1 of these agreements. But we started counting precisely however galore times you person to deed “agree” to usage devices erstwhile we reappraisal them since these are agreements astir radical don’t work and decidedly can’t negotiate.

To usage the Fitbit Sense 2, you person to brace it to your iOS oregon Android smartphone. That means agreeing to your phone’s presumption and services, arsenic good arsenic its privateness policy.

There are 2 mandatory Fitbit agreements:

There are besides respective optional agreements, similar connecting via Bluetooth to your phone, contacts, photos, camera, Face ID, Media, notifications, cellular data, and inheritance app refresh. If you take to alteration Alexa, you’ll person to hold to Amazon’s presumption for that arsenic well. Integrating with immoderate different third-party services volition besides necessitate you to hold to that app’s presumption and privateness policies.

Keep successful caput that Fitbit volition necessitate you to log successful with a Google account by 2025, which means agreeing to those policies arsenic well.

Final tally: Two mandatory agreements and respective optional agreements

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