Fitbit recently launched its new Sense 2 and Versa 4 fitness watch models. Also around this time, the first Pixel smartwatch debuted on the market, and Google, the company that controls the development process for all of these devices, had to differentiate the products.
Thus, the Fitbit by Google models excel at fitness and health, but aren’t really smartwatches in the true sense of the word, and the Pixel Watch is a capable smartwatch, but lacks some of the extremely attractive health and fitness features present on the Sense 2 and Versa 4.
Sense 2 comes with a new, comfortable design
Fitbit Sense 2 comes with a refreshed design, designed so the watch can be worn 24 hours a day without disturbing the user. The edges of the aluminium casing are rounded, and the strap the watch comes with is made of soft, pleasant-to-touch silicone. It has the same attachment system as on the Sense, and the straps available for that model can be used on the new Fitbit device.
The most important design element on the new model is the welcome physical Home button. It is multi-functional and can be pressed. On the Sense the “button” was a dent in the casing, sensitive to tinting, and not exactly pleasant to interact with. It could be accidentally activated, and the vibration offered on prolonged pressing was unsatisfying.
A press of the button on the Sense 2 shows the list of apps available on the watch, such as ECG, EDA Scan, Weather or Today. The button can be programmed to perform a specific task on a prolonged press. It can start the Fitbit Pay app, open the settings menu or the digital voice assistant.
Speaking of digital assistants, here we come up against one of Fitbit by Google’s inexplicable decisions. Only Amazon Alexa is available on Sense 2, not Google Assistant, as on Sense.
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The AMOLED screens on the Sense 2 and Versa 4 are the same size as those on the Sense and Versa 3, (1.58″ diagonal), and the protective foils available in online stores or mall islands fit (I’ve personally tested them). The display responds very well to commands, is bright and displays vivid, pleasing color.
Unlike the Sense, which used a metal ring for EKG and EDA measurements, the new watch has sensors built into the edges of the display. The new elements are visible and I initially mistook them for foils.
The Sense 2 is thinner (11.2 mm thick vs. 12.4 mm) and lighter (37.6 g vs. 45.9 grams, without straps) than its predecessor. The watch is water resistant to 5 atmospheres.
Two other eye-catching features on the case are the speaker on one side and the two microphones on either side of the physical button. The base of the watch has also been “redesigned”. The sensors have different shapes and are arranged differently compared to the Sense.
Sense 2 has easy-to-use interface, but lacks third-party apps
Fitbit Sense 2 comes with the latest version of the FitbitOS operating system, which includes a new, tile-based interface. These can be accessed by swiping your finger across the screen from left to right and vice versa. There are 8 “tiles” for weather, today’s activity, sleep or stopwatch. These can be turned on or off from the Fitbit app. No new ones can be added, from other developers.
Missing, unfortunately, a tile for controlling music played on the phone. Unfortunately there is no app to do this, like Spotify was on Sense. This is one of my big disappointments when it comes to Sense 2.
Incidentally, the watch has no support for third-party apps. Goodbye Uber, Strava or Deezer. The user has to make do with the (few) titles that come pre-installed by Fitbit. That’s why I wrote in the title that this is a super fitness watch with (few) smartwatch features.
Sense 2 is not a smartwatch in the true sense of the word, and Google made a mistake, I think. The company cut too many features to make the Pixel Watch an attractive alternative.
Fitbit has promised to add Google Wallet and Maps apps to the Sense 2.
Returning to the interface, notifications can be accessed by swiping up and down on the screen, and the reverse gesture brings up Quick Settings.
I think the manufacturer Fitbit will have to bring new features through future updates for the product to be successful in the market. One controversial decision is not to offer Wi-Fi support on the Sense 2, even though the device includes a modem. Software updates are instead made via Bluetooth, a more cumbersome process.
Fortunately watch faces made by various developers are still available. I installed two that I used on Sense and they worked without a hitch.
At the same time, Sense 2 no longer has the ability to store music locally.
Advanced monitoring technologies for stress and sleep
Fortunately, the watch excels in the fitness and health departments, and is still one of the best devices of its kind on the market. Measurement accuracy is high, and the health information provided is diverse, easy to understand and detailed.
The watch has the ability to alert the user when they are stressed. Sense 2 senses changes (mainly via the EDA sensor, which detects the level of sweat on the skin, however low, but also using other indicators) and prompts the wearer to indicate how they are feeling by pressing a button on the screen. Options include. Calm, Frustrated, Stressed or Happy. When stress levels are high, the watch suggests a relaxing activity, such as an EDA scan or a short walk.
The user receives a stress management score, which can be up to 100. The higher the score, the better. At the end of each week a report is available where you can find information such as the most frequent states (happy, frustrated, etc.) or how many times the user has registered their state.
Another area where Sense 2 excels is sleep monitoring. Users now receive a sleep profile at the beginning of each month. Based on this they are paired with one of six available animals: giraffe, bear, dolphin, hedgehog, parrot and turtle. For example, if you get a bear, it means that your sleep is closest to that animal. Over time, the animal changes, depending on the quality of your sleep.
To receive the profile for the next month, on the first day of the month, the watch must be worn a minimum of 14 nights in the previous month. This feature is only available to subscribers to the Fitbit Premium service, which is offered free for the first six months after purchasing Sense 2.
On the new device, users still get a daily sleep quality score. The closer it is to 100, the better.
The watch still monitors heart rate, blood oxygen levels and skin temperature during sleep.
The watch includes GPS and can be used on runs without taking your phone with you.
Sense 2 has retained its 5-6 day battery life, similar to the Sense. With the always-on screen turned on and blood oxygen level measurements enabled, the battery life usually doesn’t exceed 3 days. Fortunately, the battery, whose capacity was not announced by the manufacturer, charges quickly. Kept connected to the charger for just 12 minutes, the Sense 2 can run for a day.
Fitbit Sense 2 – key technical features:
Display: AMOLED, 1.58″
Dimensions: 40.5 x 40.5 x 11.2 mm
Weight: 37.64 grams
Water resistance: yes, maximum depth 50 m
Application compatibility: Android and iOS
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, Wi-Fi (disabled)
Battery life: max 6 days (max 3 days with always-on screen enabled)
Conclusion: is it worth buying a Sense 2?
For healthy living and fitness enthusiasts, the Sense 2 is still an attractive option that I recommend, as the watch excels in these areas. Yes, you can also choose a Garmin, which in addition to fitness features also has full smartwatch features. However, you won’t have the same advanced stress and sleep technologies at your disposal, nor access to information as easily digestible as the Fitbit app.
Unfortunately, though, even “athletes” will miss the Sense 2’s lack of a music control app or lack of Wi-Fi when they need to make software updates. My guess is that Fitbit will cave in to the pressure and bring new features to the watch.
For those who want a true smartwatch, for notifications and apps, the Sense 2 cannot be recommended because, I repeat, this is not really such a device, but a very advanced (and expensive) fitness tracker with smartwatch features. It lacks third-party apps, and notification support is limited. At €300 you can buy a Samsung model, excellent in the smartwatch role.
– Attractive design, the watch is comfortable to wear
– Has physical Home button
– Includes excellent technologies for monitoring stress and sleep
– Fitbit is still one of the best fitness apps
– Has an easy-to-use interface
– Lacks support for third-party applications
– Doesn’t have a way to control the music playing on your phone
– Wi-Fi connection is disabled
– Missing support for Google Assistant