The Fitbit Sense is a smartwatch that has quite a bit to show.
After a reasonably lackluster 2019, which ended with Fitbit getting acquired by Google, it appeared just like the wearables firm was in a rut. It was pumping out iteration after iteration of its in style Versa smartwatch like there was no tomorrow, whilst opponents started to depart Fitbit of their mud. On the excessive finish, Apple and Samsung preserve including extra superior well being options and spectacular software program updates to their platforms. On the low finish, corporations like Xiaomi and Huami are producing respectable, extraordinarily low-cost health bands that undercut even probably the most primary Fitbits. Amongst hardcore health heads, Garmin and Polar proceed to have an edge due to their superior GPS options and in-depth metrics. Spring 2020 introduced us the Charge 4, a strong but iterative replace to Fitbit’s different in style line of trackers. Nevertheless, the Cost Four alone wasn’t sufficient to alter Fitbit’s fortunes.
However Fitbit’s fall occasion was nothing wanting a guns-blazing miracle and on the heart of it was the $330 Fitbit Sense, which now replaces the tragic Ionic as the corporate’s premium, feature-packed smartwatch. The Apple Watch Series 6 is the gold commonplace that, for higher or worse, all flagship smartwatches might be in comparison with. With the Sense, Fitbit is rising to the problem and all however saying, “Hey, Apple. Maintain my beer.”
The Sense is a significant step up from the Ionic and the Versa, and it has a lot occurring. One of many greatest additions is an electrodermal exercise (EDA) sensor, which measures minute adjustments in your sweat to find out your stress ranges—no different main smartwatch presently does that. It additionally has a pores and skin temperature sensor and Fitbit’s up to date coronary heart charge algorithm, Pure Pulse 2.0. Like its opponents, Fitbit can also be including coronary heart charge variation as a metric inside its app, and together with high and low coronary heart charge notifications. The Sense guarantees six days of battery life and super-fast charging. Google Assistant might be coming to the Sense later this fall. Additionally coming later this fall is the flexibility to take telephone calls immediately on the watch. A brand new metal ring across the case helps to allow electrocardiograms, and Fitbit just received clearance from the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration for that function. Oh, and Fitbit has been packing SpO2 sensors for blood oxygen-monitoring of their devices since 2017 (although the primary function to make use of them didn’t drop until early 2020).
On paper, it is a massively spectacular replace and will sign that Fitbit is again within the sport—if it delivers. I’ve been testing the Sense for a few week and, whereas it’s not a whole win, it is a nice smartwatch.
Let’s begin with the fundamentals. On high of the brand new stuff I discussed, the Fitbit Sense additionally has the staples, like built-in GPS, NFC funds, and an always-on show. It’s obtained all of the sensors you’d count on, like an accelerometer, ambient gentle sensor, gyroscope, altimeter, and optical coronary heart charge sensor. You’ve additionally obtained 2.4GHz wifi, Bluetooth 5.0, a speaker, and a microphone. The one factor the Sense is lacking is mobile functionality.
Design-wise, the Sense is much less revolutionary. It, just like the Versa, seems to be like an Apple Watch—and that’s supremely boring. Nevertheless, there are notable enhancements. The bezel isn’t fairly as thick because the Versa 2’s, and the mechanism to swap straps is far simpler to make use of. On the correct aspect, there’s an inductive button that serves three capabilities: a single press will wake the system, a single press and maintain will open a shortcut you can customise, and a double press will allow you to rapidly entry 4 apps of your selecting.
When it comes to dimension, the Sense is a bit larger and extra sq. than the 40mm Apple Watch. The case itself measures 1.6 by 1.6 inches and is half an inch thick. I’ve teeny fowl wrists however I discovered the Sense snug for 24/7 put on and through train.
Earlier than I dive into the brand new options, nonetheless, a fast be aware: I wasn’t in a position to check Fitbit’s ECG app, Google Assistant, or taking calls on the wrist. The ECG app received’t be accessible till subsequent month, whereas the opposite two options are coming someday earlier than the tip of the 12 months.
The actual star of the Fitbit Sense is the EDA sensor and the stress-tracking it permits. You swipe to the EDA Scan App, place your palm over the Fitbit’s show, and sit nonetheless. A fast scan takes about two minutes, however you are able to do a guided session for as much as 60 minutes. (There are a handful of ordinary guided meditations within the app, however for those who’re a Fitbit Premium member you get entry to over 100.) Throughout that point, the watch will choose up on imperceptible quantities of sweat to gauge your bodily stress. That is extra awkward than you suppose. It’s a must to ensure part of your palm is touching both sides of the case’s metallic ring. I could be an anxious particular person, however ready for the watch to buzz after two minutes felt like a lifetime.
That stated, in my testing, this function actually labored. Throughout final week’s Apple Watch occasion, I took a couple of minutes to measure my stress stage in real-time throughout a short 2-minute lull. I apparently was confused! My coronary heart charge (which is about 65-70 bpm when at relaxation) went from 99 bpm to 104 bpm in three minutes, and the watch recorded 15 EDA responses. The extra confused you’re, the extra EDA responses you’ll be able to count on. Just a few days later, after a future and a calming bathe, I attempted the fast scan once more. My coronary heart charge went from 82 to 81 bpm, and I had zero EDA responses. I simply tried once more with an extended guided meditation as a result of my deadline scripting this evaluation is stressing me out—17 EDA responses. It is aware of.
On-demand stress-tracking, whereas enjoyable, isn’t the one method the EDA sensor is used. Within the Fitbit app, you additionally get a Stress Administration Rating. You get ranked on a scale of 0-100, and the upper the rating, the much less confused you’re. The rating is tabulated by taking a look at three separate standards. First is responsiveness, which is a mixture of your coronary heart charge variability (HRV), elevated resting coronary heart charge (RHR), sleeping coronary heart charge above your RHR, and measurements from the EDA sensor. Second is your bodily exertion: your day by day steps, tracked actions, and fatigue. The final standards is your high quality of sleep. That is very harking back to the “readiness” metric featured in restoration trackers just like the Oura Ring and Whoop. Over the previous week, I’ve discovered my numbers precisely mirror how effectively rested I really feel bodily. What I feel Fitbit does higher than all people else is provide the choice to log how you’re feeling emotionally, as you’ll be able to really feel fairly crappy even when your physique is in tip-top form. This capability to log your feelings, perceive how that stacks up in opposition to your bodily response, and entry mindfulness classes in a single app is probably the most holistic and considerate strategy to stress-tracking I’ve seen, and is far more helpful than the usual, annoying reminders to breathe.
A few of the different issues the Sense now tracks, nonetheless, are extra passive. The Well being Metrics tile now helps you to observe your respiration charge, HRV, pores and skin temperature, oxygen saturation (SpO2), and resting coronary heart charge. What I like right here is that Fitbit offers you somewhat explainer on every, so that you get a reasonably good sense of why you would possibly need to take note of these metrics. That stated, you’re largely doing this to higher perceive your baseline over time. Monitoring your pores and skin temperature evening after evening and evaluating it to your general sleep rating would possibly provide you with higher perception into how the temperature of your room impacts your sleep. For instance, the Sense stated my baseline dropped by 2.6 levels Fahrenheit—and sure, I awoke a number of occasions as a result of I used to be chilly and subsequently obtained a shitty evening’s relaxation. That’s cool, however I’m undecided the typical person will intuit that, as any such information interpretation isn’t offered in an simply digestible method. For now, it is a Premium function, however Fitbit says that it is going to be coming to all customers with suitable gadgets within the coming months.
Nevertheless, all these superior sensors and metrics do trace Fitbit might have massive plans sooner or later in the case of sickness detection. Preliminary outcomes from its covid-19 study have been additionally offered on the Sense’s launch, and metrics like pores and skin temperature, respiration charge, and HRV are metrics that several studies have pointed to as being probably helpful in detecting infectious illnesses.
Battery life, as normal for Fitbit, was good. I didn’t get fairly six days on a single cost—I obtained round 4.5 earlier than I needed to get away the charger. That stated, I did do at the least Four hours of GPS exercises throughout that point in order that’s nonetheless fairly spectacular. A 30-minute GPS run additionally drained my battery by about 5%, so general given my heavy utilization, it is sensible I obtained just a few days much less. I’m okay with that as a result of Sense additionally costs fairly rapidly. Fitbit says you can get an entire day’s value of cost in simply 12 minutes. I put that to the check and went from 32% to 52% in 12 minutes.
That is all actually spectacular, however like I stated earlier, the Sense isn’t excellent. There have been just a few quirks that I didn’t love whereas testing.
Most of my gripes are small, and never essentially dealbreakers. I custom-made the aspect induction button to launch a shortcut for working exercises—and simply by transferring my wrist usually, I launched at the least 15 working exercises by chance. It wasn’t an enormous deal, however I did must go delete every of them from the app. One other quibble I had was I discovered the display wasn’t fairly as responsive as I’d like. Typically swipes didn’t register. Different occasions, it felt just like the display lagged. This isn’t distinctive to the Sense, although—it’s an issue with the Versas too. (As is the absurdly very long time it takes to put in a brand new clockface.) The always-on show zaps your battery life fairly considerably, to the purpose the place I felt I needed to flip that function off. The Sense additionally introduces one more proprietary charger. I get that that is possible because of the new sensors, however for those who’re considering of upgrading from an older Fitbit, know that your present chargers received’t carry over.
My “greatest” downside with the Sense, nonetheless, was coronary heart rate-tracking throughout train. This can be because of the new Pure Pulse 2.Zero algorithm, however generally, my exercises had common bpm readings that have been about 5 bpm decrease than my Apple Watch SE and the Polar H10 chest strap. That’s not that severe of a change. Nevertheless, I did discover that generally the Sense lagged by as a lot as 10-15 bpm in comparison with the Watch SE and Polar H10. This wasn’t unusual within the early days of wearables testing, however I can’t bear in mind the final time I noticed two trackers that have been greater than 5 bpm aside in actual time.
This lag didn’t happen on a regular basis, and even in each sort of train. I solely encountered it whereas working open air. Upon reviewing my coronary heart charge information after my runs, nonetheless, the graphs from the Fitbit Sense, Apple Watch SE, and Polar H10 corresponded with one another. That leads me to consider Fitbit’s train app would possibly battle to maintain up with real-time information for sure workout routines. For example, I didn’t have this downside with power coaching, walks, or yoga classes. This isn’t going to be an issue for everybody, however if you’re somebody who trains based on coronary heart charge zone, it’s not ideally suited. I’ve requested Fitbit whether or not this could be an train app concern, however haven’t but obtained a response. No matter whether or not it’s an algorithm or app concern, it’s extra of an inconvenience than an indication the Sense is irredeemably inaccurate.
In any other case, I discovered Fitbit’s distance-tracking to be correct and on par with the Apple Watch. I did 5 check runs with the Sense, and for every, it was inside 0.05 miles of the Apple Watch SE and 0.1 mile of my working app. For instance, a 2.28-mile run recorded on my telephone registered as 2.22 miles on the Sense and a couple of.23 miles on the Apple Watch SE. One other 2.88-mile run on my telephone was logged as 2.79 miles on the Sense and a couple of.eight miles on the Watch SE. Likewise, each the Watch SE and Sense logged a 1.3-mile stroll recorded by my telephone as 1.Three miles.
At $330, the Fitbit Sense could be very effectively priced for what it affords. It’s the most affordable ECG-capable smartwatch with FDA clearance, is platform-agnostic, has an SpO2 sensor, a pores and skin temperature sensor, multi-day battery life, and the perfect stress-tracking I’ve seen to date due to the EDA sensor. The opposite FDA-cleared ECG watches—the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Apple Watch Collection 6—each begin at $400 for GPS-only variations, with mobile variations costing much more. And shortly the Sense may have Alexa and Google Assistant, that are each higher than Bixby and Siri by way of usefulness. It additionally blows these two rival smartwatches out of the water with regard to battery life. Even for those who take into account my points with real-time coronary heart rate-tracking, that’s an unbelievable worth and have set. And whereas the Sense is a lot better with Fitbit Premium, which prices $9.99 a month, you get six complete months free with buy. (It’s additionally fairly good with out paying for that subscription.)
For underneath $400, the one different comparable choices are the Apple Watch SE and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2. The bottom fashions for each are cheaper at $280, whereas the mobile model of the SE prices the identical at $330 and the Active2 prices a bit extra at $380. And right here, it’s a calculation of which options you prioritize. The Active2 has ECG, mobile, and a lovely design. The Apple Watch SE additionally affords mobile, plus all of the perks of the Apple ecosystem. And the Sense sports activities ECG, superior stress-tracking, the perfect battery life, and the perfect social group. However any method you have a look at it, the Fitbit Sense must be close to the highest of your checklist for those who’re contemplating a full-featured smartwatch.
On the finish of the day, it is a breath of recent air from Fitbit and it’s actually great to see them pushing the wearables house ahead once more. I’ll must see how the Sense handles forthcoming options just like the ECG earlier than I can declare this an absolute win for Fitbit—however primarily based on my expertise to this point, the Sense is a Hail Mary which will effectively repay.
- Fitbit’s most bold smartwatch in years!
- Provides electrodermal exercise sensor to measure bodily stress and pores and skin temperature sensor. Additionally introduces new superior metrics like HRV and respiration charge, plus high and low coronary heart charge notifications.
- Mindfulness and stress-tracking is among the many greatest presently accessible.
- Provides Google Assistant and calls on wrist.
- Additionally obtained FDA clearance for ECG! Which comes subsequent month!
- Moderately priced for the function set at $330; solely factor it’s actually lacking is mobile functionality.
- Correct monitoring, although had some laggy coronary heart rate-tracking on wrist within the train app.
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