Meet the Fitbit Sense 2, which bears more than a passing resemblance to its predecessor, on the surface at least.
The company, now owned by Google, has clearly decided not to mess with a winning formula. In fact, the only thing that distinguishes it from the original is the physical button added to help people interact with the watch.
The watch has a 1.58-inch touchscreen, same as the original Sense, and is more or less the same size case. You get automatic exercise tracking and an ECG app that monitors for irregular heart rhythm, plus some decent sleep monitoring.
Blood oxygen monitoring is also back, as is GPS, and you can make and take phone calls from your wrist thanks to the built-in speaker and microphone. The Sense will sync with your phone over Bluetooth low energy, and although the specs list a wi-fi connection, there was no way to access it through the Sense 2 settings.
Third party apps are a little light at the moment, so if you were a fan of the streaming music apps on previous Fitbit devices, you might be disappointed
The real changes are less visible. The new watch adds a continuous EDA sensor that monitors skin activity for stress reactions throughout the day, rather than the previous version’s more awkward manual process than required users to hold certain points on the case to get a reading. That alone was probably enough to induce a stress reaction in users, so the continuous monitoring in the background is a better option.
This watch runs Fitbit OS rather than Wear OS, which has a few different results. On the one hand, third party apps are a little light at the moment, so if you were a fan of the streaming music apps on previous Fitbit devices, you might be disappointed. There is some Google crossover – Google Maps and Google Wallet are on the way, although not available at the time of reviewing – but on the whole, the software looks fairly similar to what you have come to expect from Fitbit.
Unfortunately, it’s not very reactive. Swiping through the menu tiles isn’t as smooth as it could be, and it feels like the watch software is lagging as you go a lot of the time. The always-on display looks good, but it is slow at times to reactivate when you need it to, which is a pain during workouts or even if you want to check a notification. It’s frustrating, and hopefully Fitbit improves it soon.
Swiping through the menu tiles isn’t as smooth as it could be, and it feels like the watch software is lagging as you go a lot of the time
You still get Alexa integration, although no option yet for Google Assistant, which you would have assumed would be a certainty. You can change the settings to make it text-only if you’d rather that the Amazon assistant’s responses to your commands weren’t audible to everyone in earshot.
The Sense 2 does exactly what you would expect from a Fitbit smartwatch. There are enough sensors packed in to give you a good overview of your health and wellness, if you are interested in monitoring it that closely.
The screen is bright and colourful, and battery life is really good, even with the always-on display and other optional features turned on and sipping away at the power.
Speaking of battery life, that is one of the better things about the Sense 2. Because it doesn’t use Wear OS, it’s far more forgiving of the small battery inside the smartwatch. You can easily get several days out of the watch, even with the extra features enabled such as the always-on display.
The not so good
Fitbit uses its own software on the watch instead of Wear OS, but it feels like it is always slightly sluggish. Raise to wake, for example, doesn’t always work unless you perform an exaggerated movement.
The band is awkward to get a good fit. That’s important if you want to get an accurate heart rate reading, but there’s a fine line between a good fit and cutting off the circulation.
The smartwatch comes with a six-month trial of Fitbit Premium, the company’s subscription service that offers more detailed insights into health and wellness.
Should you upgrade?
This isn’t a massive innovation from the original Sense, but it refines a few features. That’s not enough to justify the investment if you are already using the Sense, but previous generation Versa users may find something extra here.
The Sense 2 has some good points, including its excellent battery life, but the software can be frustrating at times.