Fitbit’s Sense wristwatch, which comes in tidy packaging with powerful health sensors for stress, heart rate, and ECG, aims to threaten the Apple Watch’s hegemony. But take care—it seems you can’t even pay Fitbit to fix the watch if you break it.
Above the £200 Versa 3, which is effectively the same smartwatch without the cutting-edge sensors, it costs £300 and is Fitbit’s top model. It also comes with a less expensive range of activity trackers.
One of the smallest smartwatches available, the watch is only 40.5mm broad and 12.35mm thick. Bright and enclosed by a polished stainless steel bezel that serves as one of the electrical connections for the sensors, the 1.58in OLED display is of high quality. Aluminum makes up the rest of the body.
You can program the screen to light up when you turn your wrist or push the button on the side of the watch, or to always display the time and other information. I found it bothersome because you can’t tap the screen to wake it up. Using the Fitbit app on your phone, you can download any of the several watch faces offered by Fitbit and other companies.
- Screen: 1.58in OLED
- Case size: 40.5mm
- Case thickness: 12.35mm
- Weight: 45.9g
- Operating system: Fitbit OS 5.1
- Water resistance: IP68, 50 meters (5ATM)
- Sensors: gyro, HR sensor, ECG, EDA, blood oxygen, light, GPS+GLONASS, altimeter, skin temperature
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5, wifi n, NFC, speaker, mic
Battery life and connectivity
While the battery life is up to six days between charges, it lasts closer to two when the screen is constantly on, calls and notifications are enabled, and more sophisticated health monitoring capabilities are used.
With everything on, including tracking my sleep, tracking my walks, and jogging a couple of times per week, I had to charge it before bed every other night. The battery should last for about a marathon because a 26-minute run with the screen on and GPS enabled only used 6% of it.
The watch supports wifi for downloading updates, apps, and other similar things in addition to Bluetooth for connecting to the Fitbit app on your Android or iPhone.
Despite publishing a sustainability statement, Fitbit declined to answer any of the Guardian’s sustainability questions, including on the use of recycled materials, whether the watch is repairable and the costs to do so out of warranty, and battery lifespan, losing it a star.
Batteries in other smartwatches typically last for at least 500 cycles while maintaining at least 80% of their original capacity.
Repair experts iFixit gave the Sense a repairability rating of five out of ten, however, Fitbit does not seem to provide any after-warranty repair services, such as those for cracked screens or battery replacements, costing it another star. A charging cord but not a power adaptor are included in the box.
Since Google just acquired Fitbit, a company that has made major strides in sustainability, there is anticipation that Fitbit will also advance in this area.
Fitbit OS 5.1
The Fitbit app is quite slick. To access smartphone alerts, swipe down from the top of the screen. To access widgets, such as the weather and health statistics, swipe up.
To access four quick shortcuts for music, apps, and other features, press the side button twice. Pressing the side button once will take you back to the watch face. Press and hold it to activate Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa for voice commands, timers, and other features. These are responsive as long as the watch and phone have a solid connection.
Your phone’s notifications are quite basic, displaying texts and alerts but excluding any photos from conversations, smart cameras, or other sources. On Android, you can reply to messages using pre-written messages or voice dictation, but not while using an iPhone.
In order to access the music shortcut and control playing, volume, and other features, double-press the side button. The music controls do not instantly display and are quite difficult to access.
The Sense has a ton of fitness and health-related features. It measures your heart rate every five seconds, counts your steps and active time, and offers automated moving reminders, daily activity objectives, and alarms for high and low heart rates.
Additionally, it contains sophisticated sleep monitoring, which records a “sleep score” overall as well as different sleep periods, heart rate variability, skin temperature, breathing rate, and blood oxygen saturation. A clever alarm mechanism also wakes you up at the ideal moment in your cycle.
The electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor, one of the essential features, records the rhythm of your heartbeat and performs as well as competitors. It is useful for seeing early warning signals of heart disease.
The other is the electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor, which measures stress levels in addition to information on stress derived from heart rate and sleep patterns by detecting variations in the amount of perspiration on your hand.
The Sense can track and record 20 different workouts in addition to general health and activity monitoring, such as walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling, as well as yoga, circuit training, golf, tennis, and other sports.
The watch can automatically monitor many of the longer-duration, more strenuous activities, such as running and walking. This records time, heart rate, calories burned, steps, and other information, but does not turn on the GPS to display a route map. When the activity is manually recorded, distance, pace, laps, and, if necessary, a GPS map of the route are included.
The Sense obtains a GPS lock for running in roughly 30 seconds. Although it obtained similar averages, its heart rate data differs slightly from that given by a Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Solar or an Apple Watch Series 6. The distance and speed of routes run on straight roads were accurate, however the readings for routes through parks or with several turns were disappointingly shorter than rivals by as much as 200m over a 5km course. Cadence and other more complex running dynamics data are not recorded or shown by the Sense either.
- You need to routinely open the Fitbit app on an iPhone to keep it from being shut in the background and stopping things such as weather from updating on the watch.
- The charging cable is annoyingly short, at just 52.5cm.
- The Sense comes with a six-month free trial of Fitbit premium for new customers.
The Fitbit Sense is a reliable smartwatch with a good display, a thin design, a battery life of two days or more, strong Google Assistant or Alexa connectivity, and straightforward smartphone alerts.
It features numerous cutting-edge health sensors, such as ECGs for measuring heartbeat rhythm and EDAs for stress monitoring, as well as tools for tracking daily activity and sound sleep. However, accessing some of the functions and analyses costs £7.99 per month, which is annoying for a £300 equipment.
Although the watch does a good job of automatically and manually monitoring workouts, it lacks more sophisticated data offered by competitors, such as cadence for running, and has problems with GPS accuracy on curved or circular routes.
Fitbit’s failure to address issues with sustainability, device repairs, and maintenance after the warranty has expired is a major issue that costs it two stars. Users complain that you simply can’t pay Fitbit to replace the watch, turning it into an expensive disposable item, which is a genuine shame. If you break the screen or the battery runs out, you’re on your own.
Pros include a nice screen, responsiveness, slim design, extensive health tracking, ECG, good workout tracking at the most basic level, GPS, good activity motivation, Google Assistant and Alexa, and a long smartwatch battery life.
Cons: Not sustainable, no OOW repair alternatives, proprietary straps, problems with GPS accuracy, lack of advanced workout tracking, need for the additional monthly subscription for some health-tracking capabilities, short charging cord.
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