Fitbit Sense 2 review: a sensible buy?

Here's how the Fitbit Sense 2 fares in real life usage

Fitness wearables have taken off in a big way, and you’d be spoiled for choice if you’re out in the market to buy one. Fitbit is one name that has remained quite strong over the years though and the brand is known for its expertise in the fitness domain. Its latest comes in the form of the Sense 2, which is the successor to the Sense, the brand’s most loaded fitness smartwatch that came out last year. As such, the new Sense 2 has big shoes to fill. Let’s see how it fares. First up, a look at the aspects where it falls short followed by a list of aspects where it shines.

What’s not so good

  • First up, the design. Fitbit hasn’t made any visually noticeable changes to the design and form factor, and the Sense 2 is indistinguishable from the previous model. This is both a good and a bad thing in my opinion, but if you might be disappointed if you were expecting a fresh look that could turn heads.

  • The Fitbit Sense 2 still uses the same proprietary bands it did as before, so finding suitable bands isn’t as easy as with other wearables that come with standard lugs and use conventional watch straps with spring bars. Fitbit of course, does sell bands for the Sense 2, but the choice is limited, not to mention pricey. The original bands from the Sense do fit the Sense 2, but a pair of third-party bands that I had bought for the Sense doesn’t work with the newer model… which is weird.

  • The Fitbit Sense 2, just like its predecessor, doesn’t let you respond to notifications, at least not when paired with an iPhone. When paired with an Android phone, you can make use of quick replies to respond. Speaking of notifications, another niggle is the way these appear on the watch, wherein the app icon pops up on the watch screen first, and then the notification content is displayed. The way this happens and the related animations takes a few moments, and makes the device seem slower than it really is.

  • The Fitbit Sense 2, just like its predecessor, can’t measure SpO2 levels on demand, and needs you to wear it to bed before it can show you some meaningful data based on your blood oxygen figures.
  • Now, this could be specific to my review unit, but during the course of my review, there were times when the wearable lost its pairing with my iPhone, and I had to dive into settings, forget the pairing and then open the Fitbit app again to pair the device.

  • Now this one is a biggie. For one, the Fitbit Sense 2 seems to have lost support for the Google Assistant, a feature which was present in its predecessor. Support for Alexa is still there, thankfully. However, the device has also lost support for third-party apps, so you can only make use of the apps Fitbit chooses to provide.
  • The Sense 2 can’t store music at all and doesn’t offer any way to control music playback on a paired smartphone — which seems strange for a wearable of its class. Music control is a feature present in most budget wearables too, so this does seem quite unexpected.

What’s good

  • I did say that the Sense 2’s familiar design can be considered a plus as well, and that’s because it’s quite lightweight and comfortable to wear for long hours without feeling any fatigue. Its squircle shape and rounded design might not turn heads or stand out, but the unisex look blends in with any apparel you might choose to don on a particular day. One noteworthy design upgrade is that the capacitive touch button seen on the Sense has been changed to a physical button on the Sense 2 — a welcome move since the touch button was a bit problematic to press. The AMOLED display is nice, vibrant and quite responsive too.

  • The Sense 2 shines as a wearable device that goes above and beyond just physical activity and attempts to cover various aspects of health. Of course, the basic metrics like step count, heart rate etc are all there, and Fitbit’s tracking figures are said to be the most accurate as compared to the others. Wearing the device regularly, day and night, and over long periods, can give you a wealth of useful data about your physical activities.

  • The device includes an array of sensors, including temperature, ECG, EDA, SpO2, etc to track your vitals. In fact, the Sense 2 is among a trio of options (the other two being its predecessor, the Sense, and the Fitbit Charge 5) that offer the ECG feature to Android users. Apple users, of course, have the Apple Watch to lean on in case they cover an ECG-measuring device on their wrist.

  • There’s an EDA sensor, which refers to electrodermal activity. On the Sense 2, this has been upgraded such that it works on a continuous basis and uses electrodermal activity combined with heart rate, heart rate variability and temperature to monitor stress levels. Termed Body Responses, you can check in and log your mood at that particular time, and the Sense 2 can show a stress management score along with historical data too. I didn’t find this extremely useful personally, but I think it could be handy for those who feel they’re affected by stress and need some assistance managing it.

  • The device runs Fitbit OS, which is intuitive in terms of usage and works smoothly on the Sense 2, without any signs of lag or stutter. You can swipe down on the screen to show the quick settings menu, swipe up to see notifications, and swipe sideways to scroll through tiles. These tiles can be customised via the Fitbit app, and you change the display sequence and enable / disable them as per your preferences. A press of the side button displays the apps, while a long press launches Alexa.

  • Speaking of Alexa, Amazon’s smart assistant works well and can be set up via the Fitbit app. It can be handy to have Alexa at your beck and call, sitting on your wrist at all times of the day. You can set up timers and alarms, ask for a weather update or control smart home devices.. all the usual stuff that Alexa can do, straight from your wrist.

  • The Fitbit app, which works on both Android and iOS, is quite feature-rich, and once you figure out where everything is, intuitive enough to navigate. It syncs with the Sense 2 to give you detailed analysis of your activity and health, with trends and historical data. Watch settings can be controlled via the app, and you can download watch faces too. Speaking of, there’s ample choice, and there are a variety of first-party and third-party watch faces available to download.
  • The Fitbit app has a strong community angle — you can not only join communities of like-minded folks to take inspiration, but you can also add other Fitbit users as friends, and participate in challenges. It makes exercising fun and inspires you to do more in terms of regular physical activity.

  • Handily, Fitbit bundles six months of Premium with the wearable, and once you activate that, you get access to goodies like a daily readiness score, a wellness report, video workouts and a bunch of premium watch faces. Advanced sleep analytics are also included as part of Fitbit Premium and could help offer more detailed insights into your slumber.

  • Another area where the Sense 2 shines is battery life. The wearable can last about 5-6 days of use on single charge, making it an unbeatable proposition in that aspect, better than other premium smartwatches like the Apple Watch or the Samsung Galaxy Watch5 Pro. Not having to remember to charge their watch every other day could be boon for many.

Verdict

Carrying a sticker price of Rs 24,999, the Fitbit Sense 2 is a bit of a mixed bag. In some aspects, it even comes across as a downgrade as compared to its predecessor, with the missing support for third-party apps and music playback being the main niggles. What it has lost in smarts though, it gains on the fitness aspect, with its advanced sensors and detailed health data that should prove to be useful to those who’re serious about their wellness.

Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5

Pros:

  • Full range of health features
  • ECG feature
  • Great battery life
  • Lightweight and comfortable

Cons:

  • No music support
  • No third-party app support
  • Proprietary straps