Fitbit's Sense 2 gave me a taste of how the Google Pixel Watch will be

Fitbit’s Sense 2 gave me a taste of how the Google Pixel Watch will be

Advantages

  • Beautiful AMOLED display
  • Elegant and refined circle-shaped design
  • Well supported Fitbit ecosystem
  • Six free months of Fitbit Premium service

The inconvenients

  • Minimal app selection, no third-party apps
  • No Google Assistant
  • The $299 price isn’t the most competitive

After Google bought Fitbit, we expected changes to come. And with the next Pixel Watch, there should be some boundaries between it and the best Fitbit. The Fitbit Sense 2 moves forward with hardware and backwards with software, compared to the original Fitbit Sense released two years ago. To $299.95, sense 2 also launches at a price of $30 less than the original Sense.

If you’ve installed and used third-party apps on your Fitbit Sense, don’t look for them in the Sense 2. The Sense 2 is basically a watch version of other Fitbit devices like the Inspire 3 with health and wellness features. – be additional like EDA scan (electrodermal activity) and integrated GPS.

Google Assistant was available on the Sense after an update, but the Sense 2 launched without it. It may never come to the Sense 2, but there is announced support for Google Wallet and Google Maps.

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Design

One downside in my Fitbit Sense review was the solid-state button, so I’m very happy to see a return to a physical button that works in conjunction with the touchscreen. The keys are also much more reliable and responsive on the Sense 2, another benefit of the second-gen device.

The Fitbit Sense and Sense 2 side by side on the pavement

Slight updates to the design of the Sense 2 (right).

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The familiar Squircle format is present with support for the same Sense tapes, so you can continue using the ones you’ve collected over the past couple of years. The dimensions are pretty much the same, but the design of the Sense 2 is a bit more refined and it’s a pleasure to wear it 24/7.

We were sent the Shadow Grey/Graphite Aluminum model to test; other options are Lunar White/Platinum Aluminum and Blue Mist/Soft Gold Aluminum.

A multitude of bands are available including leather, vegan leather, designer Brother Vellies, sport, hook/loop and woven. We tested a Horween leather and sport option with the Sense 2 for different life scenarios. Band prices range from $34.95 to $54.95.

Sense2 user interface

Similar to the Inspire 3, the Fitbit Sense 2’s user interface has been simplified to provide a consistent experience and help you navigate faster than before.

Swipe down from the top to access quick settings, swipe up to view notifications, and swipe left or right to browse selected tiles in the Fitbit app settings on your smartphone. Press the physical button to open the app launcher, press and hold to open a selected shortcut, and double-tap to view your four favorite apps. The updated user interface does a great job of helping you quickly access your favorite apps.

Fitbit Sense 2 worn on the wrist

It’s a solid health and wellness tracker.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

The Fitbit Sense 2 supports phone calls, and if you connect it to an Android phone, you can respond to text and notifications using voice-to-text. There is no phone dialer on the watch, but you can answer incoming calls directly on the watch after activating the second call Bluetooth profile.

The Sense 2 is primarily designed as a wearable health and wellness device with support for EDA analysis, active zone minutes, stress tracking, ECG and advanced sleep tracking. It makes a nice passive fitness tracker, with plenty of data available and reports from Fitbit Premium enhancing the experience. A battery charge lasts about a week, and with just 12 minutes on the charger you can get a full day’s charge with fast charging capabilities.

Back of the Fitbit Sense 2 showing the sensor

The heart rate sensor is the key to tracking.

Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Fitbit app

There are iOS and Android apps for Fitbit. Google Fast Pair is supported, so the Sense 2 should appear quickly in a popup on your Android phone once it’s turned on. We tested the Inspire 3 with a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.

The biggest change I see is the removal of third-party app support and the limited number of apps available for the Sense 2. There are only a total of 11 apps available to install and use on the Fitbit Sense 2 – and that includes things like alarms, settings, timers and notifications which aren’t really apps, but basic wearable functions.

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The Sense 2 supports third-party watch faces, with a slew of options available through the Fitbit smartphone app, some of which you pay the developer to use. If watch faces are important to you, you will find enough of them to be able to change faces every day.

At the end of the line

It’s wonderful to see the return of the physical button on a Fitbit watch, and the sleek design is awesome. The Fitbit Sense 2 accurately captured my outdoor activities with GPS and my indoor activities with heart rate tracking, and noted details of my sleep and daily heart rate. It’s a great health and wellness tracker, with the Fitbit Premium service offering all the details and advice you could ask for to help improve your health.

The Sense 2 will be even better with Google Maps and Google Wallet, so we look forward to this future update. If you are using third party apps on the Sense, do not upgrade to the Sense 2 as you will lose access to those apps. While the Sense 2 supports receiving phone calls, incoming audio isn’t very clear and callers said I sounded far away from the watch. This feature should really only be used for urgent calls and isn’t good enough for regular use as seen with an Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch.

I’m not sure where the Fitbit Sense 2 stands in the market, with more affordable options like the Inhale 3 provide the basic health and wellness data you need while smartwatches like the Apple Watch SE and Galaxy Watch 5 offer more for just a little more money. If you want a basic GPS sports watch that tracks some advanced metrics like EDA scanning and ECG, then the Fitbit Sense 2 may be for you. It’s an interesting time for the Sense 2 with the upcoming Pixel Watch and we’ll have to see how things develop when we have more details next week.

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