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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
ECG app for heart rhythm monitoring
6+ days of battery life
No on-device Spotify music storage
Side button awkward to use
Slightly heavy over time
The Fitbit Sense combines the most advanced fitness innovations with even more smartphone-connected features for around-the-clock convenience and a fairly straightforward user experience.
The Fitbit brand is no stranger to the world of fitness tracking, but it ably competes with the latest smartwatches with the new Fitbit Sense. This is the most advanced product the manufacturer offers, particularly because it features more sensors than any other smartwatch in its lineup. This collection of tools measures changes in health by monitoring heart rhythms (ECG), oxygen saturation (SPO2), electrodermal stress responses (EDA), and skin temperature fluctuations.
The Sense also conveniently offers onboard GPS, voice assistance support, and access to popular app integrations such as Spotify and Starbucks. Everything hinges on the Fitbit companion app that serves up detailed metrics and device customization for a smartwatch experience that is undeniably a health and wellness-centric device that mostly delivers on user-friendliness.
The Fitbit Sense is a stylish smartwatch with a sporty yet upscale feel that the manufacturer says is “inspired by the human body” for a more intuitive fit. Premium materials include heavy-duty aluminum and a stainless steel rounded ring border that look and feel substantial. The Sense comes with a newly designed seamless infinity band for neatly tucking and securing the strap close to the skin. Both small and large options come in the box and are soft and lightweight. The standard small band fits wrists as small as 5.5 inches, which makes the Sense a great smartwatch for women with smaller wrists.
As someone with a petite wrist, who just meets the lower end of the small band size, I found it easy to secure a close, though not perfect, fit. The low profile and supple texture of the band prevented it from feeling smothering or creating much discomfort, though it sometimes felt a bit heavy after a full day of wear.
Another important aspect of the design is the AMOLED display, which is larger than any other Fitbit wearable. It’s vibrant and easy to read, but the reflective Corning Gorilla Glass surface makes it difficult to view the screen outside. As for the clock face itself, the Fitbit Sense comes with four watch faces preloaded and room for a fifth from the library of over 100 options from the Fitbit app.
To take advantage of oxygen saturation monitoring, users have to manually download the SPO2 watch face by Fitbit. This is slightly puzzling—since it’s a selling point of this wearable and it’s really only Fitbit Premium subscribers that get the most out of the SPO2 monitoring feature in the long term. Still, the variety of clock faces are attractive and there is an opportunity to customize the look according to your preferences or mood.
The lack of a physical button does make the Sense look more upscale, but actively using it was somewhat awkward even after several days of wear/use.
The Fitbit Sense relies primarily on swiping motions, though there is a button on the left-hand side of the watch face. It’s not obvious looking at all and is more of an indentation than a button that responds to short and long-hold prompts. The lack of a physical button does make the Sense look more upscale, but actively using it was somewhat awkward even after several days of wear/use. While the manufacturer recommends using the thumb to interact with the button, that was never very successful for me. If I didn’t cover or hit the button in the right way, nothing would happen and I had to try again until I got the right angle.
Luckily, there’s a way around relying on the button too much by turning on the screen wake gesture prompt, which is controlled by raising the wrist upward or setting the display to always-on—which offered the smoothest experience, especially when exercising, but drained the battery faster. Other features, like the ECG readings and EDA scans that measure heart rhythms and electrodermal activity, were easy to use and simply required placing a hand over the metal frame.
Overall, though, it was easy to wear the Sense all day and comfortably sleep with. While I didn’t swim-test it, this smartwatch is water-resistant up to 50 meters. It held up well in the shower, but I found it best to put it on sleep mode when doing so—otherwise, the water hitting the screen was registered as touch prompts.
The Fitbit Sense shines brightest when it comes to health and wellness support. But I was a bit underwhelmed by the GPS accuracy for running workouts. On more than one occasion I had issues getting an initial GPS signal. In other instances, the watch captured a GPS signal almost instantly, though there were frequent but short drops.
Even when GPS operated smoothly, compared with a Garmin Venu, the Sense ended up always slightly behind on all counts—from average pace reading to step count, distance traveled, and heart rate. The starkest difference was up to 30 seconds behind in pace over a 3-mile run, though heart rate was just two beats behind the Venu. In most cases, heart rate was ahead by a few beats and pace and distance traveled trailed by about 16 seconds and .07 miles, respectively.
Everything from days of mindfulness, exercise, resting heart rate, hourly activity, sleep trends, zone minutes of moderate and vigorous cardiovascular activity, and food intake offers a big-picture view of how you’re doing and feeling from week to week.
Another performance obstacle was the responsiveness of touchscreen prompts. Even when I left the display to always-on during a run, trying to pause and restart the run wasn’t seamless. I often had to tap the screen several times, which felt like too much time fussing around with a simple start/pause command.
Other wellness data such as sleep, heart rate, and stress levels are all easy to see on the device and in the Fitbit app. I particularly appreciated the wellness prompts that Fitbit does so well. Reminders to move a couple hundred steps each hour and the ECG, EDA, and meditation apps are all helpful tools to be more mindful of overall wellness throughout the day.
Fitbit says that the Sense battery is capable of lasting for over six days and I found that to be accurate. I was able to get a solid six full days on the initial charge. Out of the box, with just 15 minutes of charging, it was fully charged from about 75 percent, which tracks with the brand’s claim that 12 minutes results in a day’s worth of battery life. To extend battery life, I left the always-on display off and after two full days of around-the-clock use, including daily GPS workouts and streaming music via Spotify for two hours or so, the battery was still 58 percent strong.
It didn’t get critically low (under 10 percent) until early into the seventh day of use and charged to 100 percent in just a little over 1.25 hours, which is also in line with the brand’s estimation about charging time.
Like all Fitbit wearables, the Fitbit Sense operates on the Fitbit OS, which is closely tied to the companion Fitbit mobile app. The app is the source of much of the functionality on the device itself, specifically viewing all detailed workout data and health stats, entering payment information if you decide to use the Fitbit Pay feature, signing in with your credentials on your preferred music app (Deezer, Pandora, or Spotify), as well as downloading third-party apps.
I noticed that accessing the app library was a bit buggy, as was downloading new watch faces. This is similar to the initial delay I experienced when setting up the device. It was simple enough to sync up my Spotify account, but only Deezer and Pandora subscribers benefit from being able to download playlists to the watch. Spotify users can only control the music from the watch. While there’s no cellular connectivity, email, text, and app and system notifications are easy to set up, and Android users can also reply directly to messages from the device. Alexa voice assistance is available to all users of both Android and iOS operating systems though I found it to be a bit limited and best for setting times and reminders.
But the true strength of the Fitbit OS and the app is the fitness metrics it captures. Everything from days of mindfulness, exercise, resting heart rate, hourly activity, sleep trends, zone minutes of moderate and vigorous cardiovascular activity, and food intake offers a big-picture view of how you’re doing and feeling from week to week.
For Sense users, skin temperature readings and stress management readings in the app offer extra insight, but monitoring long-term trends on advanced data the watch captures, such as sleep scores, heart rate variability, breathing rate, and oxygen saturation all require a premium subscription. Without it, users won’t really be able to get the most out of the advanced sensors on this wearable.
The Fitbit Sense retails for about $330, which makes it the most expensive wearable from the Fitbit brand. Considering that it’s also the most advanced, even over the new Fitbit Versa 3, you know you’re paying for the latest innovations, including the device-specific ECG app. Even if you opt for a special band, you’ll still pay far less than an Apple Watch. For Android users, there’s also more buy-in value if you prefer to receive and reply to calls and texts from your watch and store playlists from one of the compatible streaming music platforms.
The Fitbit Sense shines brightest when it comes to health and wellness support.
The Apple Watch Series 6 is a close rival to the Fitbit Sense. A quick glance at it shows the design similarities, though the Apple Watch is slimmer and comes with many more band variations, including a seamless, single-piece band that stretches rather than relying on clasps. Both come with an ECG app and shareable results via PDF.
The Apple Watch Series 6 has a leg up on oxygen saturation (SPO2) readings, however, since the user can take a reading at any time of the day. The Fitbit Sense only monitors and generates a reading after a sleep cycle (and if you download the relevant SPO2 clock face).
The Series 6 is also very fitness-forward and offers more for iPhone users, but it’s more expensive out of the gate, starting at nearly $400, and could balloon beyond that if you opt for cellular connectivity. When it comes to battery life, though, the Fitbit Sense far surpasses the Apple Watch's battery capacity, which users say is up to 36 hours at best.
The Fitbit Sense is a sleek wellness-focused smartwatch for busy people that love staying active and also like the option of being dialed in with some smartphone-compatible apps and widgets. While activity tracking accuracy isn’t always consistent, the Sense is a more affordable alternative to the Apple Watch and appeals to users across operating systems that care most about advanced, long-term health insights.
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