It offers some reliable basic training metrics and impressively ambitious smartwatch functions.
- Built-in Strava and GPS
- Really clear display even on the move
- Aims to be equal parts credible training device and high-end smartwatch
- ECG measurements and built-in stress tracker.
- Slightly awkward button functionality
‘Typically slick with appealing aesthetics, this is more of a wellbeing tracker with some fitness smarts thrown in.’
This is the successor to the Fitbit Ionic, which launched in late 2017 and was due to be Fitbit’s competitor to the Apple Watch. Instead of trying to take on the likes of Garmin, Polar and Coros with geekishly detailed training metrics, Fitbit has focused – we think sensibly – on more general wellbeing. Think sleep tracker; mood logger; menstrual health tracking; ECG measurement function, and a completely new feature called an EDA scan, which measures electrodermal activity to monitor stress levels, of which more below.
It’s both durable and sleek: the casing is graphite steel, the glass is Gorilla glass (extremely shatter-resistant) and the wristband made from silicone. The graphics are very bold and colourful and drew comment from people who saw us using the watch. The overall look and feel is substantially improved from the Ionic, which felt a little cheap.
If you want detailed training metrics this isn’t the device for you. For example, you can’t set up specific interval sessions with target reps or heart rate zones; instead you’re limited to ‘move’, ‘rest’ and ‘repeat’ which is better than nothing but sub-optimal given the effort expended elsewhere on the device.
The optical heart rate is similar what we’ve experienced on other devices, which is to say a very decent guide without being as reliable as a chest strap. It took a while to settle down after the start of a run – maybe five minutes – and there was also a bit of a lag between a change of pace and the heart rate reading changing to keep up with that. In terms of accuracy we found the readings to be 2-3 beats above a chest strap reading which is about standard.
GPS lock-on is quick and while we didn’t have access to a really built-up urban area we didn’t once lose signal on the 75k we clocked with the Sense.
The premium subscription gives you access to a bank of 20 training modes (yoga, HIIT, cycling and so on) as well as guided workouts, but you can’t transfer these to the watch so need to take your phone with you to take advantage of those.
Overall, as far as the training functions go, this will work perfectly fine for you if you’re simply after a lifestyle smartwatch with running basics such as time, pace, distance done reliably.
It gives you the usual call and message notifications, as you might expect, as well as Fitbit Pay and Alexa voice control. We also liked that you can dictate responses to messages on the device using the built-in microphone. It’s most handy when you’re driving but we quite enjoyed doing it as we walked down the street, holding our wrist either in Star Trek Beam-Me-Up or Secret Service Agent style, depending on our mood (yes, little things…).
The menstrual tracking function shows when female users are most likely to be fertile and allows them to log PMT symptoms to help build a picture each month.
There are also functions which measure blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) and skin temperature while you sleep. We’re unsure how mainstream such a function will become but we applaud Fitbit for trying to bring as much information as possible to the masses. SpO2 is especially relevant right now during the pandemic, since a drop in blood oxygen can be a warning sign of Covid infection (as was the case with President Donald Trump, who was subsequently hospitalised on the back of his SpO2 readings).
For the skin temperature reading you wear the Sense for three nights running and it gives you a baseline of your average temperature. Thereafter when you wear it at night it will chart any fluctuations. It’s not something most of us spend much time thinking about, but changes in skin temperature can mark the inset of infection of some sort, so if you’re a ‘knowledge is power’ person this will be grist to your wellness mill.