Fitness smartwatch with improvements, but also drawbacks

When I tested the first Fitbit Sense in 2020, I had to note a number of pros and cons. For example, I really liked the design and finish, but had issues with application. Also, location detection proved to be extremely unreliable in my case. The Fitbit Sense 2 is now out and I got to try it out for a few weeks. In fact, the manufacturer eliminated some of my biggest criticisms of the previous model. Unfortunately, new quirks have also been added.

Basically, the Fitbit Sense 2 is also a fitness smartwatch with a proprietary operating system and similar functions and specifications to the previous model.

Fitbit Sense 2 Specifications

  • Display: AMOLED, 1.58 inches, 336 x 336 pixels, always-on mode (optional)
  • Storage space: 4 GB
  • Sensors: SpO2, pulse, EDA/cEDA, gyroscope, altimeter, 3-axis accelerometer, ambient light sensor, skin temperature sensor
  • Integrated GPS/GLONASS and NFC
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Battery capacity: 162mAh
  • Built-in microphone and speaker
  • Dimensions and weight: 40.5 x 40.5 x 12.3mm / 46g
  • IPX8 / waterproof up to 50 ATM
  • Compatible with smartphones from Android 8 / iOS 14
  • Special features: contactless payment via Fitbit Pay, weather display, display of notifications, telephoning from the wrist
  • Scope of delivery: Smartwatch, wristbands in two sizes, charger, user manual
  • Price: 299 euro

You can currently make NFC payments with the Fitbit Sense 2, but only through Fitbit Pay. Support for Google Wallet will only come later via an update. The same goes for Google Maps. It’s curious that you can use Amazon Alexa in combination with the smartwatch, but not the Google Assistant. If you consider that Fitbit is owned by Google, that’s very surprising.

Equipment and treatment of the Fitbit Sense 2

If you look at the Fitbit Sense 2, its design is very similar to the previous model. In addition, an angular AMOLED display with a diagonal of 1.58 inches and the same resolution (336 x 336 pixels) is used. The aluminum housing is still perfectly processed.

Luckily, there’s a huge improvement: Fitbit ditched the capacitive button and replaced it with a ‘real’ button. This greatly reduces incorrect operations, which I often encountered with the previous model. However, the button is still inside/towards the body. I would prefer it though, which could make the service even better.

Fitbit claims a battery life of at least 6 days, which I can confirm. In fact, you can get there much longer, but a lot depends on what you’re doing with the smartwatch: GPS obviously has a noticeable impact on the battery and those who also use stress monitoring, automatic sleep tracking, training recognition, etc. to go with it, live shorter than someone who sticks to the bare minimum. The Sense 2 records daily total values ​​for the last 30 days and heart rate values ​​in training mode every second, otherwise every five seconds.

The Fitbit Sense 2 wristband is made of silicone. I was able to wear the smartwatch well, but after a while my wrist would itch when squeezed. Maybe I’m particularly sensitive to it, because I don’t usually wear watches. Incidentally, Fitbit has completely redesigned the menus of the Sense 2, which I personally like a lot, but which also caused frustration for some owners of the previous model.

practical test

The title tells you that the Fitbit Sense 2 is part upgrade and part downgrade from the previous model. Because the new model can no longer control Spotify or even music playback from your connected smartphone. This is very irritating, as even cheap trackers like the Xiaomi Smart Band 7 can do this. For now, we can only hope for an update. For now, however, the function is completely absent.

I had problems with the notification function in combination with a Xiaomi 12 Pro. Although I granted the Fitbit app the necessary rights and checked this several times, the notifications simply could not be displayed. Unfortunately, several restarts of the smartphone and the complete uninstallation and reinstallation of the application did not change anything. The Fitbit app always told me that the notification service was not activated and that I had to restart my smartphone – but that had no effect.

However, I tested it on another Android smartphone – and it worked. I don’t know if the problem is specific to my phone. The synchronization of the Sense 2 with the application also worked perfectly.

Unfortunately, I was unable to set up the Bluetooth call function in the app: it requires a connection with “Rhea Calls”, which always failed – unfortunately also on my second device. The pairing request was still displayed correctly on the Phone / Sense 2 and could be answered, but the connection was never established. Overall, it feels like the Fitbit Sense 2 is still very buggy – too bad! This is also surprising since, for example, fitness data and weather could be synchronized quickly and perfectly.

My biggest criticism of the previous model was the disastrous location detection: the connection was not established or the function was interrupted every minute, making the function of the previous model practically unusable for me. Here I can give the green light: During several cycling and jogging workouts I only had a (brief) loss of connection. So Fitbit has everything under control.

About the app: Olli has already commented in his Versa 4 review: Yes, the Fitbit app is always overloaded, the functions are scattered. Incidentally, I haven’t been able to use the ECG feature on the Sense 2 so far – it’s marked as “not available”. Stress detection (continuous EDA acquisition or cEDA), on the other hand, works very well and reliably detects mood changes when I reflect on myself. The optical heart rate monitor also seems accurate – which can also be said about the counted steps. Workout recognition was reliable: after about 500m of running or walking, the Sense 2 recognizes this activity.

Fitbit Premium? Olli has already criticized the subscription, I share his opinion. Keep your hands off, maybe Fitbit will learn then that you shouldn’t ask users to pay so much after purchasing a product – Garmin or Polar handle this in a more user-friendly way. I only found the extended sleep analysis very interesting with Premium, the rest is at least dispensable. But to be honest: mindfulness exercises, information on the daily form, a health check: you should be able to expect all of these as standard and not for a monthly fee.

Equally surprised that Fitbit built Wi-Fi into the Sense 2 according to the spec sheet, but turned it off. This significantly lengthens the update process, which must now rely on Bluetooth transmission, and is a further downgrade from the previous model. Third-party apps from Spotify and Deezer are also missing, as I mentioned before. Overall, you get the feeling that Fitbit has gone backwards with the Sense 2 for every step forward.

Conclusion

The Fitbit Sense 2 is a curious product: a few downgrades have been made compared to the previous model. Music playback can no longer be controlled, the Google Assistant is missing, and Wi-Fi has also been removed. In addition, there is no longer access to third-party applications and therefore to Spotify and Deezer control. The annoying touch button has been removed and replaced with a “real” button. In addition, location detection finally works reliably.

However, I had problems with notifications and the Bluetooth call function during the test period. It’s hard to tell if this was due to my specific hardware combination or if it was a more common problem. It remains equally uncertain at this time when Google Wallet and Google Maps for the Sense 2 will launch. I also criticize the fact that Fitbit still wants to impose the expensive premium subscription on buyers of a smartwatch that costs almost 300 euros.

What’s left? The Fitbit Sense 2 is a beautifully designed wearable, but I’ve had a lot of pros and cons in using it – albeit in different ways than the previous model. For example, the new cEDA feature is cool and works well, but with no way to control music playback, the Sense 2 feels dated at the moment. I wish the company that the current grievances can be fixed with updates. At the moment it would still be difficult for me to recommend the Sense 2 due to the shortcomings mentioned in the test.

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