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Fitbit Sense review: a good smartwatch that fails on sustainability | Smartwatches

Fitbit is trying to problem the dominance of the Apple Watch with the Sense: a smartwatch full of superior well being sensors for stress, coronary heart charge and ECG wrapped up in a neat and tidy package deal. However watch out, as a result of when you injury the watch, it seems you’ll be able to’t even pay Fitbit to repair it.

It prices £300 and is Fitbit’s prime mannequin above the £200 Versa 3, which is basically the identical smartwatch with out the superior sensors, plus a cheaper line of health trackers.

The watch measures simply 40.5mm throughout and 12.35mm thick, making it one of many smallest smartwatches accessible. The 1.58in OLED show is vibrant and surrounded by a polished stainless-steel bezel that varieties a part of {the electrical} connections for the sensors. The remainder of the physique is aluminium.

Fitbit Sense watch
The Sense comes with a silicone strap in two sizes, which clips into proprietary quick-release slots on the again of the watch. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The display might be set to at all times present the time and different information, or to mild up on turning your wrist or urgent the button within the facet of the watch. You can’t wake it up by tapping the display, which I discovered annoying. There are tons of of watch faces accessible from Fitbit and third events, which you’ll obtain utilizing the Fitbit app on your telephone.

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Specs

  • Display: 1.58in OLED

  • Case dimension: 40.5mm

  • Case thickness: 12.35mm

  • Weight: 45.9g

  • Working system: Fitbit OS 5.1

  • Water resistance: IP68, 50 metres (5ATM)

  • Sensors: gyro, HR sensor, ECG, EDA, blood oxygen, mild, GPS+GLONASS, altimeter, pores and skin temperature

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5, wifi n, NFC, speaker, mic

Battery life and connectivity

Back of Fitbit Sense watch with cable connected
The watch prices to 100% in 77 minutes or 50% in 26 minutes with a small magnetic USB-A puck that clips to the again. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The battery can last as long as six days between prices, however lasts extra like two with the display on on a regular basis, calls and notifications turned on, and utilizing a few of the extra superior well being monitoring options.

I needed to cost it earlier than mattress each different evening with all the pieces turned on, operating a couple of occasions a week, monitoring walks and my sleep. A 26-minute run with the display on and GPS energetic consumed 6% of the battery, which means it ought to final the size of a marathon or so.

The watch connects to the Fitbit app on your Android or iPhone by way of Bluetooth, but in addition has wifi for downloading updates, apps and related.

Sustainability

Regardless of publishing a sustainability statement, Fitbit declined to reply any of the Guardian’s sustainability questions, together with on the usage of recycled supplies, whether or not the watch is repairable and the prices to take action out of guarantee, and battery lifespan, shedding it a star. Batteries in different smartwatches sometimes final for not less than 500 cycles whereas sustaining not less than 80% of their authentic capability.

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The Sense was awarded five out 10 for repairability by restore specialists iFixit, however Fitbit does not appear to offer any out-of-warranty repair services, similar to these for damaged screens or battery alternative, additionally shedding it a star. It ships with a charging cable, however not a energy adaptor.

Fitbit has just lately been purchased by Google, which has made important progress on sustainability, so hopefully Fitbit will enhance on this space.

Fitbit OS 5.1

Fitbit Sense on wrist showing apps
There are built-in apps for timers, alarms, well being monitoring and viewing your calendar, however good third-party apps are a little skinny on the bottom. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Fitbit’s software program is pretty slick. Swipe down from the highest for smartphone notifications, up for widgets together with well being stats and the climate, left for apps and proper for fast settings.

Press the facet button as soon as to return to the watch face, or twice to entry 4 fast shortcuts for music, apps and different features. Press and maintain it to invoke Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant for voice queries, timers and different features, that are responsive so long as the watch has a good connection to your telephone.

Notifications out of your telephone are pretty primary, displaying texts and alerts, however no photographs from chats, sensible cameras or related. You may reply to messages with canned responses or voice dictation on Android, however not if used with an iPhone.

Music controls don’t mechanically seem and are considerably cumbersome to get to: double-press the facet button and faucet the music shortcut to regulate playback, quantity and different features.

The Spotify app is just a distant and can’t retailer or play music straight. Deezer or Pandora within the US can obtain tracks and play them by way of Bluetooth headphones. The watch has Fitbit Pay for contactless funds, however the quantity of UK banks that support it could be very slim.

Day by day well being

Fitbit Sense on wrist, showing ECG feature
The ECG function works very like these of rivals – maintain your fingers on the steel band across the exterior of the display for 30 seconds. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Sense is full of well being and health options. It data your coronary heart charge each 5 seconds, counts steps and energetic time, and has mechanically adjusting excessive and low coronary heart charge alerts, transfer reminders and every day exercise targets.

It additionally has superior sleep monitoring, recording an general “sleep rating”, numerous sleep cycles, coronary heart charge variability, pores and skin temperature, respiratory charge and blood oxygen saturation. A wise alarm perform wakes you up on the optimum time in your cycle, too.

One of many key options is the electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor, which data the rhythm of your heartbeat and works simply in addition to rivals, helpful for preserving a watch out for early warning indicators of coronary heart bother. The opposite is the electrodermal exercise (EDA) sensor, which detects adjustments within the sweat stage of your palm to measure stress ranges along with information on stress interpreted from coronary heart charge and sleep.

The thought is sound but it surely requires you to position your palm for 2 minutes every time you wish to report it – not one thing I’m going to do commonly. Guided mindfulness periods use the EDA sensor too, however I didn’t really feel any extra relaxed than after doing a little primary respiratory workouts. It may very well be helpful for preserving extra empirical data of stress ranges when you’re significantly nervous.

Exercises

Fitbit Sense on wrist, showing heart rate
The watch has a easy however practical show displaying three stats without delay. Faucet the center one to rotate via your alternative of time, distance, tempo, coronary heart charge, energy steps, laps and energetic minutes. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

On prime of basic well being and exercise monitoring, the Sense can observe and report 20 totally different workouts, together with the standard strolling, operating, swimming and biking, yoga, circuit coaching, golf, tennis and others.

The watch can mechanically observe lots of the extra vigorous actions taking greater than quarter-hour in size, together with strolling and operating: this data time, coronary heart charge, energy burned, steps and different bits, however doesn’t activate the GPS for a route map. Manually recording the exercise provides distance, tempo, laps and a GPS map of the route the place relevant.

For operating, the Sense will get a GPS lock in about 30 seconds. Its coronary heart charge information varies barely to that produced by a Garmin Fenix 6 Professional Photo voltaic or Apple Watch Collection 6, however reached related averages. The space and tempo of routes run alongside straight roads appeared correct, however recordings for routes round parks or with many various corners had been shorter than rivals by as a lot as 200m over 5km, which is disappointing. The Sense additionally doesn’t report or show cadence or another extra superior operating dynamics data, both.

A lot of Fitbit’s targets are primarily based on coronary heart charge zones, the place extra intense train begets extra “zone minutes”, that are successfully train factors in direction of your every day objective. It’s a straightforward to know scheme and extra motivating than utilizing simply steps as a metric for fulfillment. Fitbit Coach supplies guided workouts, too, which fluctuate from primary operating or strolling plans to mindfulness and food plan habit-building schemes.

Fitbit differs from rivals in requiring an extra £7.99-per-month premium subscription for lots of the superior monitoring and evaluation options. These embody evaluation of period, coronary heart charge and restlessness of sleep and the well being metrics dashboard within the app displaying pores and skin temperature, coronary heart charge variability and respiratory charge. Fitbit premium additionally provides options primarily based round guided exercises, plans and challenges, the place you’ll be able to hyperlink up and compete with different Fitbit customers.

Observations

Fitbit Sense on top of smartphone
There are many watch face choices accessible from Fitbit and third-party builders. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian
  • You might want to routinely open the Fitbit app on an iPhone to maintain it from being shut within the background and stopping issues similar to climate from updating on the watch.

  • The charging cable is annoyingly quick, at simply 52.5cm.

  • The Sense comes with a six-month free trial of Fitbit premium for brand new clients.

Value

The Fitbit Sense prices £299.99 and is accessible in black or gold.

For comparability, the RRP for the Fitbit Versa 3 is £199.99, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Energetic 2 prices £199 and the Apple Watch Collection 6 prices £379.

Verdict

The Fitbit Sense is a stable smartwatch with a good display, a comparatively slim design, two day-plus battery life, stable Google Assistant or Alexa integration and easy smartphone alerts.

It has many superior well being sensors, together with ECG for heartbeat rhythm and EDA for stress monitoring, and good sleep and every day exercise monitoring. However a few of the options and evaluation require a £7.99-a-month subscription to entry, which is irritating for a £300 gadget.

Computerized and handbook exercise monitoring is stable, however the watch lacks extra superior metrics supplied by rivals similar to cadence for operating and has points with GPS accuracy on curvy or round routes.

Nevertheless, Fitbit’s failure to deal with sustainability issues, gadget repairs and upkeep exterior of guarantee is a huge drawback, shedding it two stars. In the event you smash the display or the battery wears out, you’re on your personal; customers report that you merely can’t pay Fitbit to repair the watch, making it an costly disposable merchandise, which is a actual disgrace.

Execs: good display, responsive, slim design, in depth well being monitoring, ECG, good primary exercise monitoring, GPS, good exercise motivation, Google Assistant/Alexa, stable smartwatch battery life.

Cons: not sustainable, no OOW restore choices, proprietary straps, points with GPS accuracy, no superior exercise monitoring, some health-tracking options require extra month-to-month subscription, quick charging cable.

Fitbit Sense review
Alexa/Google Assistant timers and alarms are stored separate from the built-in alarm or timer apps on the Sense. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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