The Fitbit Sense 2 and Versa 4 wearables have just received their first major update, introducing a couple of very welcome new features. But there are still plenty of things that are exclusive to their predecessors, with no sign that parity will ever be reached.
Starting with the good news, Fitbit has delivered on its promise to introduce Google Wallet to the two wearables. This is undoubtedly a good thing, especially outside of the United States, where Fitbit Pay had a distinctly limited number of banks supporting it. But if you’re happy with Fitbit Pay, you can keep using that.
Also introduced with the patch — version 1.184.52 if you want to check if you have it — are a couple of other welcome additions. You can now use the built-in speaker and microphone to take calls on your wrist, if you like, and the screen can be turned off by covering it with your hand. That’s not only a battery saver, but handy if you accidentally activate your watch in the dark of a movie theater.
These last two additions may sound familiar, and that’s because they were already part of the original Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Versa 3. Despite this, there are still a number of ways the latest models are a downgrade from their predecessors which may or may not be fixed with future patches.
The missing features
To be clear, there will be at least one more feature introduced — and “soon” according to Fitbit itself. Google Maps will be coming to the watches for turn-by-turn directions, which is a positive consequence of Google’s $2.1 billion purchase of Fitbit.
But there are other things that past Versas and the original Fitbit Sense can do that the latest versions can’t at the time of writing.
Third-party apps were never exactly Fitbit’s strong suit, but the new watches removed support for the App Gallery altogether. Perhaps because of this, the built-in Wi-Fi is still present but — according to the specs sheet — deliberately deactivated, meaning firmware updates have to be delivered via a slower Bluetooth connection instead.
The internal storage can no longer be filled with music, meaning no running without your phone if you need a soundtrack. And weirdly you can’t even use your watch to control media playback on your phone anymore either.
Most bafflingly of all given Google’s ownership, you can only use Alexa with the latest models, despite Google Assistant being included in the last generation.
None of these things are exactly dealbreakers when taken in isolation, but they add up to a whole lot of cuts. And that’s quite hard to swallow in something that’s supposed to be an upgrade with a price tag to match.
While there’s been no indication that we’ll ever reach full parity with the previous generations, hopefully this latest patch is a sign that the new smartwatches are still a work in progress. Otherwise, shoppers may consider themselves better off getting a deal on the previous generations, rather than paying top dollar for the new and shiny.
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Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.