If there's ever a time where we needed something to help us manage our stress, it's now. Fitbit's newest smartwatch, the Fitbit Sense, has a new sensor that not only measures your stress levels, but offers a number of guided programs to help you calm down.
The Fitbit Sense also comes with GPS, a skin temperature sensor, and, pending FDA approval, will be able to detect aFib. Complete with an app store and mobile payments, the Fitbit Sense looks to put even more pressure on the Apple Watch as the preeminent smartwatch.
Fitbit Sense: Price and availability
The Fitbit Sense is available for preorder today for $329.95, and will ship in late September (the 25th, according to Fitbit's site). You can order it in carbon/graphite stainless steel and lunar white/soft gold. The Sense also comes with a six month trial of Fitbit Premium ($9.99/month, $79.99/year), which offers additional features, metrics, and personalized training.
The Sense will replace the $249 Fitbit Ionic as the company's top-of-the-line device.
The Fitbit Sense's band is also interchangeable; extra bands start at $30 each, with woven bands ($35 each), knit bands ($40 each) and leather bands ($50 each) costing extra.
Fitbit Sense: Design
The Fitbit Sense has a similar look to the newly released Fitbit Versa 3. It uses the same "squircle" design, which is a nice soft shape. The Sense also looks nearly identical to the new Versa 3, but the Sense has two small notches on either side of the bezel.
The Sense, as well as the Versa 3, measure 40.48mm x 40.48mm x 12.35mm, making them a little larger than the 40mm Apple Watch 5. The Sense 45.9 grams with the small band and 48.2 grams with the large band.
Because I consider Fitbits to be more fitness tracker than smartwatch, I don't mind the shape here as much as I do with the Apple Watch, which has a much squarer design. The watch is made of stainless steel, and is water-resistant to 50 meters, so it's safe to take swimming.
The Sense's 1.58-inch AMOLED display has a resolution of 336 x 336 pixels. It has an always-on mode, so you don't have to tap the watch's screen to activate it. While the screen resolution is the highest ever on a Fitbit device, it's still lower than what you'll find on the Apple Watch 5 (324 x 394 on the 40mm model) and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (360 x 360).
Fitbit Sense: Health and fitness features
The Fitbit Sense is the first smartwatch with an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor, which measures the electrical current running on the surface of your skin. The amount of this activity is an indicator how much stress you're under; the Sense will then recommend exercises you can do to help lower your stress level, such as guided breathing sessions. It will also suggest other activities and tools you can use proactively to help keep your stress level down. I'm not sure if turning off Slack notifications is one of them.
Fitness trackers and smartwatches have been evolving from devices meant to get you in shape to ones that take a look at your health overall. The Apple Watch was the first smartwatch to get FDA approval for monitoring for atrial fibrillation, and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 was also recently approved for aFib detection.
Fitbit is also looking to get FDA approval for the Sense to monitor for aFib, which the company said should come by the time of the product's launch. Once it's approved, Sense owners will be able to check their heart rate rhythm, as well as get notifications if their heart rate gets too high or too low.
Skin temperature sensor
Another sensor the Sense will use to take a holistic look at your health is a skin temperature sensor, which can be an early indicator of sickness, pregnancy, or a menstrual cycle. Via the Fitbit app, you'll also be able to see changes in your skin temperature over time.
For the longest time, the only Fitbit with built-in GPS was the Fitbit Ionic. This omission compared to other fitness trackers was starting to become more obvious with each passing year, so it's good to see its inclusion with the Sense (as well as the Versa 3). As with the Fitbit Charge 4, which also has GPS, the Fitbit app will show your route, overlaid with your heart rate, so you can see where you were working the hardest.
Fitbit Sense: Smartwatch features
Like the Fitbit Versa, the Fitbit Sense will also have Alexa built in, but thanks to Google's acquisition of Fitbit, the Sense will also have Google Assistant. This is the first time we've seen a smartwatch with both of these assistants running side by side. Alexa will be available at the watch's release, with Google Assistant expected by this winter.
You will also be able to download music to the Sense either by sideloading it or through Pandora or Deezer (provided you have a premium subscription to either of those services). We'd love to see Spotify added, too.
For the Sense and the Versa 3, Fitbit redesigned the on-screen interface to make it easier to access apps, as well as favorite settings. There are also new widgets that let you see the weather and other information quickly.
Because the Sense has both a microphone and a speaker, those who have it connected to an Android smartphone will be able to receive calls through the watch, as well as respond to texts via voice. As with its other smartwatches, you'll also be able to receive texts, calendar appointments, and other notifications from your phone.
Also like the Versa, the Sense has an app store, interchangeable watch faces, and contactless payment through Fitbit Pay.
Fitbit Sense: Battery life
Fitbit says the Sense should last up to six days on a charge, and up to 12 hours with continuous GPS. That's very good compared with other smartwatches; the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 barely make it to two days. The 12-hour GPS time is also very good, on a par with some of the best sports watches from Garmin.
The Sense also has fast-charging capability; a company rep said that 12 minutes of charging would get you about a day's worth of battery life.
Fitbit Sense: Outlook
There are a lot of intriguing health and fitness features in the Fitbit Sense. We're glad to see both GPS and an aFib tracker, which puts the Sense on a par with the best smartwatches. At the same time, its skin temperature and EDA sensors help set it apart, health-wise, from the competition. We're also encouraged by its battery life, which we're looking forward to testing.
At $329, the Fitbit Sense is about $70 less than the Apple Watch 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, making it a compelling alternative for those who want a comprehensive fitness tracker with smartwatch capabilities.