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Founded in 2008, Fitbit is a consumer electronics company that’s best known for its line of smartwatches and fitness trackers.
The Fitbit Sense is currently the brand’s most expensive and sophisticated smartwatch.
It’s also the only Fitbit to monitor stress through an electrodermal (EDA) scan, and the first model to offer electrocardiogram (ECG) heart rate monitoring.
Additionally, the device keeps tabs on your workouts, stress levels, sleep, menstrual cycles, and so much more.
However, you may wonder whether the Sense is worth purchasing.
To test the product, the Fitbit sent me a Sense to try, and while I’ve only had it for a few months, it’s the first smartwatch that I’ve gotten into a steady habit of wearing.
This article provides a comprehensive review of the Fitbit Sense, including my honest opinion on whether it’s worth purchasing.
Before diving into the features and design of the device, here are some key specs to be aware of:
- Price: $299.95
- Display: color AMOLED touch screen with a haptic button
- Screen size: 1.58 inches (3.8 cm)
- Battery life: up to 6 days with regular use, 12 hours with continuous GPS
- Waterproof rating: water-resistant to up to 164 feet (50 meters)
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi, and GPS (doesn’t support cellular)
The Fitbit Sense features a square face with rounded corners and a crisp, clear display.
While the screen is made with Gorilla Glass 3, which is supposed to be more durable, I ended up with a small crack in my screen after dropping it on a hardwood floor from about 3 feet (91.4 cm) up.
The watch face is easily customizable using the Fitbit app. I have the “Hawaiian Punch” screen currently.
On the watch itself, you can set the display to “Always On” (this, I learned, drains the battery very quickly), or you can set it to “Automatic Wake,” which automatically turns on the screen when you tilt the screen toward your face.
Otherwise, you can simply turn on the screen by pressing the button on the left side of the device.
The Sense is available in two styles, including a black silicone band with a graphite stainless steel bezel, or a white band with a gold stainless steel bezel. The part of the face that touches the wrist is aluminum.
If you prefer a different color, you can easily swap the band out with the push of a button. The company offers several accessory bands that are purchased separately, including leather, nylon, steel, silicone, and sport options.
There’s also an infinity band, which comes in a variety of colors, including pink and navy.
The infinity band is a peg and loop closure that loops under the wrist, so no strap hangs out. I find that my wrist is between sizes for the closure holes, making the device cumbersome to put on.
The band also bothers me when wet, but I imagine that would be the case with any watch.
Getting started with the Fitbit Sense
The Fitbit Sense is straightforward to set up once you have the Fitbit app on your phone.
First, you’ll need to charge the watch. Once charged, it will ask to pair with a nearby WiFi network, which requires your WiFi password.
Next, you’ll be able to customize your watch, including downloading apps and creating a user profile.
The whole process, including downloading the apps I wanted (like Spotify and Weather), took about 30 minutes.
When making your user profile, you can share as much or as little information about yourself as you like. I chose to input my name, birthday, sex, height, weight, and details on my menstrual cycle.
The Fitbit Sense has a responsive touch screen similar to that of a smartphone. To access features and widgets, you simply swipe up, down, left, or right.
Another similarity to many smartphones is that instead of a physical button, the left side of the watch has a haptic button — an indent that gives vibrational feedback when pressed — which helps make the watch more water-resistant.
The lack of an actual button does take a little bit of getting used to, but it becomes intuitive eventually.
Pressing the button once turns on the screen, double pressing brings up shortcuts, and one long press brings up the voice assistant, though you can customize the long press to do what you’d like (mine brings up my Today stats).
When setting up your device, there’s also an option to connect the watch to either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, though I don’t have that specific feature turned on.
As for apps, there are many to choose from. In fact, several brands, including Uber, New York Times, and United Airlines, have also apps made for the Sense, though there aren’t as many options available compared with the Apple watch.
Finally, while some of the data is displayed on the watch itself, you’ll need the Fitbit app on your smartphone to access more detailed reports.
What it’s like to use
The Sense itself is fairly easy and intuitive to use, though you’ll want to tether it to your phone via Bluetooth to ensure that your data is tracked properly.
Swiping up and down reveals your Core Stats for the day, including calories burned, steps taken, floors climbed, and Active Zone minutes (more on this further down).
I have my watch configured so that in addition to Core Stats, swiping down also brings up the weather, data on my menstrual cycle, water intake (which needs to be logged manually), quick access to guided breathing, and the EDA scan.
How do you charge the Fitbit Sense?
The Fitbit Sense comes with a proprietary charger that fits into a USB port (not included) and magnetizes onto the back of the watch.
While the charger itself is included, you can purchase an extra or replacement cord for $19.95 on the company’s website.
Charging the watch fully takes 1–2 hours and should give you up to 6 days of battery life. However, if you keep your GPS on, you’ll likely need to recharge your device after 12 hours.
If you’re short on time, the Sense can get enough power to last for 24 hours after just 12 minutes of charging.
The Fitbit Sense tracks a wide variety of metrics to provide deeper insight into your overall health.
These metrics include:
- Active Zone minutes
- breathing rate
- calories burned
- cardio fitness score
- floors climbed
- food intake
- heart rate
- menstrual cycle
- sleep stages
- SpO2 (oxygen saturation)
- water consumption
Keep in mind that while some of these are recorded automatically, such as your heart rate, others need to be entered manually, including your water and food intake.
The Fitbit Sense has several sensors, many of which are used for fitness tracking.
It also features three sensors that are geared more toward health data, including the Pure Pulse 2.0, SpO2, and temperature sensors.
The Sense calibrates your heart rate approximately every 5 seconds using a Pure Pulse 2.0 sensor on the back of the device.
However, some reviewers mention that the heart rate monitor isn’t as accurate as Apple or Garmin’s.
SpO2 measures blood oxygen saturation.
To receive an SpO2 reading through the Sense, you will either need to download a clockface with SpO2 tracking or download the SpO2 Tracker app.
Just keep in mind that while some smartwatches offer on-demand tracking, the Sense only monitors SpO2 while you sleep.
Unlike other Fitbit models, the Sense has a dedicated temperature tracker that measures your skin’s temperature while you sleep.
Depending on whether you’re above or below your baseline temperature, this data may indicate whether you’re sleeping soundly or you may be starting to get sick.
Temperature is also used to help calculate your EDA stress score.
Between the Sense and the Fitbit app, there are many great features to know about, including:
- ECG scan
- EDA scan
- workout tracking
- sleep tracking
- smartphone notifications
- social functions
- Fitbit Pay
Below is a breakdown of these key features.
One of the main features that sets the Sense apart from both competitors and other Fitbit devices is its ability to perform a quick ECG scan to help keep a closer eye on your health.
The scan can also alert you to potential signs of atrial fibrillation (Afib) — a serious condition that should be discussed with a healthcare professional.
To use the feature, start by enabling the ECG widget in the phone app. Next, open the widget on your watch.
From there, you’ll be prompted to hold the corners of the watch and keep your hand and arm still for 30 seconds. Your reading will then pop up directly on the Sense.
It’s important to note that if your heart rate is under 50, the ECG scan won’t be able to get a read, rendering the feature useless.
The EDA scan is a stress management tool on the Sense.
The scan works by measuring electrodermal activity in your palm while you go through a guided mindfulness session.
During the session, you’ll be instructed to sit still and take deep breaths for 2 minutes. Afterward, you’ll be asked to log how you feel after completing the exercise.
The EDA app will then graph your EDA responses over time.
Generally, the calmer you feel, the fewer EDA responses you’ll have.
While I like the idea of this feature, 2 minutes of sitting still can feel like a long time in the middle of a hectic day.
Sleep tracking is one of my favorite features of the Sense.
Using a combination of your breathing and motion patterns, the device senses when you fall asleep and tracks your sleep stages throughout the night.
In the morning, you can access a full breakdown of how the night went, including your time asleep, time spent in deep and REM sleep, and restoration level.
All of these factors are combined into an overall score from 1–100, with 100 indicating top quality sleep.
Another useful feature is the Smart Wake alarm, which wakes you at the optimal time during your sleep cycle within 30 minutes of your set alarm time.
The Sense can track over 20 types of activities, including running, swimming, yoga, weightlifting, hiking, and spinning using the exercise widget.
While I want to love this feature, several aspects of the exercise widget experience could be improved.
For example, connecting to the Sense’s built-in GPS for the first time took nearly 5 minutes. Looking in the Fitbit Community forums, others have had similar issues.
While subsequent times have been faster, I still feel that its GPS connection could be better.
Another slight downside is that unlike other watches, there isn’t an option to set a pace alarm — an alert that informs you if you’re not moving fast enough to meet your set training goals.
The third reason that I’m not a bigger fan of the Exercise function is that it takes up the full screen of the watch.
As a result, you can’t see your other widgets during your workout, unless you press pause.
That said, I do appreciate that you can swipe right to see the time, time elapsed, steps, heart rate, calories burned, pace, distance, average speed, and Active Zone minutes.
Speaking of Active Zone minutes, these metrics are customized based on your ideal heart rate and age.
At the end of your workout, the Active Zones chart shows you how much time you spent in the fat burning, cardio, and peak zones.
While I don’t use the Exercise function during my workouts, which are usually barre or yoga classes, the watch still tracks my time in the Active Zones, and I enjoy being able to glance down and see my heart rate.
Nevertheless, if I was a more avid runner, walker, or cyclist, I could see the Exercise function being more useful.
Using Bluetooth, the Sense can receive smartphone notifications, including calls, text, and calendar event reminders.
However, it cannot download images sent in text, and you can only respond with quick replies if you have an Android phone.
I have an iPhone and decided not to enable text notifications because I don’t want the distraction.
However, I do appreciate that the watch silently vibrates when I’m getting a call, as my phone is almost always on silent. The calendar reminders are also helpful.
While I don’t personally use the social functions on the Fitbit app, you can easily add friends from either your contacts or Facebook account.
For friends with Fitbit profiles, you can also add them to your friends list by searching for their username in the Community tab of the app.
Adding friends is a great way to stay connected, as you can participate in activity challenges together, such as who can get the most steps in a day, as well as cheer on one another to stay motivated.
The app also features a leaderboard, which displays the total weekly steps taken by your friends.
The Fitbit Sense is compatible with several music apps, including Spotify, Pandora, and Deezer.
While you’ll still need your phone to play music, you can pause, rewind, or fast-forward on your watch.
You can also choose from recently played songs and playlists, which I’ve found to be particularly useful when I don’t want to hold my phone or take it out of an armband while exercising.
To listen to music, you’ll need Bluetooth headphones or speakers to pair with your watch.
The Sense comes with the Wallet app that supports Fitbit Pay — a cardless payment system that you can use anywhere that accepts contactless payment methods.
Fitbit Pay functions almost identically to Google or Apple Pay, though the latter options are not supported on the Sense.
I don’t use this feature, as I prefer to carry a card. However, I’ve heard that the app is simple to use.
Plus, you can add up to six credit cards, and most major banks are supported.
To add a card, open the Today tab on the app and navigate to the wallet section, where you’ll be asked to enter your card details.
The Wallet app requires a four-digit pin to open, so your credit card information should be secure even if you misplace your Sense or it’s stolen.
The Fitbit Sense retails for $299.95.
Your purchase includes the watch face, a water-resistant infinity band with a loop and peg closure, and one charger.
If you purchase the Sense directly from the brand’s website, you can also choose to check out with QuadPay, which allows you to pay off the watch in 4 interest-free payments over 6 weeks.
If you wish to return your Fitbit device for any reason, you’ll need to request a return authorization within 45 days of your shipment date.
The device comes with a 1-year limited product warranty. Though, for $59.99, you can purchase a 2-year protection plan that covers accidental damage.
If you plan on wearing the watch regularly or have a habit of dropping things, I highly recommend purchasing the extra coverage.
As I was gifted the watch, this wasn’t an option. However, the added protection would have come in handy since my watch already has a slight crack in it.
Each purchase includes a free 6-month trial of Fitbit Premium — an app that offers personalized insights, a breakdown of your sleep score, workout videos, health tips, recipes, and more.
It also gives you the option to download a wellness report, which tracks all your data over 1-year, 6-month, 3-month, and 30-day increments.
After 6 months, access to Premium costs $9.99 per month.
I’m still in my trial period, but I plan on paying for the Premium app because I like having access to more robust data, especially the detailed sleep tracking.
In many ways, the Sense is comparable to both the Apple Watch and the Garmin Venu Sq.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of these three smartwatches:
|Fitbit Sense||Apple Watch 6||Garmin Venu Sq|
|Primary stats tracked|
• stress management
• sleep stages & overall score
• heart rate and variability
• breathing rate
• menstrual health
• active Zone
• floors climbed
|• multisport fitness tracking|
• heart rate
• menstrual cycle
• sedentary time
• floors climbed
|• multisport fitness tracking|
• heart rate
• breathing rate
• menstrual cycle
• floors climbed
|Additional sensors||• EDA scan|
• ECG scan
• built-in GPS
• fall detection
• built-in GPS
|• SpO2 sensors|
• built-in GPS
|Water resistance||up to 164 feet (50 meters)||up to 164 feet (50 meters)||up to 164 feet (50 meters)|
|Battery life||up to 6 days (or 12 hours using GPS)||up to 18 hours||up to 6 days (14 hours using GPS)|
|Price (MSRP)||$299.95||from $399||$299.99|
|Warranty||1 year||1 year||1 year|
Overall, the Fitbit Sense is competitively priced and offers many of the same features as the Apple Watch 6 and Garmin Venu Sq.
However, compared with the Venu Sq, the Sense is a better option if you’re interested in health data, as it includes ECG and EDA scans, as well as a built-in temperature sensor.
On the other hand, if you’re primarily interested in tracking performance metrics during your workouts, the Venu Sq is the better choice.
Finally, the Apple Watch 6 offers a good mix of both health and exercise data, though it’s the most expensive option out of the three.
The Fitbit Sense is easy to use and packed with features.
In fact, my biggest issue with the watch is that the number of features is overwhelming. As a result, while the initial setup is easy, you’ll need to spend time researching to fully take advantage of everything that the Sense has to offer.
That said, the watch is still a great option if you’re interested in tracking aspects of your health.
In fact, I’ve found that the best and most helpful features of the device are the heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking — though, the Find My Phone app and smartphone notifications have also come in handy.
While the watch offers exercise tracking and Active Zone data, other smartwatches on the market provide more robust and sport-specific workout data.
The Fitbit Sense is a sleek smartwatch that’s easy to read and offers a ton of core features.
It’s also less expensive than many similar smartwatches and one of the few to offer ECG and EDA monitoring.
Overall, the Fitbit Sense is ideal if you’re interested in keeping tabs on your health, especially your sleep habits and heart rate.
However, if you’re looking for a simple, streamlined smartwatch or tracking sport-specific performance metrics, it’s worth shopping around to find a better fit.