Fitbit senseShare on Pinterest

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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 one of the brand’s most expensive and sophisticated smartwatches.

It was the first Fitbit to monitor stress through an electrodermal (EDA) scan and offer electrocardiogram (ECG) heart rhythm 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, 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: $249.95
  • Display: color AMOLED touch screen with a haptic button
  • Screen size: 1.58 inches (in.), or 3.8 centimeters (cm)
  • Battery life: up to 6 days with regular use, 12 hours with continuous GPS
  • Waterproof rating: water resistant to up to 164 feet (ft.), or 50 meters (m)
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS (doesn’t support cellular)

Overall design

Fitbit sense watch faceShare on Pinterest
Photography by Grace Gallagher

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 ft. (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.

Fitbit sense peg and loop closureShare on Pinterest
Photography by Grace Gallagher

Pros

  • easy-to-read display
  • detailed sleep tracking
  • simple to set up and use
  • no physical buttons
  • easy to swap out bands
  • robust tracking options, including heart rate, exercise, water intake, and ECG
  • offers stress-management tools
  • widgets are customizable
  • music can be controlled from your watch
  • ability to enable smartphone notifications
  • built-in GPS
  • Find My Phone app (a handy feature that I use far too frequently)

Cons

  • watch can be tricky to put on by yourself
  • can’t send customized texts or make phone calls
  • daily stats dashboard takes a long time to load
  • GPS sync could be faster
  • screen easily cracks

In addition to the Sense, Fitbit also produces another smartwatch called the Versa 3 and a fitness tracker called the Charge 5.

The Versa 3 is similar to the Sense, but it doesn’t have EDA scanning or ECG capabilities. While the Charge 5 can perform an EDA scan and an ECG, it doesn’t have on-wrist Bluetooth calling or voice assistant connectivity.

The Sense has most of the features of the Versa 3 and Charge 5 combined, and it’s the only Fitbit model to send stress notifications, which means you’ll be notified when stress events are detected so you can respond with physical activity, breathing, or meditation.

At the time of this writing, Fitbit has announced that the Sense 2 is available for preorder. It will offer some additional metrics and features, like resting heart rate and on-watch guided breathing sessions.

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 Wi-Fi network, which requires your Wi-Fi 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, which show my steps, heart rate, sleep data, and more.

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

Photography by Grace Gallagher

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
  • distance
  • floors climbed
  • food intake
  • heart rate
  • heart rate variability
  • heart rate zones
  • menstrual cycle
  • sleep stages
  • SpO2 (oxygen saturation)
  • steps
  • stress
  • temperature
  • water consumption
  • weight

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.

Heart rate

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’s or Garmin’s.

SpO2

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.

Temperature

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
  • music
  • Fitbit Pay

Below is a breakdown of these key features.

ECG scan

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.

EDA scan

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.

Once the scan is complete, the Fitbit app uses your temperature, heart rate, sleep, activity levels, and the EDA data to calculate a stress management score. Keep in mind that the stress management score is only available with the Premium version of the app.

Sleep

Photography by Grace Gallagher

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.

Snore & Noise Detect

This is one of the Sense’s newer features. It tells you if snoring (your own or a partner’s) or ambient noises may be disrupting your rest. Snore & Noise Detect is only available in the Premium version of the Fitbit app.

Workout tracking

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.

Photography by Grace Gallagher

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.

Smartphone notifications

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.

Social functions

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.

Music

Photography by Grace Gallagher

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.

Payments

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 $249.95.

Your purchase includes the watch face, a water-resistant infinity band with a peg and loop closure, and one charger.

If you purchase the Sense from the Fitbit website and wish to return it 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.

Fitbit Premium

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.

Overall, reviewers are pleased with the Fitbit Sense. In addition to its features and streamlined look, reviewers note that the display is bright and crisp, even when exercising in bright sunlight.

Reviewers appreciate that the Sense charges quickly, has different watch faces to choose from, and offers on-wrist calls and music control.

That said, some also note that the battery doesn’t last a full 6 days and dies quickly when using GPS. Several, like me, struggle with the peg and loop closure (though others find it comfortable).

One of the biggest complaints from reviewers is that you need a Premium membership to the Fitbit app to make the most of the watch’s features.

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 and fitness trackers on the market provide more robust and sport-specific workout data.

The Sense is far more effective when paired with the Fitbit Premium app, which may be a dealbreaker for some.

After my initial 6-month trial ended, I did not opt into paying for the Premium subscription, and I noticed my interest in the watch seemed to wane. It’s worth the additional $9.99 per month for Premium, in my opinion.

The Fitbit Sense is a good option for people who want an easy-to-use but feature-packed watch. The Sense has the same key features as similar models like the Charge 5 and the Versa 3, plus add-ons. It stands out for its stress management and sleep capabilities.

In many ways, the Sense is comparable to the Apple Watch 7, the Garmin Venu 2, and the Samsung Galaxy5.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of these four smartwatches:

Fitbit SenseApple Watch 7Garmin Venu 2Samsung Galaxy5
Primary stats tracked
• stress management
• sleep stages & overall score
• heart rate and variability
• breathing rate
• menstrual health
• Active Zone
• calories
• floors climbed
• distance
• multisport fitness tracking
• heart rate
• menstrual cycle
• noise
• sedentary time
• sleep
• calories
• floors climbed
• distance
• pace

• multisport fitness tracking
• heart rate
• breathing rate
• menstrual cycle
• stress
• sleep
• calories
• floors climbed
• distance
• pace
• intensity minutes
• multisport fitness tracking
• heart rate
• menstrual cycle
• sleep
• distance
• time elapsed
• pace
• stress
Additional sensors• EDA scan
• temperature
• ECG scan
• SpO2
• built-in GPS
• SpO2
• ECG
• fall detection
• built-in GPS
• SpO2
• built-in GPS
• fall detection
• ECG
• body composition analysis
• built-in GPS
• SpO2
Water resistanceup to 164 ft. (50 m)up to 164 ft. (50 m)up to 164 ft. (50 m)under 5 ft. of water for up to 30 minutes
Battery life• up to 6 days
• or 12 hours using GPS
• up to 18 hours (with faster charging than previous models)
• up to 6–7 hours using GPS
• up to 10 days
• 19 hours using GPS
• up to 40 hours
Price (MSRP)$249.95from $399$399.99starts at $279.99
Warranty1 year1 year1 year1 year

Overall, the Fitbit Sense is competitively priced and offers many of the same features as the Apple Watch 7 and Garmin Venu 2.

If you want a smartwatch that allows you to make calls and send texts even without your phone nearby, you may want to check out the Apple Watch 7 or the Samsung Galaxy 5. (Keep in mind that cellular connectivity costs extra.)

However, if you’re primarily interested in tracking performance metrics during your workouts, the Venu 2 may be a better option for you.

Is the Fitbit Sense waterproof?

The Fitbit Sense is water resistant up to 164 ft. (50 m).

While it’s fine to swim or sweat while wearing the Sense, it’s not advised to shower with it regularly because soap can erode the water resistance over time (so can lotions, perfumes, insect repellants, and other personal care products). Fitbit also recommends that you avoid wearing the Sense in super hot water and saunas.

Can you text on the Fitbit Sense?

Currently, texting on the Fitbit Sense is only available if you have an Android phone. First, you’ll set up customized quick replies using the Fitbit app on your phone, and then you can choose one of these saved responses directly from the watch. (This means you can’t write a response on the watch itself.)

Does the Fitbit Sense monitor blood pressure?

The Fitbit Sense doesn’t currently monitor blood pressure.

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 both ECG and EDA monitoring.

Overall, the Fitbit Sense is a good option 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 fitness tracker or tracking sport-specific performance metrics, it’s worth shopping around to find a better fit.