Fitbit Sense

Cool factor 4/5
Usability 4/5
Value for money 3/5

The Fitbit Sense health smartwatch was borne out of the pandemic. Fitbit claims it is a Covid detector on your wrist.

Its early findings from an opt-in Covid-19 study detected nearly 50% of positive cases a day before participants reported the onset of symptoms. Of the more than 100,000 participants, there were more than 1,000 positive cases.

Fitbit says its study shows that breathing rate, resting heart rate and heart rate variability are useful metrics for indicating the onset of illness and are best tracked at night, when the body is at rest.

All of these features are on the Sense, which is identical to the Versa 3, except that the Sense has a unique electrodermal activity sensor, a sensor for skin temperature and an optical heart-rate sensor.

It features a 1.58-inch colour display and has one haptic button to the left. The straps have a new clip-on mechanism which means older Versa straps won’t be compatible with it.

The electrodermal sensor lets you measure stress levels, with a score breakdown available through a Fitbit premium subscription. The higher the score, the fewer signs of stress. I rarely stress, so my scores were between 76 and 91; however, on the day I made a U-turn on the highway to avoid a truck protest and was forced to reroute through an unfamiliar area, my stress levels measured 59.

The blood oxygen saturation (SpO²) reading works with one specific watch face, unfortunately. My readings were between 95% and 98% and it once gave me a reading of 94%; my doctor says it should be above 95%.

During a 14-day test window, my SpO² readings did not work on four separate days. It simply said: "Couldn’t read SpO²."

The Sense has a built-in GPS so you can run without a smartphone, and has Alexa voice support. It shares some features of the Versa 2, like Fitbit Pay.

Unless you are a stressed-out individual who wants to actively manage that stress, I recommend the cheaper Versa 3. Health readings should be treated like a guideline; always chat to a GP first.

The Sense is R7,999 and comes with a free six-month Fitbit premium subscription for new premium users.

The revamped app provides a lot of data even though the user may not always know what to do with that information. The Versa 3 costs R5,699.

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