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A month with Fitbit’s Sense 2 and Versa 4: Good health and fitness features but beware of GPS

A month with Fitbit’s Sense 2 and Versa 4: Good health and fitness features but beware of GPS

Photo: Sandra Vogel/ZDNET

Fitbit pulled an interesting trick back in August when it launched two smartwatches at the same time. The Fitbit Sense 2 and Versa 4 look very similar at first glance, but are somewhat different in price: the Sense 2 costs $299.95 (although currently $100 off), while the Versa 4 costs £229.95. The Sense 2 has a couple more features, but does it really beat the Versa 4?

As with all of these questions, the answer really depends on what you’re looking for. I’ve been using both smartwatches for about a month, so here’s a comparison. You should also check out Matthew Miller’s review of the Fitbit Sense 2.


Fitbit Sense 2 and Versa 4 specifications

Fitbit Sense 2 Fitbit Versa 4
The operating system Fitbit OS Fitbit OS
Dimensions 1.5 inches. x 1.5 inches. x 0.45 in. 1.5 inches. x 1.5 inches. x 0.45 in.
band size Small (5.5″ – 7.1″) • Large (7.1″ – 8.7″ wrist) Small (5.5″ – 7.1″) • Large (7.1″ – 8.7″ wrist)
Operating temperature -14 degrees to 113 degrees Fahrenheit -14 degrees to 113 degrees Fahrenheit
water resistant Water Resistant to 50 Meters Water Resistant to 50 Meters
Show Colorful OLED touch screen Colorful OLED touch screen
memory 7 days of detailed movement data, daily totals for the last 30 days Heart rate data: 5 second intervals (1 second during exercise) 7 days of detailed movement data, daily totals for the last 30 days Heart rate data: 5 second intervals (1 second during exercise)
Smartphone compatibility iOS 14 or higher, Android 8 or higher iOS 14 or higher, Android 8 or higher
WIFI Built in but disabled (can’t run) Built in but disabled (can’t run)
Bluetooth 5.0 5.0
NFC yes yes
Site GPS + Glonass GPS + Glonass
microphone yes yes
Loudspeaker 75 dB SPL @ 10 cm 75 dB SPL @ 10 cm
vibration motor yes yes
sensors Multi-path optical heart rate sensor cEDA sensor to track body response Multi-purpose ECG / EDA sensors Red and IR SpO2 sensors Gyroscope Altimeter 3-axis accelerometer Skin temperature sensor Ambient light sensor Multi-path optical heart rate sensor Red SpO2 and IR sensors Gyroscope Altimeter 3-axis accelerometer Ambient light sensor
battery Lithium Polymer Lithium Polymer
Battery life 6+ days (up to 5 hours with continuous GPS) 6+ days (up to 5 hours with continuous GPS)
Shipping time 0-100% in 2 hours 0-100% in 2 hours
in the box Fitbit Sense 2, Classic Band (Small and Large), Charging Cable Fitbit Versa 4, Classic Band (Small and Large), Charging Cable
price $299.95 (currently on sale at $199.95) $229.95

From the general appearance and design, there is not much to distinguish between the two devices. The Sense 2 has three different color options – a Blue Mist strap with a brushed gold aluminum watch band, as well as a White Lunar/Platinum Aluminum and Shade Gray/Graphite Aluminum.

The Versa 4 has more color options and a little more vibrancy, with four surround/watch band combinations: Black/Graphite Aluminium, Waterfall Blue/Platinum Aluminum, Pink Sand/Copper Pink Aluminum and Beet/Copper Pink Aluminium.

Both watches are the same size, measuring 40.5mm x 40.5mm x 12.3mm, and are square with rounded corners. It features a responsive color touchscreen, and on the solid aluminum frame surround is a touch-sensitive button. Both watches have a heart rate sensor on the underside and although Fitbit doesn’t use IP ratings, the company says that both devices are water-resistant to 50 metres.

Neither watch felt heavy on my relatively small wrist, and they both share the same silicone strap design, and come in two sizes. The installation is solid and doesn’t feel anywhere near the breakup. In the physical aspects of their design, then, there is nothing that differentiates the two apart from the differences in color schemes.

What about the features? Well, there are a lot of similarities here too. The full list of capabilities is too long to fully re-sort but it does include all the essential smartwatch essentials. You get heart rate monitoring, active zone features, the ability to automatically recognize certain forms of exercise, count steps and floors climbed, estimate calories burned, calculate distance traveled, and provide sleep and heart rate metrics. Both devices can notify those with an irregular heartbeat, monitor blood oxygen (SpO2), and come with a six-month Fitibit Premium subscription.

There’s plenty of smartphone integration, including call, text, and app notifications, and a plethora of watch faces for customization. Both watches also feature Alexa but not the Google Assistant or any Gmail or Google Calendar integration – although Fitibit is now owned by Google. Google will probably want to keep these features only for its $349 Pixel Watch, though the Sense 2 and Versa 4 are expected to introduce support for Google Maps and Google Wallet before long.

The main areas of difference are that the more expensive Sense 2 has a few features that the Versa 4 lacks. This includes an ECG app, a skin temperature sensor and an EDA scan — a stress-management feature.

The stress management feature has been linked to Fitbit’s relatively recent focus on wellness. The EDA scanner uses skin temperature to check stress levels, and offers a stress management score visible in the Fitibit app, allowing you to see your stress levels over time. A daily score is given out of 100, and the part of the Fitbit app that provides this score allows access to mindfulness activities. A Fitbit Premium subscription unlocks the full range of Mindfulness, with a subset available on the free Fitbit app. You can also, if you’re so inclined, record your mood.

The ECG app monitors the heart rate and allows the heartbeat to be assessed over time with the aim of identifying possible atrial fibrillation – an irregular heartbeat. Although more accurate than the basic notice on both watches, the ECG application should only be seen as an indicator of heart health: If in doubt, make an appointment with a medical professional.

When it comes to battery life, there are also many similarities between the Sense 2 and Versa 4. Either way, the batteries are rated as good for “6+ days”, with some qualifications. The battery is only rated for up to 5 hours with continuous GPS, so anyone who wants to go hiking with GPS will be disappointed. And if you’re using SpO2 and the cEDA app on your Sense 2, you’ll need to charge frequently because these are also power-consuming features.

Both watches also support fast charging: according to Fitbit, 12 minutes of charging will provide enough battery for a day. However, due to the fact that a whole day with GPS enabled is not possible, this means that the battery is enough for a whole day without GPS.

Battery life on both devices was very similar in my experience. Overall, without using the battery shrinking features and no GPS, I found the battery to drop by about 15% per day, indicating nearly a week in total. That made me 15% back in the time it took me to get ready for work in the morning. The charging unit for both devices is a small, portable magnetic box, with a USB-A connector on the charging end.

The Sense 2 and Versa 4 are both well designed, comfortable to wear, and responsive touchscreens. There are many similarities in both design and functionality, but given the current $100 discount, the Sense 2 with its extra features looks attractive if those capabilities appeal to you. There’s another factor to consider, though: If you’re likely to need more than 5 hours of continuous GPS use on a regular basis, none of these smartwatches will be suitable.

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