Fiddly. Fidgety. Fitbit. Three words that belong in the same line, describe the same thing and are synonymous of the same malaise – at least in the context of the Fitbit Sense 2, the top-of-the-range offering of perhaps the biggest and most sought-after fitness tracker brand out there.
The tenor of the paragraph above probably already provides a premonition that this review will not be overly charitable to the Sense 2 – and there is reason for it not to be, as the paragraphs following this will bear out. For now, though, brace yourselves for a whirlwind tour through step-counting shenanigans, stress tracking travails and a touch of space-age magic that left me questioning whether I was wearing a fitness tracker or a crystal ball on my wrist.
The unboxing itself set the tone. Cracking open the sleek package was akin to unlocking a portal to the future, albeit one with some very present-day elements, such as the instruction manual that resembled a novella but required a magnifying glass just to read the microscopic font.
In this day and age, no one reads anything, least of all printed paper, but the Sense 2 is by no means a breeze to set up without reading up on the process. Almost all its features are controlled by the Fitbit app, but setting up the app and syncing the device with the app on your phone is quite a cumbersome and time-taking undertaking.
The Sense 2 itself looks the part, seemingly appearing like it belonged on a spaceship’s control panel. Or on the wrists of Scotty, Spock and Captain Kirk out of Star Trek. Its crisp OLED display, animations and enough sensors to make even a NASA engineer swoon had me convinced I was about to embark on a space odyssey of wellness.
But then the shenanigans started. The venerable step counter is a metric that every fitness tracker claims to master. The Fitbit Sense 2, however, had a different idea of what constitutes a “step”. It is apparently all about counting your steps but seemed hell-bent on counting even the most dubious movements. I discovered that if I waved my arm around with enough enthusiasm, it assumed I was jogging the Dubai Marathon.
A vigorous round of air drumming during a rock anthem? Counted as steps. An impromptu interpretive dance session to celebrate finding a parking spot? You betcha, more steps. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t indulge in a few vigorous hand movements just to outdo my step goals. I kid you not, I achieved my daily steps goal while enthusiastically debating the merits of pineapple on pizza with the significant other. Bravo, Fitbit, you’ve transformed me into a professional gesticulator!
A word of advice here for the company: perhaps the way to go in making an effective activity monitor – aka steps counter – is to design one that straps on to the ankles, counts actual steps and not arm movements, and is called “Footbit”?
When it comes to stress tracking, the Fitbit Sense 2 has a knack for detecting stress levels that rivals a Jedi’s ability to sense disturbances in the Force. Picture this: I’m in the middle of a high-stakes game of office ping-pong (a game more intense than you’d think), and suddenly my Fitbit buzzes to tell me I’m stressed. Thanks for pointing out the obvious, Sense 2! But in all seriousness, it’s impressive how this little gadget can gauge your stress without needing you to utter a single word about that looming deadline you’ve been avoiding.
This uncanny ability to sniff out stress where there actually may be exhilaration could be the result of what I call heart-rate hilarity. The Sense 2’s heart rate monitor seemed convinced that my heart was on an emotional rollercoaster of its own. I’d be watching a horror movie, and suddenly it would notify me that my heart rate had skyrocketed to what seemed like marathon levels. Sorry, Fitbit, but silver screen ghosts and apparitions don’t elicit cardio from me – just a lot of screaming and popcorn-induced hand-to-mouth coordination exercises.
The Sense 2 also has a sleep monitoring mode, which aims to tell you how effective you are at catching 40 winks whenever you hit the sack. I was expecting it to unravel the mysteries of my slumber like a detective solving a film-noir thriller but according to my Sense 2, I’m not just a light sleeper; I’m a superhero with the uncanny ability to sleep with my eyes wide open.
You see, I had it strapped on one Friday night while binge listening to some soothing, soporific classical music that had me so relaxed and my vitals so regulated that the Sense 2 thought I was already in slumberland when I was just deep into Shostakovich.
Conversely, on the flip side it also accused me of being awake while asleep one night, possibly mistaking my REM dreams for covert espionage missions. Nevertheless, the Sense 2’s data made for an entertaining bedtime story, full of plot twists and imaginary plot holes.
In this aspect, the Sense 2 has a lot to learn from its younger sibling, the Fitbit Charge 5. When we reviewed the Charge 5 a few months ago, that simpler, uncomplicated fitness tracker was surprisingly accurate in tracking sleep and wakefulness accurately – and even rating the quality of sleep effectively. It told me that I was a giraffe in my sleep habits, that I slept little but slept well like the aforesaid animal. Now with its more senior and expensive stablemate – available for around Dh750 at most retailers – I don’t know whether I am a somnambulist or a couch potato.
So what are the redeeming characteristics of the Sense 2, then, apart from the fact that it is probably the most ubiquitous fitness tracker and smartwatch rolled into one which is not an Apple Watch? To start with, the look and feel. The device is thin, sleek, smooth and weightless, giving the feeling that you have nothing on your wrist – a feeling that is reinforced by the satiny, smooth-as-baby-skin finish of the strap and the surfaces.
Of course that feeling of not having it on is punctuated by periodic buzzes of various notifications – and Fitbit knows how to make you feel like you’re in the running for the gold medal in the Health Olympics. There are buzzed reminders every hour on the hour that you are being lazy and haven’t covered the steps you should have for that hour. And on those rare occasions that I completed my steps goal, it celebrated with a symphony of vibrations and a cascade of colourful fireworks on the display. It was as if I’d just won the lottery, except my reward was… not sitting on the couch. But hey, who knew that virtual confetti could be such a motivational powerhouse?
Then let’s talk battery life. The Fitbit Sense 2’s battery endurance left me both baffled and impressed. It’s as if this thing is powered by a blend of nuclear fuel and pure determination. I’d glance at my wrist, expecting to see the a “Low Battery” warning after a full day of Fitbit-ing, but it just kept chugging along, ready to track my steps, stress and attempts at fitness for another day, and another. And several more. In fact, I averaged less than two charges a week.
In the grand tapestry of wearable tech, the Fitbit Sense 2 emerges as a charismatic gem with a dash of quirkiness and a whole lot of pizzazz. While it is prone to confusing air drumming for cardio and dreams for wakefulness, it does so with an endearing charm that makes you forgive its little eccentricities. From its overzealous step-counting to its heart rate mishaps and sleep tracking follies, this wearable tech has turned my fitness journey into a slapstick routine that even Charlie Chaplin would be proud of.
Whether you’re a fitness fanatic, a wellness wizard, or just someone looking to add a touch of futuristic charm to your life, the Fitbit Sense 2 is a companion that will leave you amused, intrigued, and occasionally scratching your head – but always in the most delightful way possible. The Sense 2 is a reminder that the serious journey towards fitness makes sense only when it is paved with a little bit of laughter and absurdity.
As for me, I’ll be strapping on my Sense 2 every day, not to conquer my health goals, but to keep the laughs coming as I step, stumble and snore my way to fitness. This Fitbit can be fiddly, fidgety, flighty, frivolous and fretting – but what best describes it is another f-word: Fun.
Fitbit Sense 2
– Build quality and finish
– Battery life
– Oversensitive to biometric input
– Sometimes gives wrong readings
– Complicated set-up
Rating: 3 stars