Fitbit is attempting to improve the use of its stress-tracking technology with the $300 Fitbit Sense 2, which features a new body reaction sensor that can passively monitor potential stress-related symptoms throughout the day. It can also do spot checks on demand, exactly like the original Fitbit Sense, but my colleagues Lexy Savvides and Scott Stein deemed its stress-tracking features “more puzzling than useful.” Can the Fitbit Sense 2 improve this?
The new body reaction sensor is the most significant difference between the Sense 2 and its two-year-old predecessor, in addition to a redesigned user interface that is easier to operate. I’ve used the Fitbit Sense 2 for approximately two days, which is sufficient time to appreciate the watch’s more streamlined software and the return of the physical navigation button. I’ll need more time with Fitbit’s newest gadget to determine (no pun intended) what all-day stress tracking adds to it. The Sense 2 is also slightly less expensive than its predecessor, which was initially priced at $330.
Google is anticipated to release additional details regarding the Pixel Watch’s launch on October 6. Since Google owns Fitbit, its first wristwatch will also incorporate some of Fitbit’s health-tracking capabilities. After spending more time with the Sense 2 and knowing more about the Pixel Watch, we hope to have a clearer understanding of which wristwatch is the superior option overall. In the meanwhile, these are the most notable aspects of the Fitbit Sense 2 that have jumped out to me thus far.
The new Fitbit Sense 2 interface
I normally prefer Apple Watch’s interface to Fitbit’s, but the Sense 2’s new software is an encouraging step in the right direction. The Today View, which displays calories burnt, distance, steps, and other data points, now presents these metrics in softer-looking bubble-shaped tiles.
Importantly, the interface displays additional data at a glance. On previous devices, navigating your Fitbit was as follows: A swipe up displayed widgets for your main stats, a swipe down displayed notifications, a swipe to the left displayed app icons, and a swipe to the right displayed quick settings.
That’s simple enough, but the new software appears to provide much more info without the need to access specific programs. Sliding down displays fast settings, swiping up displays notifications, and swiping left or right reveals a carousel of widgets for information such as your steps, heart rate, the weather, your sleep, and more. By swiping through the UI, I can view a snapshot of my daily activities, the pattern of my heart rate over the past several hours, and the amount of sleep I received the night before, among other information.
Fitbit also reinstated the physical navigation button, which had been absent from the Versa 2 since 2019. It sits on the side of the watch and replaces the previous model’s haptic “button.” Physical buttons are typically easier to manipulate than haptic keys, especially on devices as small as smartwatches that are designed for rapid, tap-based engagements. I don’t want to push multiple times because I can’t tell if the sensors have detected my taps.
If the watch is asleep, tapping the side button will wake it, and pushing it again will open the app menu. You can also create a shortcut to activate when long-pressing the button (mine is now set to open Alexa), and double-pressing the button brings up your favorite apps. The apps are now displayed in a list utilizing the same bubble-like tiling layout as the Today view. It replaces the app grid system utilized by earlier Fitbit devices. In addition to being tidier and simpler to read, scrolling up and down to cycle through apps seems more natural than swiping between screens.
In terms of performance, navigating the Sense 2 lacks the swiftness and fluidity of the Apple Watch Series 8. However, it does not appear to lag like the prior Sense.
Fitbit Sense 2 tracking of stress
Stress monitoring was the most distinguishing feature of the first Sense, and the same holds for Sense 2. Body Response is a new type of sensor developed by Fitbit that measures continuous electrodermal activity (EDA).
This new statistic, in conjunction with other metrics previously available in Fitbit devices, such as heart rate, heart rate variability, and skin temperature, can identify potentially stressful occasions throughout the day. The previous Sense only allowed you to check your electrodermal activity (EDA) on demand by launching an app and laying your palm on the bezel for two minutes to obtain a reading.
I’ve just worn the Fitbit Sense 2 for a few days, therefore I have not yet received many physiological responses. The first one arrived in the late afternoon on a hectic work day, which made sense given that I was likely rushing to complete my projects for the day. However, I do not recall feeling significantly more anxious than normal around the time I received the notification. Also, I did not check the notice until almost 20 minutes after the moment had gone.
When you receive one of these alerts, Fitbit invites you to record your mood. Even though I did not feel very stressed, I selected the “stressed” option to see what would occur. Fitbit suggested that I consider the causes of my stress, go for a walk, and begin a guided breathing session. To use these capabilities, you must enable stress tracking during the setup of the Sense 2 and enable “Body reactions” in the Fitbit app.
Additionally, the new Fitbit features a stress management score, which is also available on other previous Fitbits, including the Inspire 3 and Versa 4. The score does not require these sensors because it analyses heart rate, sleep, and activity to determine whether or not your body is exhibiting physical indicators of stress. However, if you are wearing a Fitbit gadget with electrodermal activity sensors, it will also consider those measurements, according to the app’s description of the stress management score.
Fitbit’s objective appears to be to provide a suite of stress-tracking tools with varying degrees of granularity depending on the device. Similar to how not all fitness trackers and smartwatches evaluate health and wellness, in the same way, the more expensive the device, the more sensors it has to provide a more in-depth analysis of your health.
However, because I have not used Sense 2 for a very long time, it is impossible to determine how valuable these data are. As with any of the numerous data points that our fitness trackers collect, this information is only useful if the user understands how to utilize it and is prepared to exert effort.
Continuous tracking appears to be more beneficial than doing a scan while you’re feeling anxious. However, it appears simple to ignore a notification at the moment, particularly if you are already in a hectic position. I also wonder if receiving yet another notice during a potentially stressful situation might cause those prone to stress to feel even more overwhelmed.
When Scott and Lexy read the previous issue of Sense, they noted that their EDA Scan results did not always correspond to how they felt. I have not had sufficient time to determine whether this holds with Sense 2. However, according to an EDA scan I conducted during the workday, I had 12 responses, indicating that my body was likely exhibiting signs of stress. However, I did not feel particularly stressed at that time.
It will take some time to determine how beneficial the Fitbit Sense 2’s tracking of stress is. But just as it took years for the industry to advance beyond simple step monitoring and deliver deeper insights related to activity and exercise, I assume that the current version of stress tracking is far from Fitbit’s ultimate goal. After we’ve spent more time with the Fitbit Sense 2, we’ll update this article with additional details on stress tracking, general health and activity monitoring, and other features.
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