From Apple Watch to Fitbit Sense 2: First impressions and getting acquainted

I know it sounds crazy to go from an Apple Watch to a Fitbit, but as it turns out, I couldn’t switch from Android to iPhone just for the Apple Watch. But I really liked having a watch for a few reasons, so I wanted to find a decent wearable for Android.

I say “decent” because the Apple Watch and experience is a tough act to follow. So I read dozens of “best Android smartwatch 2023” articles. For the most part, they all recommended the same watches, and I considered most of them, including Withings, Fossil, and Garmin. Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and 5 were at the top of or at least on nearly every list, but I already tried it and know it doesn’t work for me.

Part of what made the search so difficult is that my wrist is small, so anything bigger than 41mm is too big. That was part of the problem with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, which protruded awkwardly because of the band connectors on the watch face. My small wrist also eliminates many Garmin and Fossil options, which tend to be on the chunky side.

In any case, after a lot of reading, watching reviews, and general hemming and hawing, I decided on the Fitbit Sense 2.

I kept my expectations low and it was a bit of a rough start, but in the end, I’m feeling good about the Sense 2. Here’s my experience with the Fitbit Sense 2 with a Pixel 6 after 2 weeks.

You could also check out Fitbit Sense 2 Review: Past the point of no return with no regrets for my experience after 6 weeks and A Wish List for the Fitbit App for things I’d like to see in the future.

Click a link below to jump to that section.

  1. It helps to know what you’re getting
  2. More than a few mostly minor complaints
    1. Syncing is an issue
    2. Watch faces are limited
    3. The button is awkward
    4. It doesn’t have a built-in flashlight
    5. It doesn’t always wake when it’s supposed to
    6. Settings in the Fitbit app can be confusing
    7. The charger is unidirectional but it doesn’t tell you that
  3. It’s got some good things going for it
    1. Battery life is solid and charging is fast
    2. It’s got all the sensors I want
    3. Metrics are easy to read
    4. It’s not just data for the sake of collecting data
    5. The Sense 2 looks premium and feels comfortable
    6. Sleep tracking looks pretty solid
    7. The free trial is a generous 6 months
    8. Google Maps and Google Pay
    9. It encourages me to be consistent
  4. In closing

Photos taken by the author; images of any apps or watch faces are property of their respective owners.

It helps to know what you’re getting

I’m glad I spent so much time watching and reading reviews about this wearable because I knew exactly what I was getting.

From what I gathered, the major complaints about the Sense 2 are the price and that it doesn’t have:

  • Google Assistant
  • Google Pay or Google Maps at launch (now available for Android)
  • Support for third-party apps
  • Music functionality
  • Wi-Fi enabled
  • Stainless steel body like the original Sense

I was pretty sure I wouldn’t miss any of the features the Sense 2 was lacking based on my Apple Watch usage. I figured I’d be fine with basic smartwatch features, and I was excited about all the health features, including the altimeter, ECG, sleep tracking, stress management, and temperature sensor. Really, the only thing I wish the Sense 2 had that it doesn’t currently are safety features like fall detection and SOS.

Based on the reviews and especially comparisons with the original Sense, I could easily understand why someone who purchased this device would be disappointed. But I knew what I was getting and was totally fine with what the Sense 2 had to offer — just not at full price. I got lucky, though: The Sense 2 went on sale during my research, and now here we are.

More than a few mostly minor complaints

I have a few complaints about the Sense 2. They’re not necessarily the same complaints that other people might point out, like the aforementioned lack of third-party app support. Some of what I talk about below may be specific my watch or phone, but one of the reasons I’m sharing this experience is that some of these annoyances weren’t mentioned in any of the reviews I saw. The good news is that most of these are minor, and I got used to them over time.

Syncing is an issue

The big one first: Syncing can be a bit finicky. For example, I changed the watch tiles (removed some and changed the order), and the watch wouldn’t update to reflect what I changed in the Fitbit app. I tried to get it to work in the following ways:

  • Sync multiple times through the app from the home screen and from the settings
  • Update face watch (this seems to force a sync)
  • Force-quit the app
  • Restart the watch
  • Unpair then re-paired
  • Restart the phone
  • Cleared notifications from the watch

It took an hour with Fitbit support (who wasn’t even that helpful) to get this synced up. In fact, I don’t even know what the problem was. All I know is that after I cleared notifications from the watch, the tiles updated when I tried to sync.

Sometimes the Weather app randomly loses data.

Another consistent syncing issue is with the Weather app. It doesn’t always update in the morning, and sometimes it randomly disconnects during the day. I went through all the same steps as above and it wouldn’t update. Then I remembered that I used to have to turn Bluetooth on and off to get another device to sync, and that works! Which leads me to believe it’s an issue with my Bluetooth or phone, not the watch. Now if the Sense 2 won’t sync, I turn Bluetooth off and on, and it generally works right away.

I don’t know what causes the Weather app to lose data during the day, though. The app shows weather predictions for the next 3 hours, so I’m guessing it may sometimes get confused when it tries to update to the next 3-hour block. Toggling Bluetooth off and on usually fixes this too.

The Sense 2 is synced up, including the Weather app, but for some reason the sleep score doesn’t show even though it’s updated in the app.

I had a similar issue with the sleep score not consistently transferring to my watch face (see photo). That’s not a metric I pay much attention to, so it’s only slightly annoying. Plus, it eventually updates, just not at the same time as everything else.

Certain things on the Sense 2 don’t seem to update until I actively sync with the app, but at least now they sync easily. If you’re coming from Apple Watch, which syncs passively, this is an adjustment.

The good news is that some things sync passively, and the Fitbit app syncs automatically whenever you open it. I usually have some reason to go in there a couple times per day, so it’s not too inconvenient.

Watch faces are limited

Plenty of paid and free watch faces by Fitbit and third-parties are available, but from what I saw, only a few of them are customizable. So most of the time, when I found a design I liked but it didn’t display the metrics I wanted, I had to choose a different one. Or if I liked the design but don’t like the font or colors, same story: Pick a different face.

I spent what must’ve been several hours trying to find a watch face I like because none of them had a design I liked with the metrics I wanted to show, and very few of them had the battery level. (I later realized the battery level is shown in the settings menu if you swipe down from the top of the watch, so that works for me.)

When I used a third-party watch face that didn’t support AOD, the clock’s font is mismatched.

Some of the third-party faces were fine, and I found a couple I actually liked a lot, but none of the ones I wanted to use were compatible with always-on display. In this case, the watch displays the time in a mismatched font in military time. They might purposely display the minutes in a thicker font to make it easier to read, but I found it annoying, so I stuck with Fitbit-made faces.

I eventually chose the Spectrum watch face because it’s simple but still shows steps, and it has a nice design with always-on display.

Also, you can’t change the orientation of the watch. I wanted to put the button on the right side instead of the left (more on this below), but the watch face orientation cannot be changed. That means the button must always be on the left, regardless of which wrist it’s worn on.

Vote for the option to change the watch face orientation.

The button is awkward

I initially thought having the button on the left side was smart because the thumb is strong, but I feel like I have to have my right wrist at an awkward angle to press the button with my thumb as intended. I might just need to get used to it, but it still feels a bit awkward after 2 weeks.

I’m experimenting with reaching my hand over the top or face of the watch to press the button with my index finger instead. That seems to be more comfortable for me, but it’s not the motion I’m used to, so it’s taking some time to get used to.

It doesn’t have a built-in flashlight

I’m fairly shocked Fitbit doesn’t have a built-in flashlight feature for the Sense 2 — or at least included one on any of their watch faces. Some third-party faces have a torchlight available, but I don’t like the overall design of those watch faces, so I don’t want to use them just for the flashlight option.

I’m hoping Fitbit will build this feature in soon, but it doesn’t have very many votes, so they probably won’t prioritize it.

Vote for a flashlight feature on the Fitbit Sense 2 here.

It doesn’t always wake when it’s supposed to

I have it set to wake on motion or button press. It usually wakes on motion now that I’ve gotten used to do it, but I don’t like having to be so deliberate with my wrist. I feel like it’s just asking for trouble, though I probably don’t look at my watch enough to cause a repetitive-stress injury.

I wouldn’t care about that if the watch would wake on double-tap, but it doesn’t. The customer service rep I asked about this said to turn on button-press only mode, only that didn’t work — and he’d hung up on me before I could ask for more help. Minus points for poor customer service.

Settings in the Fitbit app can be confusing

Fitbit did a great job with the metrics (more on this below), but managing settings is a little confusing. I think it’s partly because they seem to allow you to pair more than one Fitbit device to the same account and phone.

The app has an Account menu if you tap your profile picture in the upper left corner. At the bottom are Settings mixed in with Help & Support, Legal, and other things that I don’t think belong there. They have notification settings in 3 different places, and when I was first starting out, I didn’t understand the logic. If you’re having the same issue, check out the table below, which describes where to find which notification settings in the Fitbit app, as of this posting.

If you want to change notifications for…Go to…
Push and email notifications for battery alerts, activity milestones, badges, community messages, family activity, etc.Account > Notifications
Heart health notifications, stress management, bedtime reminders, Account > Activity & Wellness
Text messages, calendar, emails, or other apps from your phoneAccount > Device > Notifications

Now that I’m more familiar with the app, how they’ve arranged it makes more sense, but it took a lot of poking around before I could remember what was where.

The charger is unidirectional but it doesn’t tell you that

The watch can only be placed on the charger one way, but it doesn’t have any indication which way it should be placed, so I put it on backwards a few times.

This is a small thing, and probably only something I noticed because the Apple Watch charger is round and the watch can be placed on it any which way.

It’s got some good things going for it

Despite what seems like a lot of complaints, the Sense 2 also has a lot to like.

Battery life is solid and charging is fast

Maybe this is because I came from using an Apple Watch and had to charge basically every day, but battery life on the Fitbit seems pretty good, even with the always-on display. I charged it to full on Thursday evening, and now it’s Sunday morning and I got a low battery notification because it’s down to 35%. I wore it to sleep each night but only went on one non-GPS walk during that time, so I haven’t done anything too taxing for it. But I’ve done the same amount of activity I would’ve with the Apple Watch and that would’ve been dead long before now.

With GPS walks and always-on display enabled, the battery doesn’t last as long, but if you do happen to wear down your battery quickly, Fitbit says you can get 24 hours of use out of a 12-minute charge. I haven’t tried this, but based on my experience with the battery so far, I believe it.

It’s got all the sensors I want

The reason I chose the Sense 2 over a Fossil, Garmin, or other great options was that the Sense 2 has all the sensors I wanted plus some I didn’t know I want. I’m especially interested in the temperature sensor, though I don’t have a lot of hope that it’ll do better than the just-OK experience I had with Apple Watch tracking my menstrual cycle.

I’m fascinated by the stress management tracking. One day I woke up around 3am and couldn’t fall back to sleep because I started thinking about an unpleasant experience I had the day before. The watch picked up on this! I didn’t get a notification, so I guess I didn’t get stressed enough to reach that threshold, but it showed a little blip on my Stress Management tile and asked me how I was feeling at that time.

The options for moods feel a bit limited to me. You can only select one for each stress incident, and it only offers 8 moods: excited, happy, content, calm, sad, worried, frustrated, stressed.

How is angry missing from this list? I’m glad they include both sides of the spectrum, though.

When I log a mood, I pick whatever’s closest to what I’m feeling, but I’d like to see more options and be allowed to choose more than one since I often feel a range of emotions if I’m triggered.

I may write a follow-up post to talk in more detail about the sensors and stress management.

Metrics are easy to read

You’d think with all the data Fitbit collects, it would be overwhelming, but they did a great job making stats readable. You can get a quick summary on the Today screen or you can tap them to see more details and the data over time.

You can also rearrange and remove the blocks so you only see the stats that are important to you.

Like many wearables, Fitbit assigns scores to some of their metrics, like daily readiness and sleep. I don’t care for it because it never seems accurate for me. Often I’ll have poor sleep and feel really tired in the morning, but I’ll get a good score. Like last Saturday night, I only slept 5 hours since I woke up at 3am Sunday, but my sleep score was somehow 81. That doesn’t compute for me, so I just ignore any scoring they do, though I am excited about getting a sleep animal.

It’s not just data for the sake of collecting data

The Fitbit app has a lot to like when it comes to the data. Not only is the data itself presented in a way that’s digestible, but they also did a wonderful job providing more information about that data point without being confusing or overwhelming. This gives more context and helps me make sense of my data instead of sending me into a panic if I think I got a “bad” result.

With other wearables, understanding what to do with the data can be ambiguous, but Fitbit makes it easy by including non-intrusive action items.

A couple examples from the Sleep tile > sleep log:

  • Time Asleep: The Fitbit app suggests their 2-week sleep program to help boost time asleep.
  • Restoration: The Fitbit app recommends a meditation to help me get more restful sleep.

Some of the offerings are for premium subscribers and some are free, too. It seems balanced in that way, and I’m looking forward to digging into premium features more.

The Sense 2 looks premium and feels comfortable

The Sense 2 is a good size, and I like the rounded square shape. It looks bigger than the 41mm Apple Watch, but it doesn’t look too big like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 did.

The original Sense was stainless steel, and the Sense 2 is aluminum. While that may be a down grade, especially if you’re going spelunking and need it to be durable, it still feels nice to me. I had the aluminum Apple Watch, though, so maybe I just don’t know any better.

The pale gold color is a nice shade, and the screen edges are also nicely rounded without being domed, so swiping on the screen feels good. I didn’t like the sharpish edges of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.

The Sense 2 has been much more comfortable on my skin than the Apple Watch ever was, both the watch body and the band. Surprisingly, the stock Fitbit band is much more comfortable than the stock Apple sport band, which constantly irritated my skin and was uncomfortable to type in. I wish I’d known that before I bought a replacement band for the Sense 2, but I’m somewhat between sizes on the Fitbit notches anyway.

I replaced the stock band with the Hook & Loop Band, and it is the most comfortable watch band for any of the 3 watches I’ve tried so far. Putting it on and sizing is easy, it dries quickly, and it breathes. I’m a fan and my only 2 complaints about it: 1) It connects to the watch with plastic, and 2) it only comes in 2 colors right now.

I hope they will release more colors soon! They’re affordable enough that I would get multiple colors just for fun.

Sleep tracking looks pretty solid

It’s only been a couple weeks, but compared to the ŌURA sleep data, Fitbit seems pretty spot on. The Sense 2 has a setting to adjust sleep sensitivity, which I think is interesting. This Fitbit User Guide by Tom’s Guide says the normal setting may be better if you have a sleep partner who moves around a lot in their sleep. I’ve kept my setting at the default (normal), but even so, the Sense 2 picks up way more movement than the ŌURA.

It’s also worth noting that SpO2 data from the Fitbit has been consistently lower than ŌURA.

I may post a more detailed comparison between the sleep trackers when I have more data.

The free trial is a generous 6 months

Users get a free trial to Fitbit Premium with purchase of a device. With the Sense 2, I got 6 months of free premium, and Fitbit clearly indicates what is available to premium users only. I appreciate this transparency on principle, but also because it helps me easily evaluate it during my free 6-month trial. Most of the content is for premium members, but they do have a few things available for free.

I’ve said many times I don’t mind paying for good software as long as the value is there. I need to spend more time looking at the features, but I’m definitely interested in Fitbit’s offerings.

Google Maps and Google Pay

I’ll be totally honest: One of the reasons I went to Apple instead of trying the Fitbit Sense 2 last year was because Google Maps and Google Pay weren’t available yet. I couldn’t buy a device that was missing features I wanted based on the promise that they would be released “soon.” But when I wanted to switch back to Android this year, these features were already released, so that was a major selling point.

I set the button shortcut to Google Pay, and it works great so far. I have to type my PIN first, though. That makes sense since the watch doesn’t need to be unlocked for general use, but I have to remember to open Google Pay a little earlier.

I haven’t used the watch to navigate anywhere yet, but I tested it, and Google Maps automatically sends the route to the Sense 2 when I start one on my phone. The Sense 2 also tracks the same metrics as exercise when maps is on and set to walking directions, so that’s handy.

It encourages me to be consistent

I’ll admit when pedometers first came out many years ago, I was completely uninterested. I thought people’s obsessions with their step count was silly, but now I kind of see the appeal. And for me, it’s not necessarily about literal steps but about intention and attention, focusing more on moving consistently rather than sporadic super sweaty workouts that aren’t sustainable for me right now.

When I got the Apple Watch, I stood up more often, but with the Fitbit, I’m more interested in actual activity. Not only have I been going out for walks more often, but I’ve also been making the walks longer instead of sticking with my usual route. When I finish, I feel satisfied and am excited to see my progress in the app. I even look at maps of my walks. They’re rather uninteresting, but it’s still fun to track and look, except that time the GPS farted and showed my route as a direct line from start to finish, which was definitely not accurate.

In closing

I’m not evaluating the Fitbit Sense 2 with the same measuring stick as I would the Apple Watch. The Sense 2 can barely be considered a smartwatch with the lack of third-party apps and no music support, so that wouldn’t be a fair comparison. On the other hand, the Fitbit Sense 2 is priced like a real smartwatch at nearly $300, and for $50 more, you could get a Pixel Watch, Google’s flagship wearable. I’m glad I got lucky with a sale!

When I finished this post and saw the 7 negatives and 9 positives, I sort of chuckled to myself. It sure looks like I don’t like the watch, but that’s not the case.

Most of my complaints are more like the growing pains of moving to a new device and have been addressed in one way or another: I found a watch face I like well enough, and after 2 weeks, I’m mostly used to the button, waking the watch with a gesture, and the charger. I can live without the flashlight, though I prefer the convenience of having it, and now that everything’s set up, I don’t need to mess with settings much, so that’s fine too.

I’d say the only thing that is still annoying is the syncing, but now that I know to turn Bluetooth off and on, that works consistently. Sure, I wish I didn’t have to do that, but I don’t have to do it every time I sync, so it’s not that bad.

It’s only been 2 weeks, and that seems too early to make a final decision. So far, I’ve avoided saying I like the watch, but that’s partly because I’m afraid I’ll stumble on some way it’s lacking that’s a deal breaker and I’ll have to return it. I think I’m also afraid I’ll love the Fitbit and then Google will axe it like many other Google-y bits I’ve enjoyed over the years.

But if I ignore those worries, I can admit that the Fitbit Sense 2 is slowly winning me over.

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So far, the Fitbit Sense 2 seems like a great option for Android users looking for a wearable with fitness tracking and basic smartwatch features.

Buy Fitbit Sense 2 on Amazon

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