Fitbit is leveraging its new Google support to try to put itself back on top of the fitness-minded wearable market, announcing Wednesday its latest version of the Versa and Sense smartwatch series alongside the return of the Inspire budget fitness tracker. There’s some impressive sounding features here, but many are behind a subscription paywall.
The new fitness-based Versa 4 and health-centered Sense 2 are using what the company’s dubbed the latest version of the Fitbit OS. To go alongside this OS’ health tracking features, the company says it’s also redesigned the weight and comfort of its trackers to make them easier to keep on “24/7.” Though the trackers are keeping the square face with rounded edges from past models, Fitbit says there’s a new focus on constant heart monitoring (introduced midway through the previous wearables’ cycle) and activity tracking that relate to real-time stats, alongside sleep and stress tracking.
The other big new feature Fitbit is promoting is the devices’ Premium subscription-required sleep profile feature that tracks your snooze patterns with “10 sleep metrics to show what type of sleeper you are.” The company previously rolled out snore and noise detection on earlier Fitbit models, so the new watches will likely include that as well.
The Versa 4 is being sold for $229.95 while the Sense 2 is steeper at $299.95. What you get for that extra $70 is a so-called “Body Response” sensor that tracks “electrodermal activity,” which are the variations of electrical response when you start to sweat. Fitbit said this is used for tracking all-day stress management alongside heart rate and skin temperature. The device will supposedly offer recommendations to help manage stress, such as guided breathing exercises.
It’s been a few years since we reviewed the Versa 3. We liked the no-thrills dependability of the wearable, but the Versa 4 will supposedly come packed with 40 exercise modes and a GPS, though you’ll need Fitbit Premium to access workout guides and some other features. The company promises each will have six days+ of battery life and a charge time of 12 minutes equivalent to 1 full day of battery life, but as has been proven with previous Fitbits, that will likely depend on how much you use it.
Both premium watches are compatible with iOS and Android phones to send alerts and text notifications, though smart replies are available on Android only (a reminder that Google owns Fitbit now). Fitbit did promise you’ll be able to connect Google Maps and Google Wallet to your wrist-mounted device, but the company did not elaborate on when that might happen. Fitbit said both the Versa 4 and Sense 2 will be available in the fall, with pre-orders available now.
Meanwhile, the company is marketing the Inspire 3 as the latest in its range of entry-level devices, with basic features like monitoring heart rate, sleep, and stress 24/7 (though I personally doubt having access to my heart rate any hour of the day will lead to any less stress, at least for my needs).
Fitbit boasts that the $99.95 Inspire 3 continues the series’ lengthy 10-day battery life, but introduces a color touchscreen, an upgrade from the Inspire 2's monochromatic display. The company said the new device is water resistant up to 50 meters and can track your steps or overall activity, sending you celebratory messages when you hit certain activity goals. It’s releasing at the same price point as past series entries, though of course it will lack features like the GPS enabled Charge 5.
With such a long battery life, after more than a week of running the device all day every day, I do worry that I will easily forget it’s in need of a charge. Regardless, the Inspire 3 costs about the same as Amazon’s derivative Halo tracker when that’s not discounted.
The other side of the tracking activity is the features that are supposed to log blood glucose levels, hydration, menstrual cycle, and nutrition. The device will be available in September and preorders are already available online. Of course, it might be best to keep that menstrual cycle tracking off, given current events.
If you plan to be using these devices for years at a time, note that certain features will be locked behind a paywall after a few months of use. Features like sleep profiles and stress management scores are tied to the Fitbit Premium subscription service. Buying any of these devices new has them come pre-loaded with a six-month membership. Still, if you want to access those features after the fact, it will set you back $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year.