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The Pixel Watch 2 and Fitbit Charge 6 are death knells for the Sense series
We’ve all had our eye on Fitbit for some time now, and not in a hopeful way. The brand’s latest moves, along with those of its parent company (hey, Google), have me coming to terms with a disappointing reality: Fitbit’s top smartwatch line is on its way out. Now that we have the Pixel Watch 2 and Fitbit Charge 6, there’s arguably no space left for the Sense series.
The Pixel Watch line ushered in a new player, and ushered one out
When Google first acquired Fitbit in 2021, I dreamed of Wear OS on my favorite Fitbit smartwatches. Specifically, I hoped for an integrated platform with the best of both worlds. Then the Pixel Watch arrived, and I quickly realized where the company’s loyalties lie. The Pixel Watch got all the bells and whistles from Fitbit’s ecosystem, while Fitbit’s watch lines got…worse.
Key features dropped from the Versa and Sense lines, watering down Fitbit’s offerings to oversized fitness trackers. After a short time with the Fitbit Sense 2, our reviewer all but called the watch a massacre of the original, and it was painfully clear Google hoped to steer shoppers toward its new wearable instead. Without third-party app support, Wi-Fi, or music storage, the Sense 2 had little to offer compared to the shiny new Google smartwatch. And yet, thanks to its advanced cEDA sensor and a few other features, it retained a small niche as Fitbit’s top pick for health-focused shoppers.
That was until the Pixel Watch 2 arrived. On shelves as of October 2023, the dome-shaped sequel packs everything powerful about the first generation, plus everything the Sense 2 holds dear. First, the Pixel Watch 2 adds the Sense line’s cEDA sensor for continuous stress monitoring and Fitbit’s Body Response feature. Next, it adds a temperature sensor, an upgraded multi-path heart rate sensor, and automatic workout detection. These features round off the existing Fitbit integration, including the company’s ECG app, sleep monitoring platform, and activity tracking (with significant new upgrades). The Pixel Watch 2 even comes with a 6-month Fitbit Premium membership.
The Pixel Watch 2 offers the advanced health tracking sensors of the Fitbit Sense 2, plus the robust Wear OS 4 platform.
More importantly, on the Pixel Watch 2, Fitbit’s top tools combine with a robust Wear OS 4 platform that the Sense 2 can’t hold a candle to regarding smart features. The Pixel Watch 2 boasts more apps, more safety features, and better training tools. If you’re shopping for the best Fitbit smartwatch, the Pixel Watch 2 is it, or at least that’s what Google wants to make clear. For just $50 extra, Google offers Fitbit loyalists access to one of the top smartwatch operating systems in the market in addition to Fitbit’s highlight reel.
If I weren’t convinced by the Pixel Watch 2 alone, Fitbit’s own Charge 6 is even further proof that the company is moving away from its premium watches. The newest tracker adds almost all the top features of its square-shaped siblings, including Google Wallet and Google Maps integration. It also boasts a staple missing from the Sense 2: YouTube Music Controls. This move suggests Google is comfortable bolstering the tracker line because it doesn’t compete directly with its new favorite child, and it can fill the hole potentially left behind by the Sense lineup.
Meanwhile, Fitbit continues to bolster the Charge lineup, eliminating the need for a watered down smartwatch option.
On the health front, the latest Charge packs an EDA sensor, though not a temperature sensor, and offers key features like irregular heart rate notifications. In other words, it doesn’t offer every advanced feature of the Sense 2, but for about $140 less, it offers a heck of a lot. Unlike the Pixel Watch 2 and Sense 2, the device can even broadcast users’ heart rates to popular fitness equipment like a Peloton. With a built-in GPS, over 40 activity modes, and fantastic battery life, it’s an obvious pick for anyone looking for a solid fitness tracker. The only feature missing is an altimeter.
So, where does the Sense line still serve a role? It’s compatible with iPhones while the Pixel Watch 2 is not, but there are much better smartwatch alternatives, including the Apple Watch Series 9 ($389.99 at Amazon) or the budget-friendly SE ($269.99 at Amazon) for iOS users. The Sense 2 also offers Amazon Alexa if that’s a priority, but it shouldn’t be. Compared to the Pixel Watch 2, Fitbit’s smartwatches offer significantly better battery specs, but even this Google attempts to mitigate with a new fast-charging cable. Plus, the Fitbit Charge 6 also claims great battery life.
In short, only nostalgia can keep the Sense line alive at this point. Even a decked-out Sense 3 makes little sense when the line’s price point is hardly lower than the Pixel Watch 2.
The future of Fitbit smartwatches is the Google Pixel Watch line.
The future of Fitbit’s smartwatches is the Pixel Watch line. For anyone looking for a simpler Fitbit tracker, Google offers the ever-improving Charge line.