Fitbit Versa 3 and Fitbit SENSE – Announced

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Fitbit Versa 3 and Fitbit SENSE

Fitbit has just announced a new band format tracker called Fitbit Inspire 2 plus the Fitbit Versa 3. There’s also a high-end variant of the Versa 3 called Fitbit SENSE. There are a few interesting twists and turns but let’s start off with an image which shows that, visually at least, little appears to have changed.

And that was where I started out…same-old, same-old. Same old Fitbit. However, it looks like I’m going to have to eat a few slices of humble pie (not the whole pie) as this Fitbit has some real goodies packed on board and, at least in terms of the specs, these goodies deliver a truly coherent package. And at $329 it’s an expensively coherent package.

Wellness, Wellness, Wellness

That’s where we are going folks. Wellness. Or at least that’s where Fitbit are heading.

Fitbit is keeping the health+fitness alive and kicking but subtly shifting its capabilities towards wellness & medicalisation with many goodies to track clever stuff like electrodermal activity, ECG, sleeping breath rate and HRV. What about the Google acquisition? A: Very little. Fitbit has kept their FitOS alive and kicking, although there is a nod to Mr Google with the integration of the Google Assistant (which is the best voice assistant out there, by far…yes, including Siri.). Forget Google, for now, VERSA 3 and SENSE are going to keep Fitbit in business all by themselves.

Techy Highlights

This is Fitbit, right? Do you seriously expect techy highlights? No, you don’t…maybe one or two…at a push. But, like me, you’d be wrong. There is a swathe of techy highlights including a fancy AMOLED screen, a new PurePulse 2.0 optical HR sensor package, a rock-solid screen, and the ability to take calls on the watch. Jeez, there’s so much new stuff it is almost overwhelming.

Before I say a bit more about the announced features, it’s worth taking a step back to remember that Fitbit is trying to achieve several things. First up they are majoring on female health and wellness issues and to do those properly, as well as doing sleep properly, they need to get a lot more novel data points like, for example, basal body temperatures. They seem to have that. Secondly, combine all of that with onboard GPS and hopefully accurate in-sport heart rate then they should be able to handle the activity piece so much more sensibly too. Thirdly SLEEP should be nicely covered too, linking through to the related area of stress management. The final piece for Fitbit’s target markets would be the smarts of call handling and remote music control (Spotify) – hey nothing’s perfect. But at least Fitbit has one of the better app/data platforms, so being reliant on that phone-based app is perhaps nowhere near as bad for Fitbit as it is for some of the other players.

#Excited!

Detailed Fitbit SENSE Specifications & Features

Let’s start off with the Full Feature List and some very brief commentary. It’s long, sorry!

Fitbit Sense FEATURES

  • EDA SCAN APP – Detects electrodermal activity, possibly indicating a stress-response. Tracked in the Fitbit too for further insights.
  • REFLECTION – Log your mood and link that to the EDA scan.
  • ON-WRIST SKIN TEMPERATURE SENSOR – Track skin temperature each night showing variation to personal baseline.
  • FREE FITBIT PREMIUM TRIAL – 6-month trial for new Premium which gives deeper insights
  • HIGH/LOW HEART RATE NOTIFICATIONS  – Sense detects that yours is above or below your threshold.
  • 24/7 HEART RATE TRACKING WITH PUREPULSE 2.0 – 24/7 continuous heart rate tracking for everything from exercise to sleep tracking
  • HEART RATE ZONES – Zone-based info live during workouts – fat burn, cardio or peak zone.
  • MENSTRUAL HEALTH TRACKING – Log periods, record symptoms, track ovulation and discover patterns in your cycle.
  • BUILT-IN GPS – During outdoor runs, rides and hikes, the built-in GPS gives pace and distance,  plus a map of workout in the Fitbit app
  • WORKOUT INTENSITY MAP (APP) – Post-workout review of your effort zones throughout your route.
  • ACTIVE ZONE MINUTES – You are alerted when you enter your personalised target heart rate zone.
  • 20+ GOAL-BASED EXERCISE MODES + SMARTTRACK – 20+ exercise modes with real-time stats. Or use SmartTrack to automatically recognise and record exercises.
  • WATER-RESISTANT TO 50M – You can swim with it.
  • ALL-DAY ACTIVITY TRACKING – Track all-day activity like steps, distance, floors climbed, active minutes and calories burned.
  • SLEEP STAGES & SLEEP SCORE – See time in light, deep and REM sleep and Fitbit’s daily Sleep Score.
  • SMART WAKE – Set your Fitbit alarm to wake you with a quiet vibration during a lighter sleep stage.
  • SLEEP MODE – Snooze uninterrupted by using sleep mode to mute smartphone notifications and stop your screen from turning on at night. Set a schedule to turn sleep mode on automatically.
  • DO NOT DISTURB MODE – To mute call, text, calendar and app notifications during the day.
  • VOICE ASSISTANT – Quickly check the weather, set bedtime reminders and alarms, control your smart home devices and plenty more – speak to Google Assistant or Alexa Built-in on your wrist.
  • CALL, TEXT & APP NOTIFICATIONS – Get notifications for calls, texts, calendar events and apps like Gmail and Facebook—plus send quick replies and voice replies right from your wrist. Available when the phone is nearby. Replies on Android only.
  • MUSIC EXPERIENCE – Store and play music and podcasts with Deezer, plus control Spotify from your wrist—then, use them to stay motivated with curated playlists specifically made for your favourite workouts.
  • FITBIT PAY – Load your credit and debit cards to your Wallet in the Fitbit app, then use your smartwatch to tap and pay for purchases on the go.
  • ALWAYS-ON DISPLAY MODE – for uninterrupted real-time exercise stats.
  • APPS ON YOUR WRIST – “hundreds” of apps for fitness, sports and fun – from Uber to United Airlines to Spotify to TRX.
  • CLOCK FACES – “hundreds” of clock face designs
  • 6+ DAY BATTERY – 6+ day battery life,  with up to 12 hours with continuous GPS.
  • FAST CHARGING – Get a full day’s charge in just 12 minutes.
  • BIOSENSOR CORE – Skin temperature sensing, heart rate tracking and battery charging all take place inside this powerful, water-resistant hub on the back of Sense.
  • DESIGN – A polished stainless steel ring, custom AMOLED display, laser-bonded Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3 and innovative biosensor core make every piece of Sense exceptional by design.
  • INFINITY BAND – Lightweight, flexible and comfortable
  • ACCESSORIES – Create endless looks with Fitbit Sense accessory bands, including Fitbit.com exclusive collections from Victor Glemaud and Pendleton. The new quick-release feature makes it easier than ever to swap looks.
  • FITBIT APP – From activity and sleep to nutrition, resting heart rate and group challenges, you can track all your progress in the free Fitbit app.

Fitbit Sense SPECIFICATIONS

Despite my excitement, the reality is only two novel sensor types are included and a temperature reader is hardly novel.

  • Multi-path optical heart rate sensor
  • Multipurpose electrical sensors compatible with EDA Scan app
  • Skin temperature sensor
  • Gyroscope
  • Altimeter
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz)
  • NFC
  • Built-in GPS + GLONASS
  • Vibration motor
  • Speaker (75dB SPL @10cm)
  • Microphone
  • Battery type: Lithium-polymer
  • Charge time: (10-80%): Approximately 40 minutes
  • Fast charging: 1 day of battery life in 12 minutes
  • Radio transceiver: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Saves 7 days of detailed motion data, minute by minute
  • Saves daily totals for the last 30 days
  • Stores heart rate data at one-second intervals during exercise tracking and at five-second intervals all other times

 Take Out

This looks HIGHLY promising for Fitbit.

Whilst some of the advertised features DO beat those currently unavailable on the Apple Watch, we still have two weeks until we find out what the new Apple Watch 6 will have morphed into. I strongly suspect that Apple will have covered some of the same bases that Fitbit has covered with the SENSE. Maybe not all of them though. So if the sensors and associated algorithms work in a sensible way, the $329 price tag may well also be a sensible starting point for Fitbit to hold it’s own again an Apple Watch 6 that’s at least $100 more.

There’s going to be a decent profit margin here for Fitbit. Add to that some additional subscription revenues from Fitbit Premium and Fitbit’s accountants may well have more numbers to add up than they normally do. Always a nice problem to have 😉

Unfortunately, my occasionally grumpy self sees that Fitbit still has a problem. Versa 3 and SENSE might just stem the inevitable tide of a decline in the active user base. Sure many loyal Fitbit users will upgrade to a new model, some won’t, and some will leave. I can’t see Versa 3 and SENSE attracting a new generation of Fitbitters. I sense though that Fitbit has arrived at the same conclusion and so moving to a higher margin business model might make sense.

The massive relief though is that Fitbit SENSE and, to a lesser extent, Fitbit VERSA 3 do look like great and obvious upgrade paths for existing Fitbit owners. Phew.


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