Fitbit Sense vs Versa 3 & Versa 2 vs Apple Watch vs Garmin Venu & Vivoactive – Fitbit finally get their act together

Yesterday Fitbit announced their latest 2 smartwatches, finally embracing built-in GPS, making them both viable alternatives as sports watches compared to many brands.

Fitbit Sense Features

Fitbit Sense vs Versa 3 & Versa 2 vs Apple Watch vs Garmin Venu & Vivoactive – Fitbit finally get their act together 1
Product laydown photography for Fitbit Sense.

Both watches look good, but I think the Versa 3 may struggle due to competing options. The Fitbit Sense is the star of the show, while it may be quite expensive; it offers a range of features that competing brands don’t.

In particular, there is the skin temperature sensor on the wrist, which no one else currently offers, they have also upgraded the optical HR sensor and the watch can now offer heart rate, ECG, breathing rate, Heart Rate Variability (HRV), SpO2  and electrodermal activity.

COVID-19

Last year some health tracking features such as SpO2 didn’t really offer a great deal of useful functionality. Your lungs tend to be OK or not OK, and most of the time, you will know one way or the other. It can be useful for a handful of conditions such as sleep apnea, though.

With COVID-19 things have changed. SpO2 levels are affected by  COVID-19, so in theory, this can be a variable used to identify infection. Skin temperature is a symptom of many viruses and this again can be used as an early warning for COVID-19.

No company has come out with any specific COVID-19 tracking/early warning feature, but Fitbit has talked about their prediction capabilities around illness, and it is likely that these tracking features will be a major selling point for the Sense.

GPS

The first Fitbit watch was the Ionic, and this came with GPS built-in, they then ditched it for the first two Versa watches.

Thankfully it is not included with both the Versa 3 and Sense. This is an important feature for me, and most people serious about fitness tracking, and it brings the two watches inline with pretty much every other fitness or smartwatch available on the market (that’s how stupid it was to not include it with the Versa 1 & 2).

Battery Life

Fitbit claim over 6-days battery life for both watches, which is quite important because it offers them one significant advantage over the Apple Watch S5 and S3.

It also makes them comparable to Garmin, though they Vívoactive 4S has 7 days battery and 8 days for the Vívoactive 4.  The Garmin Venu lasts a little less at 5 days

SmartWatch Features

Fitbit can’t compete with Apple when it comes to smartwatch features, but they do have an advantage over Garmin, and other sports watch brands. Fitbit has bother Alexa and Google Assistant (later in 2020) which is something Garmin is unlikely to ever offer.

The FitBit app selection is poor but better than Garmin with options including Uber and Starbucks card and United Airlines.

Fitbit Premium

Fitbit Premium gives you access to guided programmes, advanced insights, advanced sleep tools, dynamic workouts and mindfulness, and this will set you back £80 per year.

You can often access a lot of guided programmes free of charge on Apple or Garmin

My main concern about premium functionality is that it could be used to fence off features that are free on other platforms For example, sleep score breakdown is premium, I am not sure how this differs from other platforms things like Garmin, Huawei, Withings all offer varying degrees of analysis of your sleep.

Third-Party Export – Strava etc

I only mention this because some feature watches brands such as Huawei/Honor/Xiaomi/Realme lack data export to Strava or other services. This is not an issue for Fitbit, Apple or Garmin.

Fitbit Sense vs Versa 3 & Versa 2 vs Apple Watch vs Garmin Venu

  Fitbit Sense Fitbit Versa 3 Versa 2 Apple Watch S3 Garmin Venu
Price 299.99 199.99 199.99 199 260
Display AMOLED AMOLED AMOLED 272 x 340 AMOLED 260 x 260 AMOLED 
Battery 6 days 6 days 6 days Up to 18 hours up to 5 days
Sensors Barometric altimeter
Optical heart sensor
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Barometric altimeter
Optical heart sensor
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Barometric altimeter
Optical heart sensor
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
Barometric altimeter
Optical heart sensor
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
GPS Yes Yes No GPS / GNSS GPS/Glonass/Galleo
External Sensors None None None Yes/Limited
Chest strap or app dependant
Yes
Chest strap, footpod
Cycling cadance and speed
Connectivity Bluetooth, Wifi Bluetooth, Wifi Bluetooth, Wifi Bluetooth, Wifi Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi
NFC Payments via Fitbit Pay (limited) via Fitbit Pay (limited) via Fitbit Pay (limited) Apple Pay Via Garmin Pay (limited)
Smart Watch Features Alexa/Google
Music control, offline music
Notifications and voice replies
Basic apps
Alexa/Google
Music control, offline music
Notifications and voice replies
Basic apps
Alexa
Music control, offline music
Notifications and voice replies
Basic apps
Too many to list. Notifciations
Music control
Offline music
Basic apps via CiQ
Fitness Features Skin temperature
Electrodermal activity
SPO2
HRV
ECG
Sleep tracking
Menstrual cycle
Steps/Floors climbed/Distance
Calories
Cardio fitness level
HR zones, alerts, max, low
Respiration rate
Cadence
Sleep tracking
Menstrual cycle
Steps/Floors climbed/Distance
Calories
Cardio fitness level
HR zones, alerts, max, low
Respiration rate
Cadence
Sleep tracking
Menstrual cycle
Steps/Floors climbed/Distance
Calories
Cardio fitness level
HR zones, alerts, max, low
Respiration rate
Cadence
Sleep tracking
Menstrual cycle
Steps
Distance
Calories
VO2 Max
HR zones, alerts, max, low
Cadence
Many more, app dependant
Body Battery
Stress Tracking
Sleep tracking
SPO2
Menstrual cycle
Steps/Floors climbed/Distance
Calories
VO2 Max
HR zones, alerts, max, low
Respiration rate
Cadence
Water Rating 50m 50m 50m 5ATM 5ATM

Alternative options

Apple Watch Series 3 at £199

Most iPhone users have little reason to opt for anything else over the Apple Watch Series 3 at the £199 price point, and this is likely to include the Fitbit Versa 3. Battery life would be the main factor, and I have to admit, I couldn’t cope with the battery life of the Apple Watch, but my partner doesn’t seem to mind it.

Garmin Vívoactive 4S / Vívoactive 4 / Vivoactive 3 / Instinct / Venu

Garmin doesn’t really have anything at the £200 price point, you can go cheaper or more expensive.

The Garmin Venu is perhaps the watch closest matched to Fitbit due to its AMOLED display.  The biggest advantage (for me) that Garmin has is the ability to pair with a chest strap for ore accurate heart rate, but the FitBit offers better general health tracking.

Coros Pace 2 – Around £200

Not really a like for like device, but the just-announced Coros Pace 2 looks to be one of the best options for runners at this price. It features built-in running power, Stryd support, ANT+ for sensors and up to 20 days battery.

Polar Vantage M – £210

The Polar Vantage is another excellent option for people wanting a running watch over a smartwatch cum fitness tracker.

Huawei Watch GT2 (£152) or GT2e (£122)

I loved both of these watches when I reviewed them, they look good have incredible battery life and excellent fitness tracking features. Sadly you can’t export to Strava or pair up with accessories, which makes them a no-go for anyone half-serious about sports tracking. Thankfully they have both dropped a lot in price, so still worth considering. The Huawei Watch GT2 had an RRP of £199, and it would have been hard to recommend it over any of the above at that price.

Overall

Both the new Fitbit watches look good, and are priced appropriately for their feature set.

After years of declining users, I think the Fitbit Versa 2 may struggle to compete with other brands, especially iPhone users who can pick up the Apple Watch S3 for the same price.

It could be argued that the Fitbit sense doesn’t bring £100 worth of additional features to the table over the Versa 3, but due to the current pandemic I can imagine a lot of people will be interested in the potential of early virus detection.

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