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Apple Watch Series 8 vs Fitbit Sense 2 vs Versa 4: which to go for? – Gadgets & Wearables

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Apple and Fitbit have both upgraded their smartwatches ranges in the past few weeks. Unless something unexpected comes along, the Series 8, Sense 2 and Versa 4 are likely to be popular sellers well into 2023.
For Fitbit it is business as usual despite being part of Google now. Having said that we are expecting Pixel Watch to land on October 6th. It will be interesting to see what kind of reception it receives. Particularly as this will be a first generation product.
In 2022, both Sense 2 and Versa 4 have received iterative upgrades. The same can be said of the Apple Series 8 watch. All three of these are well established with a loyal following.
Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets
Which of these smartwatches is right for you? They are competing head-to-head for pretty much for the same market.
Read on to find out how they stack up. Not all of these are right for everyone.
In terms of looks, Sense 2 and Versa 4 are not all too different from the Apple Watch Series 8. Also, all of these are unchanged on this count as compared to their respective predecessors. And this is a good thing.
Whichever device you choose, you will get a square-ish design, water resistance down to 50 meters and a full colour, touch sensitive, high quality display. The Apple Watch has a slight edge here, though.
Its screen is a thing of beauty. With the Series 8 you have an Apple Watch that will never go dark. This is courtesy of the LTPO OLED Force Touch Retina display that comes with 1000 nits of brightness. Plus the display retains large dimensions of its predecessor. To remind, that iteration has nearly 20% more screen area than Series 6. This is due to a combination of smaller bezels and a slight increase in overall size.
Mind you, Versa 4 and Sense 2 are no slouch on this count either. They come with an 1.58 inch AMOLED display. This also has an (optional) always-on option.
The weight and physical dimensions of the watches are similar although you do get two size options to choose from for the Apple Watch, a 45mm and a 41mm. Versa 4 and Sense 2 only have a 40mm size. But this latest generation brings a thinner design than previously.
The Apple Watch also comes in various case materials including aluminium, stainless steel and titanium. Versa 4 and Sense 2 only come in a lightweight 6000 series aerospace-grade aluminium option.
All things considered, we would put Apple Watch Series 8 ahead of the Fitbits as far as aesthetics and design. But Sense 2 and Versa 4 are decent looking – something you can proudly wear on your wrist.
The differences continue below the surface.
Powering everything on the Series 8 is an eight generation SIP called S8. This is only a slight upgrade from S7 – mostly to do with quicker processing speed. Unfortunately Fitbit does not disclose information on its processors. Without specific details we can’t make an actual comparison, but it’s probably safe to assume that Apple Watch Series 8 has more processing power vs Fitbit Sense 2 or Versa 4.
As you’d expect, all of these devices are jam-packed with sensors. They share an ambient light, SpO2, optical heart rate sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, skin temperature sensor and altimeter. This list continues with the Series 8 to include an electrical heart sensor (ECG) and compass. Sense also has ECG, but it is the only one of the three to pack an cEDA (electrodermal activity sensor) sensor.
All of these devices come packed with built-in sattelite connectivity. With earlier generations, users have to rely on Connected GPS for more precise outdoor exercise tracking. This requires a smartphone to function. Now they can decide between the two. Which makes it much more convenient to track activity as you do not need to be teathered to your phone.
Finally there is also the cellular connectivity of the Apple Watch. The Series 8 comes with a small electronic SIM card. As you’d expect, this has on-going monthly fees. We are yet to see an LTE-enabled Fitbit. Perhaps in 2023.
At 18 hours, battery life remains Apple Watch’s stumbling block. Now there’s the addition of a Low Power mode which can extend this to 36 hours but with limited functionality. It is a step in the right direction. But for the most case, just like its predecessors, you’ll be charging Series 8 pretty much every day.
Versa 4 and Sense 2 come with a fairly decent 6 days on a single charge. Turn on the always-on display option and this will halve. But great battery life has always been a characteristics of Fitbit devices.
In addition to battery life, activity tracking is also Fitbit’s strong point. Versa 4 and Sense 2 can do just about everything an Apple Watch can on this measure. You get all the basics, along with inactivity reminders and automatic exercise recognition. In the morning the app spits out detailed info on sleep. Plus you get a simple to use, comprehensive smartphone app.
There’s a decent heart rate sensor on-board which spits out resting heart rate values and keeps tabs on your ticker throughout the day. Like on the Apple Watch, there are low and high heart rate alerts. Exercise tracking has also been nicely done and Fitbit has recently upgraded its features with a Female Health Tracking and premium coaching options.
Both Fitbits come with built-in GPS. This makes them valid options for serious runners and cyclists. Apple matches them on this count. All we need now is a way to connect them to an external heart rate chest strap. For now you’lll need to opt for a Garmin or another sports watch maker for that sort of thing.
Versa 4 and Sense 2 have a couple of extras that you will not find on Apple’s device. Although all three of these can spit out heart rate variability data, there is almost nothing in Apple’s Health app on interpreting this data. Fitbit has taken things further with something it calls the Daily Readiness Score. Reserved for those with a premium subscription, the info lets you know how fatigued you are. Each morning you’ll know whether to take it easy that day or train hard.
Temperature tracking used to be another addition of the Fitbits. But Series 8 and Ultra have this sensor so Apple has cought up on this count. Just like the Fitbits, it doesn’t spit out an absolute value. Instead, it establishes your skin temperature baseline, and lets you know in the morning whether your overnight value is above our below this. Apple also uses temperature info for better female health tracking, i.e. for retrospective estimates on when a user has ovulated.
But one addition that is available on Sense 2 but not on the Apple device remains – an EDA sensor. This year this has been upgraded for more detailed stress tracking. Unlike its predecessor, Sense 2 is capable of taking continuous electrodermal activity (EDA) measurements. This is through a new Body Response metric. That means the device can monitor electrical changes in your skin’s sweat levels around the clock.
Another extra Sense 2 has over Versa 4 is an ECG sensor. But it shares this with the Apple Watch.
Fitbit Versa 4
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The one important omission of the past for the Apple Watch was native sleep tracking. You had to rely on third party apps for this. However, ever since generation 6 and wearOS 7, Apple has put things right. With WatchOS 9 sleep stages are finally coming to the device. This can be Awake, REM, CORE and DEEP.
Another feature that comes with the latest iteration of the operating system are running dynamics. This includes vertical oscillation which measures how much you move up and down, along with stride length and ground contact time. Fitbit doesn’t have this.
All of this means that Apple is pretty much head-to-head when it comes to fitness tracking with the Fitbits. However, the same cannot be said for wider health and safety functionality. Apple has the edge here.
Like Sense 2 (but unlike Versa 4), it comes with an FDA-cleared ECG sensor. To take a reading rest your finger against the digital crown. This creates a closed circuit with the sensor on the back. You’ll get a full report in the new ECG app that will let you know if your heart rhythm is normal or there are issues.
There is more than one way to trip or fall and Series 7 can identify a number of them based on your wrist trajectory and impact acceleration. This in turn activates a few options for dialing emergency and notifying your loved ones with your location.
In 2022 Crash Detection was also added. It utilises an improved 3g gyroscope and high g-force accelerometer capable of 256 Gs force detection to figure out when you are involved in a car crash. Like above, the watch will automatically alert emergency services if needed.
Fitbit Sense 2
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As part of keeping tabs on your heart, Apple’s optical heart rate monitor looks for irregular heart rhythm. This functionality has FDA clearance, too. You’ll also get low/high heart rate alerts which let you know if the device suspects there is something wrong with your ticker. But Apple uses the ECG sensor for this.
Fitbit on the other hand uses the PPG sensor for these types of measurements. Which is many times more useful is the sensor works in the background. The Fitbit is therefore much more likely to pick up if something is amiss.
When all is said and done, the biggest problem with the Apple Watch remains its battery life. It is miserable. And that’s putting it lightly. A true fitness device should not need to be charged every day. Apple needs to find a way to improve on the 18 hour battery life. Yes now you get the option to extend this to 36 hours with limited functionality – but that’s not nearly enough.
The negative we would like to flag up for the Fitbits is the Premium monthly subscription. Yes, you can get away without forking out $10 per month for this. But you will not have access to long term trends for some metrics and certain detailed insights.
When it comes to smartwatch features, there is no comparison – Apple is in a totally different league You’ll find native and third-party apps for everything imaginable and watchOS 9 comes with additional new features.
And lets not forget cellular connectivity. When you are away from your phone, the Apple Watch automatically switches to the cellular signal. Third party apps can tap into this signal as well.
Although it can’t really compete with the Apple Watch on this measure, Versa 4 and Sense 2 do come with a few smartwatch-type features. This includes access to Pandora/Spotify/Deezer, Alexa, notifications for calls, NFC chip for contactless payments, text and calendar alerts, and more. There is also an app store with a steadily growing number of apps. Unlike the Apple device, though, they miss out on easy to use built-in storage for music.
Some watches might be better at activity tracking, but the Apple Watch aims to go beyond fitness. If you’re interested both in activity monitoring and lots of smart functionality, there is a long list of reasons why Apple’s device is currently the best selling smartwatch in the world.
Short battery life remains Apple’s biggest stumbling block. Until the company manages to improve on this the likes of Fitbit and Garmin will continue to find a place in the market.
Apple Watch Series 8
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Therefore, if you’re more interested in general activity and exercise tracking Versa 4 is probably the most cost efficient choice. It sells for about half the price of the Series 8 (check price on Amazon). Fitbit Sense 2 is the slightly more costly alternative to Versa 4 that comes with ECG and EDA sensors (Amazon link).
If, however, you’re after a polished smartwatch experience, the Apple product is clearly the one to go for. It is the best all-rounder out there (view on Amazon).
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Do not purchase the Versa 3 over the Apple Watch. I owned the Versa 3 for three weeks when it slipped out my hand when adjusting the band and the face cracked. What’s even worse, you cannot get the screen repaired anywhere so now I have a useless $200 gadget and Fitbit customer service’s answer is to purchase a new one.
I have had the same experience! Think I’m finally gonna make the switch.
I recommend the purchase protection offered. My Fitbit 2 died after 2 years. I sent it for repair under the program I purchased for $31.99. They fixed it and returned it. The watched died again 2 days later. I returned it. They couldn’t fix it so I got a full reimbursement check 2 weeks later. Any electronic device I buy that costs over $150, I try to buy insurance.
If you have to subscribe to the premium service at $9.99 a month to access some of the advanced functions of the Fitbit, then the cheaper price isn’t so cheap.
United Healthcare AARP Medicare Advantage Plan offers free Fitbit premium membership.
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In this hands-on review I test out the Garmin Running Dynamics Pod. This is a tiny device that collects and
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