A month ago, Google launched its new line of Fitbit devices, including the Inspire 3, Versa 4, and Sense 2 watches. In addition, the highly recognizable fitness trackers got a recent rebrand, now called “Fitbit by Google,” and a UI change to bring them more in line with the Wear OS look, even though they technically don’t run Wear OS. However, as the new smartwatches begin to arrive to customers that pre-ordered, certain changes have been revealed.
One of these is the missing WiFi capabilities on the Sense 2 and Versa 4, which is a puzzling omission. The folks over at 9to5Google noticed that on the “Sensors and Components” specs page for both devices, “WiFi” is mentioned but only followed by the disclaimer “deactivated, cannot be turned on.” Additionally, help articles on the Fitbit website clarify that “this feature isn’t available on Fitbit Sense 2, Fitbit Versa Lite Edition, or Fitbit Versa 4.”
This means that firmware updates and local music storage transfers will no longer be possible via WiFi and will instead happen via Bluetooth, which will be slower. However, there is another caveat, and that is the lack of music options. 9to5 also noticed that the company does not mention audio playback capabilities and that Deezer has also been removed from that same lineup of watches. Pandora will reportedly remain on the Sense 2 but not the Versa 4. This casts doubts on whether either will offer basic controls of music playing on your paired phone or the ability to pair Bluetooth headphones directly.
But the changes don’t stop there. You can now use an existing Fitbit account to log into the Fitbit app on your smartphone. However, Google has announced that beginning sometime in 2023, it will enable the use of Fitbit with a Google account and completely do away with the legacy Fitbit accounts by 2025. This switch will reportedly allow Fitbit users to take advantage of more features in addition to centralized privacy controls and a single login for Fitbit and Google services. However, once the change starts rolling out next year, existing users will have an option to move their legacy accounts to a Google account, new users will be required to sign up with a Google account, and existing users that choose to continue using Fitbit accounts will start to lose access to some functionality.
The consensus to the aforementioned changes is a cause for concern for longtime Fitbit users who were under the impression that the Fitbit experience would remain somewhat similar, if not untouched, to how it’s always been. However, it is starting to feel like Google is somehow watering down the benefits of using a Fitbit in order to make more advanced features Pixel Watch exclusives. Considering that Google is positioning the Pixel Watch as the more advanced smartwatch and Fitbit as a health device, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the case.
It’s not all bad news, though. Fitbit is gaining one, albeit small, feature this year: The addition of a “Google Arts & Culture” watch face. This face is available on the Sense 2 and Versa 4 and updates with new art daily. The time appears towards the bottom, along with one stat or complication that can cycle through the date or your various fitness stats. So if you are a fan of the arts and culture collection and you like using it as wallpapers or screensavers, then you’ll be happy to know you can now use it on your watch — if it’s a Sense 2 or Versa 4. The new watch face is available right now via the Fitbit mobile app.