Buttons are a touchy subject among smartwatch owners, but new leaked photos of the Fitbit Sense 2 and Versa 4 from 9to5Google show that the company is ditching capacitive buttons for both of its next-gen smartwatches.
We got a hint that Fitbit might be bringing back physical buttons to the Versa 4 a few months ago, but it wasn’t clear at the time if that would extend to the Sense 2. The decision isn’t surprising. Fitbit introduced the capacitive button as a way to create a slimmer profile and prevent accidental presses, but in reality it created a subtle user experience. Many Versa and Sense users found the button to be not reacting or simply ordinary unreliable. (Ironically, when I reviewed the original Senseit was too easy to accidentally trigger the capacitive button.)
Otherwise, it doesn’t look like Fitbit is rocking the boat too much in terms of design. Aside from the physical buttons, the most notable update in these leaks is the bezel of the Sense 2. The original Sense built the ECG sensor into a thin metal frame around the body. This time, it looks like Fitbit has managed to cram the ECG sensor into the panel itself, below the glass touchscreen. This means you have to tap the glass display to complete the ECG circuit – which would be unusual compared to other ECG-enabled smartwatches. The Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, for example, require you to touch metal buttons. It’s disappointing that Fitbit doesn’t seem to be adding more screen real estate, but hey, if you’re going to stick with an extra-large frame in 2022, you might as well make the most of it.
Meanwhile, photos of the Sense 2’s touch matrix on the underside of the case reveal a new raised border – although it’s anyone’s guess whether it’s a significant change. It could hint at a new sensor, or perhaps the modified design is to provide better skin contact. What we do know is that the markings on the bottom of the array (they’re extremely faint in the image) indicate that the device will have an ECG sensor, a body temperature sensor, built-in GPS and water resistance of 50 meters.
As for the Versa 4, the new photos don’t reveal much. The sensor matrix appears unchanged from the Versa 3 and according to 9to5Google, no ECG or body temperature sensor. It still has a microphone, as well as built-in GPS and 50 meters of water resistance. This suggests that the Versa 4 may not add much on the hardware front, with all major updates coming in the form of new software-based features. To be fair, Fitbit has no qualms about adding new Versa watches to its lineup. It already has four versions of the smartwatch since it first launched in 2018, each slightly different from the last.
Going by the pictures, it looks like an official launch is on the horizon. That said, 2022 was an odd year for Fitbit’s usual product cadence. The company usually releases at least one device in the spring and another in late summer. However, the spring of 2022 has already come and gone with no new Fitbit in sight. Meanwhile, Google, which owns Fitbit, could also muddy the waters with plans to launch the Pixel Watch this fall. One of the hallmark features for the Pixel Watch will be a shiny new Fitbit integration — which Fitbit is seemingly finalizing with Google. That, plus all the new software features for Sense 2 and Versa 4, is a lot for any one company to work on at once.