The Fitbit Sense is the company’s most ambitious smartwatch in a long while—in large part because the device was the first Fitbit with FDA-cleared ECGs. However, it appears the company is now contacting some Fitbit Sense owners for replacements, citing an unspecified “hardware issue” that may impact its ECG feature.
The news first surfaced in Fitbit’s forums. Users reported receiving an email from Fitbit customer support saying the company had “identified a hardware issue” that could “affect its ability to work properly.” The company then said it would replace the Sense for free. While some users voiced suspicions that the email was a phishing scam, Fitbit moderators confirmed that the email was in fact legitimate.
A Fitbit spokesperson told the Verge that the issue was the ECG app on a “limited number of Sense devices.” Essentially, the problem was that the app might incorrectly judge a person’s readings as “inconclusive.” Fitbit then confirmed to the Verge that no other batch of Sense smartwatches or other Fitbit devices were impacted.
TL;DR—Don’t panic just yet. If you’ve bought a Fitbit Sense in the past few months, or have found that the ECG app delivers a fairly high number of inconclusive readings, check your email. Fitbit says it’s directly reaching out to customers for replacements, so if you don’t have an email your particular shipment of Sense smartwatches wasn’t likely affected. At least not for this particular issue.
This sort of thing doesn’t necessarily mean all Sense smartwatches are bad and should be thrown in the trash. Occasionally, hardware snafus happen during the production process and affect a certain number of devices produced at a particular facility or a certain shipment. A similar case occurred in October when some Apple Watch SE devices overheated but seemed hyperlocalized to South Korea. And if you peruse the user forums of any particular product, you’re bound to see customers reporting various issues because unfortunately, sometimes you draw the short straw and get a bunk unit. (It’s definitely happened to this reviewer several times across multiple companies.) Other times, rampant bugs at launch are then fixed via future software updates.
In the case of the Sense, when the smartwatch shipped at the end of September, it did so without some of its marquee features. While you did get stress readings via its shiny new electrodermal activity sensor, ECGs weren’t available until a month later due to regulatory timing from the FDA. That might seem like a rushed product launch, but isn’t unique to Fitbit when it comes to wearables. ECG didn’t come to the Apple Watch Series 4 or the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 at launch, either. Meanwhile, we’re also still waiting on expanded cardio fitness metrics for the Apple Watch that were announced with the Series 6 and Watch SE. Likewise, neither the Sense nor the Versa 3 got Google Assistant compatibility until November with the Fitbit OS 5.1 update.
What matters most is how transparent companies are in addressing widespread issues, and whether they’re complete jerks in addressing consumer concerns, giving replacements, or issuing refunds. In this case, it’s a good thing that Fitbit is offering free returns and proactively reaching out to customers who may be affected—though it would’ve been better if their emails disclosed the so-called hardware issue impacted the ECG app. In any case, don’t be a dummy. Check your email and spam folder.