I’ve been waiting eagerly for the Fitbit OS 5.1 software update to reach the Sense (provided for review; but unhygienic to return) over the last few days. It’s a matter of checking physically on the app if your tracker has the update. Side note: this is my one gripe with software updates; everyone needs to take a leaf out of Apple’s book and roll out globally at the same time.
I updated mine before going to bed and can confirm what features work in South Africa:
1. SpO2 reading – you can finally check your SpO2 reading without using that one watch face. It is something I am obsessed with checking every morning when I wake up; takes an hour to reflect. An indirect way to see if I should get a Covid-19 test (based on my readings, though I haven’t had anything below 94%). Please consult your doctor about this and don’t blindly copy something that I do. You can use any other watch face now and go into Health Metrics to check your reading. Feels very deeply hidden still and not easily accessible. However, Fitbit will release more watch faces by the end of the year for direct access.
2. Bluetooth Calling – Remember how we felt like James Bond when this feature first came to Apple Watch? Well I set up mine to accept calls on my wrist and it works. Totally had a conversation with myself from my spare Android to my iPhone linked to Sense. It works with the loudspeaker. But lets be honest here, how many calls do we take (apart from delivery people at your gate, hahah!). Cool feature to activate nonetheless. You have to go into Bluetooth Settings for this and add “Sense Controls” for it to work. The instructions are on the Fitbit website.
3. Voice Assistant – I managed to log into my Google Assistant account but it says my region’s language isn’t supported and just doesn’t work. Never mind that Google Assistant works on EVERY OTHER DEVICE IN SA. Alexa can be set-up instead (you have to pick one) like I did before but it no longer works for me. I keep getting errors that my phone has no internet connection, which it does; I’m on 100Mbps fibre and everything else loads on my phone. UGH. More on this lack of WiFi band support below though.
Should you bother updating? If you want the SpO2 readings daily but use another watch face, absolutely yes. If you think the Bluetooth calling feature is something you’d use, yes. I am just irritated with the buggy software. This is one piece of hardware/gadget that I’ve used for so long that is consistently buggy. I’ve removed and re-added my watch several times to the app.
The Sense Controls feature I set up on Bluetooth just shows “Not Connected” despite me setting it up and pairing on both sides. However the calls do come through. And secondly, Fitbit does not support a 5GHz WiFi band thus Alexa doesn’t work since upgrading my fibre.
Separately, I set-up my rain hotspot and paired my Sense to it and when I ask Alexa anything it just says phone not connected to the internet. I give up. I even went as far as pairing my phone and watch to one hotspot (rain) for both to be “in sync” and that didn’t help.
I am putting up with the Fitbit bugginess because it supports Fitbit Pay and works with my FNB cards and I cannot go to the shops without it. I hardly touch my wallet now.
I receive a ridiculous amount of emails/messages about this and yes, I’m also counting down till Apple Pay comes to SA.
Recharged is an independent site that focuses on technology, electric vehicles, and the digital life by Nafisa Akabor. Drawing from her 16-year tech journalism career, expect news, reviews, how-tos, comparisons, and practical uses of tech that are easy to digest. firstname.lastname@example.org