Introducing the Amazing Fitbit Ionic. When Fitbit bought Pebble last year, the question wasn’t if the company was going to release a smartwatch, but when. It’s a smartwatch-fitness tracker hybrid with an open SDK, superb battery life, and NFC payments. Thus, making it more of a competitor to the Apple Watch.
You won’t find standalone cellular connectivity as you get in the new Apple Watch. If you are looking for a smartwatch that puts fitness first, the Ionic deserves a spot on your short list.
In its tenth year, Fitbit has decided to expand into a whole new market for the first time. We finally have the first Fitbit smartwatch, and it’s called the Ionic.
Product: Fitbit Ionic
Warranty: 1 year (defects in materials and quality under regular use) to the original purchaser
My Rating: 8/10
The Ionic looks like a cross between the Fitbit Blaze and the Apple Watch Series 3, due to a rectangular touch LCD that stands out from many of the circular smartwatches.
The screen measures about 1.5 inches diagonally and features a resolution of 348 by 250 pixels. The screen pops with vibrant colors, sharp image quality, and 1,000cd/m2 of brightness.
The display on the Ionic is a full-color screen that’s rectangular and is reminiscent of the Blaze’s screen. Click here to buy 6-pack Ace Screen Protectors for the Fitbit Ionic.
The bands are swappable, like the Apple Watch. The default band features an isometric pattern, and a combination buckle and prong enclosure. Three strap and case color combinations are available: Blue Gray and Silver, Charcoal and Graphite Gray, and Slate Blue and Burnt Orange.
The Ionic has one notable difference from previous Fitbits. If you flip it over, you’ll find an array of three LEDs—two red, one blue—in addition to the conventional green optical sensor. That’s a noteworthy change that opens the Ionic up to more medical use cases.
Currently, most trackers use green light to measure heart rate, but red light can give you a more accurate read, as well as test a host of other biometrics. For example, red light is used in pulse oximeters to measure SpO2, or blood oxygen saturation.
The Fitbit Ionic is comfortable to wear on your wrist and is unusually light. Hopefully, it should make a pleasant fit on your wrist while you’re working out.
It’s also waterproof; you can take this in the shower or even go swimming with it and not have to worry about damaging it.
The body of the watch is made of aluminum and features tiny antenna bands on the sides, and is easily the best-looking Fitbit product so far.
There’s one hardware button on the left-hand side and two more on the right that sit in similar positions to the Fitbit Blaze and help you move around the watch’s UI.
The buttons protrude slightly, and Fitbit thinks this will help you find them when you’re fumbling around for the buttons.
Leather and plastic strap options are available with secure fasteners on each, so it won’t fall off when you’re out for a jog.
Smart, but Not Standalone
The Ionic is compatible across mobile platforms. When it comes to smartwatch features, Fitbit has been paying attention to the competition.
It’s preloaded with the Coach app (a rebranded FitStar guided workout), Music, Weather, Pandora, Starbucks, and Strava. Plus Fitbit’s native Today (an overview of your daily stats), Exercise, Wallet, Alarms, Timers, and Relax apps.
As of now, there are 17 default clock faces, but this number is sure to grow. Fitbit also plans to expand its offerings later this fall with more apps.
The Ionic isn’t meant to be a standalone smartwatch. You’ll get all your customary call, text, and app notifications. However, there’s no LTE connectivity for making calls or replying to texts without your phone being nearby.
You’ll need your smartphone phone for the initial setup, syncing data, customizing clock faces, and tweaking your preferences.
The Ionic features built-in GPS, Bluetooth, and NFC, as well as 2.5GB for music storage. It’s also capable of phone-free exercising.
And Fitbit has its pair of earphones, the Flyer, that can pair with both the watch and your smartphone at the same time.
Downloading music onto the Ionic isn’t simple. It takes some patience and a strong Wi-Fi connection, but it’s worth the effort. I could listen to my tunes while on a phone-free run in the park and pay for a coffee at Starbucks afterward without having to carry my wallet.
A single charge is estimated to last four days, or up to 10 hours while using GPS. That’s outstanding for a smartwatch—most only last for two days max.
That blows most of the competition out of the water. While the Apple Watch continues for little over a day, it seems like a fair trade-off for the lack of LTE connectivity.
Fitbit Ionic features
All the fitness features you’ve come to know on other Fitbit products are here, and there are a few upgrades too.
The Ionic features a heart rate tracker, which the company claims is even more accurate than on other Fitbits. It’s because of new algorithms and a design that means it sits much closer to the skin.
GPS is built-in too, and Fitbit believes your connection should be better because the antenna bands are placed in optimal positions to ensure a better tracking connection.
New features for running includes an automatic pause option. It should notice for example when you’ve stopped to cross at some traffic lights and break your workout, then start up immediately when you begin exercising again.
Fitbit has also included workouts in its new Fitbit Coach feature that replaces the Fitstar app. These exercises will show you exactly what to do. The aim is to help you improve. Plus, Fitbit also plans to bring audio workouts to the Ionic.
Fitbit has also included a SpO2 sensor here to monitor blood oxygen levels, but the feature won’t be available at launch.
Fitbit also includes mobile payments on the Ionic through its service called, you guessed it, Fitbit Pay. It’s derived from a tech from a company called Coin that Fitbit purchased a few years ago. And it will allow you to use NFC to pay on contactless terminals with your wrist.
Fitbit has partnered with Visa, American Express, and MasterCard, but you’ll need to make sure your bank is offering the service, and we’ve yet to hear which banks will be.
The Fitbit Ionic comes with 2.5GB of free space so you’ll be able to upload music. You can then connect Bluetooth headphones and listen to music on the go without having to take your phone on your run.
The Fitbit Ionic may be a helpful device for those with diabetes. If paired with a Dexcom G5 Mobile sensor (a device that costs $900), it’ll be able to display your glucose levels so you can monitor your health. It may make the Fitbit Ionic a must-have device for those with diabetes.
The Ionic comes with its own App Gallery which includes Fitbit’s services as well as third-party apps. It’s unclear which third-party options will be available, but we know at least Strava, and AccuWeather will be in the mix.
And Fitbit is opening the SDK for third-party developers. Hopefully, we’ll see other services getting involved in the Fitbit space too.
At launch, everything on the Ionic App Gallery is free, but there may be apps that cost you at some stage in the future. You’ll also be able to download new watch faces for the Fitbit Ionic from the App Gallery.
Comparisons and Conclusions
If the Apple Watch is a smartwatch first and a fitness tracker second, the Fitbit Ionic feels like a fitness tracker first and a smartwatch second.
The Ionic’s $300 price tag places it firmly in Apple Watch territory. Like Fitbit, Apple is making a case for Series 3 to operate as a pseudo-medical device with enhanced heart rate monitoring.
Fitbit has an edge regarding battery life and its established fitness platform including sleep tracking and advanced workout breakdowns.
While the framework in the app department is promising, however, it’s a bit of a gamble if fitness isn’t your top priority.
It boils down to whether developers get on board with the Ionic’s SDK and what future partnerships Fitbit builds out its ecosystem.
Final Thoughts on the Fitbit Ionic
The Fitbit Ionic is a promising and an ambitious smartwatch. It focuses on fitness and accurate tracking, but its success will depend on the growth of its app ecosystem.
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Fitbit Ionic | Review Junkies, http://reviewjunkies.com/fitbit-ionic/
Fitbit Ionic Hands-On Review | TechRadar, http://www.techradar.com/reviews/fitbit-ionic
Finding The Best Smartwatches – Smartwatchninja, https://smartwatch.ninja/finding-the-best-smartwatches/
Preview: Fitbit Ionic – Au.pcmag.com, http://au.pcmag.com/preview/49439/fitbit-ionic
Fitbit Ionic Review & Rating | Pcmag.com, https://www.pcmag.com/review/355777/fitbit-ionic