We are checking out the new Fitbit Ionic, which is really FitBit’s first product that they’re stressing is a smart Watch rather than just a traditional fitness tracker like all of their previous products have been. FitBit has been in the fitness tracking game for a long time now, but they’re obviously pretty late to the smart Watch game, and the Ionic is the first product FitBit has launched since acquiring Pebble too, so I think with this they’re really trying to bridge that gap between just offering basic fitness trackers and not really being considered in the smart Watch space. The ionic retails for $299 right now, pricier than anything else FitBit offers, the FitBit Blaze which is sort of comparable to this is still $199, but the Ionic is cheaper than even the 38mm Apple Watch, and I think that is the main product the Fitbit competes with. And as always, I’ve have links to the cheapest prices for the Ionic, the blaze and some other stuff down below so be sure to check the links in the description for more information. So let’s go ahead and take a look at everything the New Ionic has to offer and see if it might worth that price tag.
The Ionic right now comes in 3 different color options, charcoal/ smoke gray, slate blue/burnt orange, and this which is blue gray/silver gray, and there’s also just 1 size and configuration option with the Ionic coming in at about 38mm. Inside the box you get a handful of stuff included all the necessary paperwork and instructions, attached to the Watch you have large wristband but you also get a complete small wristband you can swap out if you need something tighter. The propriety charging cable is also included and I’ll Touch on charging and battery life in just a minute.
As far as the looks, the Ionic rocks a sharp square design with a 6000 grade aluminum housing that sort of resembles the blaze, but the Ionic looks more polished and complete and honestly I think it’s either a love it or hate it kind of design.
The Watch face is about 38mm with a screen resolution of 348 x 250 pixels covered in Corning gorilla glass 3, so nothing fancy as far as the Watch face is concerned. It is primarily a touch screen interface and I have to say I think this is where I was most disappointed. It’s totally usable but it’s not exactly snappy or fluid which is surprising coming from a company like Fitbit, it’s just all in all not a great UI to really look at and use considering what else is on the market. You also have three buttons on the side of the Watch, the button on the left is a screen on and off button, and on the right you have 2 buttons for selecting different options on the screen, but like I said you’ll primarily be swiping and tapping on most everything that you’ll need the Watch to do, and even though it’s clunky, it’s pretty simple and intuitive to use without much instruction. The buttons on the side have a nice texture and are easy to access, the the Ionic is only about 12mm thick so I think it’s a nice size in that regard. On the underside you’ll see the heart rate sensor and the three pins up too that are the connectors for charging the Watch.
The included band is a thick rubber sport band with quite a lot of texture and a really traditional fastener and I think the band on the Ionic is probably one of the nicer bands on any smartwahc or fitness watch just due to how thick and solid it feels while still being pretty soft and comfortable. It’s also easily removable so like I mentioned you can swap out the large band for the small one if you need to, and unfortunately these bands are basically specific to the Ionic but there are a lot of other band options from Fitbit and 3rd party retailers already on the market and I’ll link a few down below too so you can check those out.
As far as the overall fit, I think I sort of have smaller wrists than most guys my size by the large band was fine for my purposes, the Watch is very easy to take on and off and is very comfortable to wear as well. It’s light and slim and again the look and design might not be for everyone but it’s going to look primarily like a smart Watch or a fitness watch. The screen tops out at 1000 bits of brightness which means that outside in direct sunlight or with glare from the shade, the Ionic is still very visible and easily usable, it’s kind of hard to tell on camera but in person it looked even better and brighter than that and the auto brightness that transitioned from indoor and outdoor settings was spot on.
So even though Fitbit wants the Ionic to be a smartwatch, I’ll Focus on the fitness features first since I think the Ionic will attract hardcore Fitbit users more than anyone else who are used to utilizing these devices for workouts. Now, the Ionic continuously tracks steps, heart rate and calories burned throughout the day and that information is provided front and center on the main Watch face. You can also go deeper into your daily statistics and see how many miles you’ve moved, stairs you’ve climbed and more, and these totals are both from casual daily movement and whatever workouts you might have had. As far as specific exercise tracking, the Ionic has a lot of options including running, biking, swimming, treadmill workouts, weights, interval training and a general workout tracker. And yes, I did say swimming. The Ionic is water resistant up to 50 meters and can track lap counts, duration and calories even in the pool. There’s also a couple preloaded workouts in the coach app, nothing too fancy or intense but it’s nice to at least get a breakdown of some guided workouts if you need a little more structure or assistance.
I’ll go a little more in depth with the workout tracking in a second, but as far as the other apps, the Ionic has some guided relaxation and breathing, simple timers and alarms, and weather tracking, and under the smartwatch umbrella, you can also make payments via NFC with the Ionic by adding a credit card or your Starbucks card and you also have access to the Strava app if you use that for cycling or running.
To go more in depth with your daily activity or workouts, you need to syncs the Ionic to the Fitbit app which is available on iOS or android and if you’ve used any Fitbit in the past you’ll already be familiar with everything this app has to offer. At a glance, you’ll be able to analyze steps, calories and heart rate, keep track of your daily activity and workouts, the Ionic can also function as a sleep tracker, and you can go through the previous days or weeks stats and information to make comparisons and keep track of any and all progress you might be making. The in depth statistics can be broken down even by the hour, so you can see for example when your heart rate increased during a workout and when you were resting and you can even go as far as tracking complete meals and get a break down of approximate calories as macros to real keep track of everything you need to.
There’s also some challenges and goals you can tryout to encourage you to try something new or keep up with your daily or weekly fitness goals, and there’s also even more guided workouts right in the app, so if you need ideas or feel like trying something new, you have access to a whole bunch of stuff.
Touching on the smartwatch side of things once again, there’s also a bunch of different ways to access music on the Ionic, you can of course utilize the music controls if you’re just playing something through Apple Music or Spotify for example, but you also 2.5gb of onboard storage so using the Fitbit desktop app you can transfer 300 songs directly to the Watch, use a pair of Bluetooth earbuds like Fitbit flyers and leave your phone at home. And you also have pandora right on the Watch as well.
As far as notifications go, this is where the Ionic really lacks more smartwatch capabilities I think. You’re going to get text and call notifications of course, but there’s no speaker or microphone and no keyboard either, so you can’t do anything with the notifications, they’re read and dismiss only which is very unfortunate.
I think the most underrated feature of the Ionic though is the fact that it has onboard GPS, which is something devices like the Apple Watch still lacks, so you really can leave your phone at home and the Ionic will track runs for example a lot more accurately than smart watches without built in gps that needs to rely on the phone vie Bluetooth to ensure their accuracy.
Another area the Ionic really shines is battery life. You can pretty much get 4-5 days of battery life on a single charge with normal use. If you’re constantly using GPS or have the screen always on, it obviously won’t be that good, but it’s still going to last quite a bit longer than most smartwatches right now. And that’s also good because in all honesty, charging this thing is somewhere between annoying and sad. The prosperity charger is not only not all that practical, but it isn’t very secure. Not sure why Fitbit chose to go this route when the blaze had that nice cradle but it is what it is.
So, for $299 would I recommend the Fitbit Ionic? If you are deep in the Fitbit ecosystem already, if you want to go one more step above the Fitbit blaze, if you aren’t all that concerned with the smart Watch functionality and focus more on fitness, than sure, it’s a pretty good deal all things considering. GPS is a big feature, over 4 days of battery life is a big feature, the super bright screen is better than a lot of smartwatches. Is the style going to be for everyone? No. Is the clunky UI disappointing? Definitely. But I think all in all this is a pretty good purchase for a specific group of people, and considering just how many Fitbit blazes I see, which is a lot, I think I’ll see a lot of Fitbit Ionic son the future too.