Can it compete with the Apple Watch? That was the question on everyone’s lips at the recent European launch of the new Fitbit Ionic. Approximately 100 of us (press and influencers) were flown out for Majorca for 24 hours of high and low impact activity to test out Fitbit’s first step into the smartwatch market.
We know that the Apple Watch is a juggernaut, having accounted for 80% of smartwatch sales last year so it’s no surprise that Fitbit’s latest product, the Fitbit Ionic, is clearly designed to go head-to-head with Apple. Having never owned or used an Apple Watch it’s difficult for me to compare, so this review is solely based on the characteristics of the Ionic.
The design of the Ionic is striking and unique, with a stylish, premium feel to it with a choice of three straps (classic, leather or sport). The watch screen is vibrant and colourful and easy to read even in sunlight. You can choose from a variety of watch faces within the Fitbit app, and there are currently lots of eye-catching choices. Personalisation isn’t possible yet.
The Fitbit Ionic is a comfortable fit on the wrist and very light; so much so that you'll instantly notice how lightweight this feels on your wrist. As someone who has rarely worn a watch, I quickly adapted to wearing it while working out and throughout the day. It’s also waterproof, so you can take this in the shower or even go swimming with it.
I love the raise–to-wake feature on the touchscreen, even if it is a little slow at times. A quick raise/flick of the wrist and you van have a clear look at your stats during a workout or spin cycle.
The Ionic features the heart rate tracker, which according to the company is even more accurate than on other Fitbits thanks to new algorithms and a design that means it sits much closer to the skin.
It’s suitable for running, cycling, swimming, weights and much more and comes with in-built workouts that you can follow on the watch. There’s built-in GPS and being able to look through your data after you’ve been on a long run or ride is a great feature. For running, the new automatic pause option is quite brilliant, which notices, for example, when you’ve stopped to cross at some traffic lights. It pauses your workout, then restart when you begin exercising again. That’s ‘smart’.
There are tailored workouts to show you exactly what to do, and every time you complete one you can supply feedback so Fitbit Coach can work out whether you need something easier or harder next time.
You can also upload music to the Fitbit Ionic, with 2.5GB of free space at your disposal, which allows for around 300 songs. The big plus to this is being able to listen to music on the go without having to take your phone to the gym or on a run but it’s irritating that you can’t integrate with some of the most popular streaming services, such as Spotify or Apple Music.
Fitbit has also included mobile payments on the Ionic through its own service called ‘Fitbit Pay’ which will (it’s still to launch) allow you to use NFC to pay on contactless terminals with your wrist. Fitbit is partnering with Visa, American Express and Mastercard for this feature and ultimately it will be a useful extra way of being able to make payments when you’re out exercising.
The Fitbit Ionic works alongside the Fitbit app on your phone, which is compatible with most modern iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices. Right now it’s unclear what third-party options will be included in the future – it’s only Fitbit services for now and the Strava and Starbucks Card apps. At launch, everything on the Ionic App Gallery is free.
The Fitbit Ionic’s battery lasts an impressive four and five days with limited usage. If you’re going to be working out a lot with the watch it’ll be a lot less, and the battery gets hit especially hard when using GPS.
I use it every day and on the whole find it very impressive, but as someone who hasn’t used another smartwatch, I have nothing else to compare it with. Now quite iconic yet, but definitely worth a look.
The Fitbit Ionic is priced at £299.00 https://www.fitbit.com/uk/shop/ionic