Fitbit has almost consolidated the fitness bands segment with hardly any serious contenders left in the race. Now it wants to go for the smartwatch segment where Apple has been dominating over the past few years. The Fitbit Ionic is the first smartwatch from the company and aims to woo customers who want to add a layer of smartness to their fitness regime.
Fitbit Ionic price in India: Rs 22,990
Fitbit Ionic Review
The Fitbit Ionic is a large square-faced smartwatch with a touchscreen interface, two buttons on the right and one on the left. It has a heart rate sensor and a band that is comfortable enough for the watch to be worn to sleep. It works on the Fitbit OS and will come with a payment option for supported POS machines.
I switched to the Fitbit Ionic after a few months of using the latest Apple Watch 3. So if Fitbit was aspiring to make a smartwatch, I knew what it was up against. To start with, the Fitbit Ionic was easy to set up. Since I have used Fitbit before, it knows me and added the Ionic as a new device. The Fitbit app is at the core of the watch too and it is this app, with the different segments and gamification it gives, that actually makes Fitbit a serious contender in the fitness space.
What I liked the most was the display, which was crisp and clean. The interface is easy to understand, but takes a bit of getting used to when it comes to navigation. For instance, on the main screen where I am shown steps, calories burnt and heart rate, I tap to open details. Once I am on the steps screen, my natural inclination is to swipe and get to the calories screen. But on the watch, it is another tap away and swipes just takes me to the apps. This took some getting used to.
The fitness counters are accurate, as you would expect from Fitbit. There is one screen where it shows all my details, but with the larger screen I think Fitbit should also show some context with figures for the entire week. At the moment I have to go to the app for a deep dive.
I wore the watch while covering CES in Las Vegas, and this meant a lot of walking. So, on Day 1, I clocked over 16 km and close to 35,000 steps. While the watch keeps pushing you to finish you hourly step goals, I felt it needs to do more to reward achievements like this. This is clearly a watch meant for the overactive among us, so there has to be a way to get you to push for more. By the way, you can take this watch for a swim if you want as it is water-resistant and comes with swim tracking. Also, the watch understands what you are doing, which is great.
I cannot swim, but then I can sleep. Though I am not a big fan of wearing watches to bed, I did do so to check the sleep tracking on the Ionic. Fitbit gives the best analysis of sleep that I have seen in any app and splits data into sleep stages. However, it did not track my sleep on the long haul flights to and back from the US, which I found very strange. Maybe, because I was not sleeping in the designated time slots. But I would have expected the watch to understand I was sleeping based on my heart rate.
Another good feature of the watch is the new Coach feature. The coach gives you step-by-step advice on how to go through certain workouts. It has videos of the same showing on your watchface too. I found this very useful, though I am a person who prefers walking for exercises. The only issue here is that it is tough getting out of this screen once it has been started.
Given that I am diabetic and stressed out at most times, the heart rate monitor is something I hold close to my heart. The Ionic is able to monitor heart rate real time and give good data on the app, especially on how your resting heart rate has been. Like the Apple Watch, the Ionic should also look at giving out alerts based on heart rate so that the data can be put to use when the watch understands that the rates are fluctuating.
The Ionic can store music and play it directly via Bluetooth to a headphone without any need for a smartphone. This is a good feature to have for those who listen to music during workouts. The Ionic also has a wallet option which you can use like Apple Pay to make payments at supported POS machines. However, this is not live yet and will take some time to be active in India.
With Ionic, Fitbit hopes to trigger an app ecosystem of its own. There are a few apps already, like New York Times, which gives latest headlines, and Strava to track your runs. But you will soon run out of options. The watch faces can also be changed, but again options are limited for now.
One reason you might actually pick up the Ionic is its battery. It needs to be charged only once in five days and I verified this multiple times and with different scenarious. So, a regular user will need to charge this only on weekends and then use it on the trot from Monday to Friday. There are very few smartwatches that can do this, at least with a vivid display like the Ionic.
Fitbit Ionic Review Conclusion
Fitbit Ionic is a good upgrade for those who have been using other Fitbit for a while. However, for others, given that the price is very similar to older Apple Watches, the Ionic might appear a bit underwhelming. But then not everyone is on the Apple ecosystem, and that might be a good enough reason to prefer the Fitbit Ionic