Fitbit Ionic review – Is this wearable an Apple Watch beater?
Fitbit Ionic review • £299
- PROS – Ludicrously long battery life • Good fitness tracking • Fitbit Pay works well
- CONS – Too expensive • Not enough app support • Design won’t please everyone
The smartwatch revolution shows no signs of slowing.
Apple recently announced its wearable tech is currently the most popular watch in the world beating the likes of Rolex to the top spot.
Now there’s another tech timepiece that’s trying to grab the attention of consumers with Fitbit having launched its all-new Ionic.
This device went on sale a few months ago but it’s just received a major update which brings more and improved features to your wrist.
So does this now mean the Ionic can take on the might of the Apple Watch and snatch the crown of the best smartwatch in the world?
Express.co.uk has been putting it through its paces and here’s our full Fitbit Ionic review.
The Fitbit Ionic is comfortable and light to wear
FITBIT IONIC DESIGN
The Ionic is a device you’ll either love or hate.
Fitbit has gone for a very industrial look with a square design that gives it a futuristic feel.
Made from tough aluminium it’s certainly well made and, despite its slender design, should survive the daily perils of being attached to your wrist.
However, its hard edges, large size and angular appearance won’t be for everyone and, even though it arrives in numerous colours, it feels aimed firmly at the male market rather than being a unisex smartwatch.
Like some of its rivals the Ionic features easily removable straps which can instantly change the look and feel of the device.
The Fitbit Ionic comes in a number of colours
There’s a few to choose from including rubber and leather with prices starting from £24.99.
Sadly, there’s not currently enough designs to give the Ionic the edge over Apple.
Apple Watch owners have a huge array of straps with over 55 different versions currently available to choose from.
There really is nothing wrong with the Ionic’s design as it’s comfortable to wear and solidly built but there’s simply not enough choice of colours, styles and sizes to make it an Apple Watch beater.
FITBIT IONIC DISPLAY
Unlike many of its rivals the Ionic has chosen a square design for its watch face and that’s no bad thing.
Although round smartwatches definitely have more appeal they lose a huge amount of space around the edges of the display, which can make reading messages or viewing content feel awkward and cramped.
The Ionic’s crips and clear Gorilla Glass LCD screen offers a decent experience – although its touch controls can stutter a little when swiping through menus.
Until this week there were just a few faces to choose from but the new updated from Fitbit means there’s now over 100 designs which is a huge improvement and should mean there’s a digital face to suit pretty much anyone.
One criticism of the Ionic’s display is the fact that there’s no always-on option which means raising your wrist every time you want to glance at the time.
It’s not a deal-breaker but it would have given it a slight advantage over the Apple Watch which has still failed to introduce always-on technology.
The Ionic features a decent LCD display which is bright and clear
Fitbit recently released a major update which includes a swathe of new watch faces
The Ionic is of course made by Fitbit so you’d be excused for expecting some decent fitness tracking from this latest smartwatch.
Luckily the Iconic doesn’t disappoint with it able to monitor everything from steps taken, stairs climbed, calories burned and even how much sleep you’re getting.
Once you start an exercise, such as a run or bike ride, you can see instant data such as distance, time and heart rate displayed on the screen.
And as soon as you’ve finished you’ll also see a full summary of how well you performed.
One new feature is the ability to give a far more accurate heart rate reading via Optical heart rate monitor.
Fitbit says this is its most advanced sensor to date and it can even keep an on your heart throughout the day alerting you to any strange rhythms or beats.
During our tests this feature worked well although we’re not entirely convinced it performed any better than the smartwatches we’ve tried previously.
The Fitbit Ionic is an excellent fitness tracker
Along with a decent heart monitor, Fitbit has also tucked GPS inside the Ionic’s case which means it will track your daily run, walk or bike ride without the need for a phone strapped to your arm.
Another bonus of the Ionic is that it’s waterproof to around 50 metres so you can monitor your time in the pool and record how many lengths you’ve managed to swim.
If you need some motivation the Fitbit will nudge you throughout the day to try and help you hit your goals plus there’s a few pre-installed workout sessions which even guide you, via an on-screen video, through the exercises it wants you to perform.
Once you’ve finished your fitness regime, all of the data is instantly beamed to the Fitbit smartphone app where it can be saved and used to track your performance.
There’s no doubting that the Iconic is a very good fitness tracker and it should certainly help you achieve your targets.
For all of its greatness the Ionic can’t beat the Apple Watch for features
This is one area where the Ionic nails it.
Battery life is incredible with the device lasting for days without needing to go near its charger.
This means you can head away for the weekend without worrying about packing extra cables.
Considering the Iconic has a full colour display and constant fitness monitoring, the four/five day battery life is hugely impressive.
Sadly, when it is time to refill the watch there’s a fairly nasty charging cable which clips awkwardly into the rear of the watch.
Fitbit would have been far better producing a dock or charging base to ship with Ionic rather than this ugly battery filler.
Fitbit Pay works well on the Ionic with a simple tap revealing your payment options
FITBIT PAY AND NOTIFICATIONS
One neat trick up the Ionic’s sleeve is the ability to pay at the till using the device.
Fitbit Pay is similar to other digital services with a simple tap on any contactless card readers meaning you don’t have to reach for your credit card.
Fitbit Pay is really good and works well with a long press on the home button instantly launching your payment option on the screen.
We tested Fitbit Pay in a number of coffee shops, supermarkets and on the London Underground with it being accepted without any issues.
Whilst the money service is good the notifications certainly aren’t.
Yes you’ll get an alert when someone calls or sends you a message but there’s no way to respond via the device making it a slightly pointless feature.
Fitbit is adding more apps and interactions with Nest, Trip Advisor and Yelp all arriving on the watch.
British Airways is expected to announce its Fitbit app soon and music service, Deezer, is about to launch a way of listening to tracks straight from your wrist.
These extra features will certainly make the Ionic a lot more appealing but there will need to be a flood of apps before it catches up with some of its rival.
Fitbit’s first attempt at a proper smartwatch is pretty good.
The Ionic is well built, comfortable to wear and is packed with fitness features including in-built GPS and advance heart monitoring.
The fact it also works with both Android and Apple devices, and has a ludicrously long battery, gives it the edge over some of its rivals.
Fitbit has also been clever by allowing the watch to be customised with different straps, although it needs to add more designs to make this an ultimate reason to buy one.
We’ve been left impressed by the Ionic but it has one big problem and that’s the Apple Watch.
If you own an iPhone there really is no comparison, with Apple’s wearable offering so much more including better apps, improved notifications and even the ability to instantly link with gym equipment so your workout is saved as part of your daily routine.
The new Series 3 Apple Watch is only slightly more expensive than the Ionic which is possibly Fitbit’s biggest mistake.
Making the Ionic a lot cheaper may have been enough to entice consumers away from Apple but matching these high prices makes choosing it a lot harder.
The Fitbit Ionic is sure to get better over time and, in the future, could be a contender for best wearable.
But, right now, that crown is staying firmly with the Apple Watch.