Fitbit brings its fitness flair to the smartwatch game, with a hybrid that does far more than just tracking steps and sleep…
Another smartwatch from the fit tech royalty, but is the Ionic really iconic or just another puffed-up sleep-and-steps tracker? We beast one at the gym to find out
Everybody knows Fitbit for its fitness trackers, but now it’s moving up to fitness-tracking smartwatches too. With the Fitbit Ionic it’s produced a hybrid device that does the smartwatch essentials (ie, telling the time and sending notifications), makes it fun to track steps and sleep, then adds extra in-depth fitness tracking. It’s not really like an Apple Watch; it’s more akin to Garmin’s hardcore Forerunner 645 Music.
Hero or zero?
The Ionic wants to be iconic, design-wise, and it’s certainly, er, distinctive. The square face means you have to be quite careful in choosing from the plethora of colour/strap combinations. Go for muted tones and it looks quite striking; the more garish combos are a bit too striking.
Made from aluminium, it’s lighter than many rivals and the plastic and leather bands are comfortable and secure, yet simple to swap out. You can wear the Ionic all day, though it comes into its own during runs and workouts. The three buttons are raised so you can still find them when you’re sweaty, and the touchscreen is easily legible even in strong sunlight.
Basic fitness features, as ever with Fitbit, are best in class. You can track steps, stairs climbed, calories burned and take on challenges direct from Fitbit, or ‘step-offs’ against friends. Sleep tracking is the most in-depth you’ll find and seems very accurate.
The Ionic is also a fine running and gym watch, with unusually good wrist heart-rate tracking during intense activity. The GPS can be slow to lock on, but we’ve seen worse. The Ionic also handily auto-detects and tracks runs. Oh, and unlike previous Fitbits you can finally leave the screen permanently on when working out, rather than having to repeatedly ‘raise to wake’, like you’re practicing cocktail shaking.
As a smartwatch, the Fitbit Ionic handles notifications well. You can also play music from the watch via Bluetooth, and NFC payments are supported, albeit only from a small number of banks so far. Where the Ionic scores over Android watches is on battery life, with about four to five days per full charge.
The Ionic has flaws, sure. The on-wrist video coaching is half-baked, and in a certain light the watch is kind of ugly. However, it’s also the most sophisticated Fitbit ever, capable of far more than just counting steps and hours of sleep.