Fitbit is having another crack at taking on the likes of Apple, Garmin, and LG with its newly unveiled Ionic smartwatch. The wearable packs in a bunch of tracking sensors, plus some useful extras like mobile payments, to make it the most advanced device yet to appear from the Fitbit stable.
Fitbit is describing the Ionic as the company's "first ever smartwatch," which we find a little confusing as it launched the Fitbit Blaze last year, another device that straps around the wrist to tell the time and monitor various health and fitness metrics. Is that not also what you would describe as a smartwatch?
Perhaps Fitbit just wants us to forget the Blaze ever happened, and whatever the nomenclature, the Ionic looks like being an upgrade in every department. What does distinguish it from its predecessor is support for third-party apps, so developers outside of Fitbit can build their own apps for the device.
The watch comes with integrated GPS and swim tracking alongside the usual step counting capabilities and an improved heart rate monitor. And as you would expect from a swim tracker, it's fully water resistant too, up to a depth of 50 meters (164 ft). Sleep tracking is also included if you're fine with wearing the device in bed, and Fitbit says its even sensitive enough to pick up on sleep apnea.
As far as its smartwatch credentials go, the Ionic works with both Android and iOS phones and supports smart notifications, contactless payments (with the help of a new Fitbit Pay service), and onboard music playback, as well as letting you install your own choice of watch faces, too.
Fitbit is promising a battery life that goes beyond four days, which is very competitive if that translates to the real world. The display is a colorful 1.42-inch LCD number that supports touch input, as you would expect, and has a rather run-of-the-mill resolution of 348 x 250 pixels.
You can see some of the influence of the Pebble software in the new FitbitOS running on the Ionic (Fitbit acquired Pebble last year), and that should ensure the app and notification experiences are smooth and intuitive. As good as the Iconic sounds on paper, though, we'll need to give it a proper test before we can deliver a full verdict.
This looks like a promising new device from Fitbit, but with so many similar smartwatches on the market, it remains to be seen whether it will become a smash hit. Having the pedigree of the Fitbit brand behind it certainly won't do it any harm.
The Fitbit Ionic can be pre-ordered now for $299.99, with shipping starting in October. You've got three color combinations to choose from: silver gray casing and a blue gray band, smoke gray casing and a charcoal band, or burnt orange casing and a slate blue band.
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