Technophile

Fitbit Ionic: A smartwatch for the fitness freaks

Varun Agarwal | Updated on: Apr 25, 2018
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Probably the closest product to rival the Apple Watch Series 3

As I landed in Goa last week, I realized that I forgot to carry the charger for the new Fitbit Ionic smartwatch I had to review. With no hope of charging it again, I decided to continue reviewing the watch with the 85 percent battery level it displayed.

I used the watch to track my workout, walks, runs, used it to watch workout videos as a replacement for a coach. I even listened to the music I stored on it through a Bluetooth headphone and yet it survived the entire four-day trip with 15 per cent juice still left.

The Fitbit Ionic is definitely not the best looking smartwatch in the market. But if there was just one thing that could make anyone consider buying it, it’s battery life. No one likes to lug around multiple chargers everywhere, after all.

Fitbit’s had its own set of challenges in the past wherein their first attempt at a smartwatch turned out to be a complete disaster. But can the new Fitbit Ionic, the company’s latest attempt at smartwatches, bring back the glory days?

The design

Design is where Fitbit still needs to take a cue from Apple. While the build quality of Ionic is excellent, the boxy design could’ve been avoided. This is where Apple Watch clearly takes a lead. However, being focused on fitness, Fitbit strap makes the watch very comfortable to wear. You can even take it for a swim, and it’ll even track your lap timings.

In terms of display quality, the Ionic is one of the best with 1000 nits in brightness, matching that of Apple Watch Series 3. This makes it easy to read even in glaring sunshine, something most Android Wear watches still need to imporve on.

Applications

One area where there’s still a lot of work to do for Fitbit is developing its own app ecosystem. Unlike Apple and Android, which have a large developer base, Fitbit still seems to struggle to get enough developers excited, given its relatively smaller install base. You cannot even get Whatsapp alerts on the phone and limited app support takes away the fully ‘smart’ feeling.

Fitbit has tried to make everything available within the watch so you don’t have to use your phone to check most things. For example, it does not let you control your music on your phone. Instead, you need to transfer your songs to the watch using a computer (it won’t let you transfer anything from your phone).

The Ionic also comes with its own contact-less payment solution. But since neither Fitbit Pay nor Apple Pay works in India yet, it’s pointless.

Fitbit’s focus around fitness is apparent with the watch interface providing you with your daily and hourly step count, distance travelled, calories burned, heart rate — all without clicking on any app. The personal coach app provides you with three different workouts, with multiple different exercises in each of them. The watch also makes it very easy to track your swimming, cycling, running or other workouts.

But even the biggest fitness enthusiasts care a dime or two about vanity and that’s where the Fitbit watch faces come into play. Fitbit does come with a large variety of watch faces, but you can only change them through the mobile app and there’s no way to store your favourite ones. I personally liked the one with a vintage digital dial that turns the Ionic into the evergreen casio digital watch.

Specs

With its heritage in fitness tracking and after acquiring the former number one smartwatch-maker Pebble, Fitbit comes with a bunch of sensors to track your moves. This includes a GPS, NFC, heart rate tracker. The three physical buttons on the watch ensure that you can easily use it even under water.

The standard box comes with two gray straps, one large and another small. In case you want to share the watch with your family members, all you need to do is install the fitbit app on both phones and connect the Ionic to both. As the watch changes hands, you don’t need to change any settings.

There’s also a bunch of accessories available separately if you’re looking at a more stylish band, for example.

At ₹22,990, the Ionic is still a lot cheaper than Apple Watch Series 3 and in close vicinity with Apple Watch Series 1 and that could make it tough for Fitbit to compete. But Fitbit Ionic still packs enough to make it the closest competitor to the Apple Watch.

Published on April 25, 2018

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