Update: New rival smartwatches have launched since the Ionic arrived, including Fitbit's own Versa, the Apple Watch 4 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch. Plus, the Ionic's long-promised SpO2 feature is still absent, but the price continues to fall.
Fitbit has become synonymous with fitness trackers, but now the company has decided to expand into a whole new market. Long rumored, we finally have the first Fitbit smartwatch, and it’s called the Ionic.
The company has combined its fitness know-how with the smarts of a variety of companies it’s bought – such as Pebble, which Fitbit acquired in 2016 – and brought it all together to add an impressive new wearable to its range.
Offering similar features to expensive alternatives such as the Apple Watch range and Wear OS watches, the Fitbit Ionic is a serious contender to be the smartwatch you choose to wear when you’re out running or hitting the gym.
However, there's now the additional competition of the Apple Watch 3 and Apple Watch 4, which add LTE to the mix, not to mention the incursion of Garmin into the fitness smartwatch space with the Forerunner 645.
Since the launch of Ionic, we've also seen the company introduce a new smaller and more affordable smartwatch called the Fitbit Versa. If you're planning to buy a new smartwatch from Fitbit check this one out as it costs less, has a great design and many of the same features as the Ionic.
Here we're going to focus on the Fitbit Ionic though, so read on below for our full review of the company's very first smartwatch.
Fitbit Ionic price and release date
- The Fitbit Ionic launched at £299.95 / $299.95 / AU$449.95
- It's an expensive option for a fitness watch
- Out now around the world, but so is the Versa
The Fitbit Ionic launched as the most expensive wearable yet from Fitbit. At £299.95 / $299.95 / AU$449.95 it costs more than the Fitbit Surge running watch did at launch, but a bit less than the Apple Watch 4 or LG Watch Sport.
Since the launch of the cheaper Fitbit Versa, we've seen the price drop some way to around $200 / £240 / AU$350. Expect that price to drop a little more during sale periods such as Black Friday 2018.
Design and display
- Aluminium build and lighter than most smartwatches
- Either plastic or leather bands that are easy to swap out
The Fitbit Ionic is a comfortable fit on your wrist, and compared to a lot of modern smartwatches is particularly light – so much so that you'll instantly notice how lightweight this feels on your wrist, which makes it a more pleasant to wear while working out than, say, the LG Watch Sport.
It’s a good fit for everyday use too, being comfortable to wear at a keyboard, which should encourage you to wear it all day to ensure the most accurate readings possible.
It’s waterproof, so you can take this in the shower or even go swimming with it – more on that in the fitness section.
The body of the watch is made of aluminum and features very small antenna bands on the sides, but it’s attractive and is easily the best-looking Fitbit product so far. That said, we found the design to be rather divisive, with friends and family either loving the look or hating it.
You may well love the look of the Fitbit Ionic, but if you’re bothered about what others think just bear in mind that it’s not likely to have the universal appeal of, say, the Apple Watch.
There’s one hardware button on the left-hand side with another two on the right that sit in similar positions to those on the Fitbit Blaze and enable you to move around the watch’s UI.
Each is slightly raised too – Fitbit presumably thinks this will help you find them more easily when you’re fumbling around for the buttons while sweating and gasping for breath when pushing yourself.
We found the buttons worked for making the UI simple, plus it’s a touchscreen, so you can cycle through the apps by swiping.
There are leather and plastic strap options available with secure fasteners on each so the Ionic won't fall off when you're out for a jog.
We used both, and the plastic option is comfortable for when you’re sweating in the gym, while the leather strap is a much more attractive look – so you might want to get both if you want to wear this watch both for working out and dining out.
The display on the Ionic is a full-color screen that’s rectangular, unlike the more square Apple Watch or most Android Wear watches, but it is reminiscent of the Blaze’s screen. This one is quite a bit bigger though, and that’s down to the bezels being thinner.
That said, the bezels are relatively thick on the Fitbit Ionic. It’s one of our major criticisms of the design, and we think there’s a lot of wasted space below and above the screen. Fitbit could have included a much larger and more useful display instead.
Also, the Fitbit logo is annoyingly placed just below the screen, taking up quite a bit of room on the wearable.
The resolution of the LCD screen is 384 x 250, and we particularly like how bright it is – it reaches 1000 nits, which is the same as the Apple Watch 2 and means you can view it even in bright sunlight when out on a run.
We found the touchscreen to be a little slow to respond sometimes, and we often had to move our wrist fairly violently for the raise-to-wake feature to work. That’s particularly annoying when you’re working out and you need a clear look at your stats fast.