- Suitable for running, cycling, swimming, weights and much more
- Comes with in-built workouts that you can follow on the watch
- We love the built-in GPS and heart rate monitor
All of the fitness features we’ve come to know and love on other Fitbit products are here, and there are a few upgraded elements too.
The Ionic features a heart rate tracker, which according to the company is even more accurate than on other Fitbits thanks to shiny new algorithms behind the scenes and a design that means it sits much closer to the skin.
We found it worked much quicker than on previous Fitbit products, and in our testing we found it to be as accurate as other trackers and watches on the market. This is particularly useful for exercising, and Fitbit will use your heart rate for a lot of the information that’s displayed in its workouts app.
There’s built-in GPS here too, and Fitbit reckons your connection should be better than on the Fitbit Surge as the antenna bands are placed in optimal positions to ensure a better tracking connection.
Connecting to GPS sometimes took a little longer than we’d have liked, but we never lost connection while running or walking. Being able to look through your data after you’ve been on a long run or ride is a big feature too.
New features for running include an automatic pause option, which will notice when, for example, you’ve stopped to cross at some traffic lights and pause your workout, then restart when you begin exercising again.
Fitbit has also included workouts in its new Fitbit Coach feature that is accessible from the watch and will offer a similar service to the Fitstar app you can download on your phone.
These are tailored workouts that will show you exactly what to do, and every time you complete one you can supply feedback so Fitbit Coach can work out whether you need something easier or harder next time.
The aim here is to help you improve, and while it seems like quite a basic system it should encourage you to try different types of exercise.
Fitbit plans to also bring audio workouts to the Ionic – and they can’t come soon enough, because it’s a big missing feature here. When trying out workouts within the Coach feature, we found ourselves rushed to get onto the next part.
For example, it’ll start you off with 12 push-ups and give you a buzz on your wrist when you’re done, then tell you your next workout position and give you nine seconds to get ready.
Without an audio cue, you have to look at your wrist, study the form of the workout and then be ready to start, all within nine seconds. When you’re sweating and gasping for breath, we often found this was nigh on impossible.
Fitbit has also included an SpO2 sensor here to monitor blood oxygen levels – in a similar way to the Samsung Galaxy S8 – but the feature isn't enabled at launch, and is included as something Fitbit will hopefully push out at a later date.
We also now know the Fitbit Ionic is set to be a useful device for those with diabetes. If you pair the watch with a Dexcom G5 Mobile sensor (a specialist device that costs $900) it'll be able to display your glucose levels so you can monitor them.
It's an interesting concept, and it could make the Fitbit Ionic a must-have device for those with diabetes.
Performance and battery life
- Battery life lasts for four to five days from a single charge
- Some menus take a long time to load and can be frustrating when exercising
The exact internals of the Fitbit Ionic are a little unclear, and we don’t expect to know much about what’s running under the hood. In our testing, however, we found that the Fitbit Ionic user interface can be a little slow at loading.
For example, setting up a workout can take quite a long time compared to other competing devices, and it can also be frustrating when you want to get accurate fitness readings. We haven’t found that apps crash while using it though.
We found that the Fitbit Ionic’s battery lasted between four and five days with limited usage. If you’re going to be working out a lot with the watch it’ll be a lot less, and the battery gets hit especially hard when using GPS.
Fitbit estimates it lasts for 10 hours of constant GPS tracking, and we think that’s about right – and it’s still around the same amount of time as your average running watch is able to last for.
You can also upload music to the Fitbit Ionic, with 2.5GB of free space at your disposal. That’s not much, and will only allow for around 300 songs, but if you have particular audiobooks, podcasts or albums you're always going back to there should be space for some of them here.
You can then connect Bluetooth headphones and listen to music on the go without having to take your phone on your run.
We found the Bluetooth connection remained stable, but it’s irritating that you can’t integrate some of the most popular streaming services, such as Spotify or Apple Music, to download any music you want easily.
Instead you have to own the files and upload them manually using a computer, which all feels a touch too complicated, and encouraged us to just take our phone out on the run instead.
Apps and compatibility
- Works on iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices,
- You'll need to be able to download the Fitbit app from your phone's app store
- Fitbit's App Gallery is currently limited, hopefully will improve soon
The Fitbit Ionic will work alongside the Fitbit app on your phone, which is compatible with most modern iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices.
The Ionic comes with its own App Gallery – Fitbit is insistent this isn’t an app store – that includes Fitbit’s own services as well as third-party apps. Fitbit has opened up the software building tools for third-party developers, so hopefully we’ll see other services such as Spotify get involved in the Fitbit space too.
A recent update to the Ionic add some new popular apps such as Nest and Hue to control your smart home, Uber and TripAdvisor for travelling and Flipboard for news consumption among others.
You can also choose a variety of watch faces within the Fitbit app, and there are currently lots of good choices. The above mentioned update also added some additional watch faces and we're guessing that's how additional apps and watch faces will be added to the Ionic over time.
While not available in the Middle East just yet, Fitbit has included mobile payments on the Ionic through its own service called – you guessed it - Fitbit Pay. This is based on tech from a company called Coin, which Fitbit bought a few years back, and will allow you to use NFC to pay on contactless terminals with your wrist. Fitbit is hoping to have this operational in our region in the next few months.