Skip to main content

Fitbit takes on Apple and Google with the Ionic smartwatch

Fitbit Ionic smartwatch
Image used with permission by copyright holder
After months of anticipation, Fitbit is finally ready to reveal its new smartwatch. It’s called the Ionic, and it combines the company’s prowess in activity monitoring with a dedicated app store, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and NFC for tap-and-pay transactions.

The Ionic packs a wealth of capabilities its predecessor, the Blaze, lacked. However, Fitbit is still positioning it more as a smartwatch for customers who are primarily interested in health and fitness. It boasts improved heart rate monitoring, which the company says is more accurate than in previous products. There’s also a blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) sensor to provide additional health insights, like the ability to track conditions such as sleep apnea.

When it’s time for action, there’s Fitbit Coach — the company’s new software for delivering personalized, guided workouts on the fly. Runners can track their journeys with the GPS-assisted Run Detect feature that automatically kicks in when you get moving. For swimmers, there’s a dedicated swim exercise mode with lap counting.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Speaking of swimming, the Ionic is rated water-resistant at 50 meters, and Fitbit says it’s extremely lightweight and comfortable to wear. The watch face has been constructed with nano-molding technology to blend metal and plastic into a unibody form. It looks a little chunky from the exterior, with large bezels around the bright, 1,000-nit, Gorilla Glass 3-clad display — but if you look closely, there’s a subtle curve to the form. It’s available in silver gray, smoke gray, and burnt orange.

Fitness aside, Fitbit has put a tremendous amount of work into making this a feature-complete daily smartwatch for the average user — and to do it, they’ve developed a new operating system and app platform. It’s called Fitbit OS, and the company says it will serve as the software basis for many of its future products. Watch faces and third-party apps will be housed in a hub called the App Gallery. Fitbit has already partnered with the likes of Pandora, Starbucks, AccuWeather, and Strava as some of the first examples on the store.

With the Ionic, Fitbit is also launching Fitbit Pay — it’s NFC-based payment platform that leverages the company’s acquisition of startup Coin a little over a year ago. Visa, American Express, and MasterCard have confirmed to Digital Trends that they are on board. The wearables maker says American Express is also on the way, in addition to support for credit and debit cards from the world’s top banks.

But perhaps the Ionic’s most welcome feature will be its battery life — if it matches Fitbit’s estimations. The Ionic is said to last over four days on a single charge, or up to 10 hours of continuous GPS use or music playback.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Music is actually a significant aspect of the Ionic. There’s 2.5GB of local storage on the device — good for about 300 songs — as well as the aforementioned Pandora integration. But Fitbit is also launching its first set of Bluetooth headphones alongside the watch, called the Flyer. Developed to work with the Ionic, the sweatproof, durable earbuds deliver audio optimized for workouts.

Verizon has told Digital Trends it will be the exclusive wireless partner for the Ionic, which will go on sale at retailers everywhere in October. The Ionic will run $300, and Verizon says it has started taking pre-orders on Monday, though the device is not yet live on its store at the time of writing.

Update: Fitbit has officially announced the Ionic.

Editors' Recommendations

Kyle Wiggers
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kyle Wiggers is a writer, Web designer, and podcaster with an acute interest in all things tech. When not reviewing gadgets…
The Apple Watch Ultra is the perfect women’s smartwatch — seriously
Apple Watch Ultra worn on wrist while doing an outdoor walk workout.

When Apple showed off the Apple Watch Ultra last September, I was excited to see it. The design alone was unique and a great change of pace from the tried-and-true design of the mainline Apple Watch Series 8. And the Action button was interesting and allowed for new possibilities for using the Apple Watch.

But one thing that was concerning for me, as well as plenty of other people, was the size. The Apple Watch Ultra only comes in one size, which is 49mm. It’s the largest Apple Watch, even beating out the 45mm of the Series 8. How would this 49mm Apple Watch Ultra look on smaller wrists, especially those of women?

Read more
No, you really don’t need Google Assistant on your smartwatch
Google Assistant listening on the Google Pixel Watch.

The Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 5 doesn’t have Google Assistant built-in, and you can’t separately download and install the app from the Google Play Store. It’s the latest in a line of Android smartwatches that don’t have Assistant onboard, following on from the Montblanc Summit 3 and most modern Fossil smartwatches, but it’s still a standard feature on Google’s own Pixel Watch.

Is Google holding Assistant back for its own devices? Maybe, but I’m not going to worry about it, and I definitely don’t think you should pick the Pixel Watch over the TicWatch Pro 5 due to it. Why? The Assistant on a smartwatch isn’t the selling point Google seems to think it is.
Is it needed on a smartwatch?

Read more
This $250 smartwatch destroys the Apple Watch in 4 ways
Amazfit GTR 4 LE on a tree branch with screen on.

Amazfit recently announced the Amazfit GTR 4 Limited Edition, and I used it to replace my similarly priced Apple Watch SE. It's a $250 health/fitness-orientated smartwatch, and upon first glance, it'd be easy to overlook it.

In my 10 days of usage, however, I came across a few things that the Apple Watch SE either doesn’t have — or offers on the more expensive Apple Watch Series 8. While the software experience on my Apple Watch SE remains unparalleled, there are four ways in which the new Amazfit GTR 4 LE is outright better.
The build quality is out of this world

Read more