Test Driving the Fitbit Ionic Smartwatch
We have been wearing activity tracking devices for some time now. Many of us been involved in those one-on-one competitions with coworkers or family members to see who can log more steps on their tracking device for a day, week or month. (Currently Phil has the Bill and Phil record with more than 21,000 steps in one day at the Consumer Electronics Show exhibit hall in Vegas.)
We have heard of law firms issuing fitness tracking devices to all employees and initiating firm-wide activity competitions — in exchange perhaps for some discounts on health insurance. Whatever the motivation, however, tracking your daily activity with the devices and maintaining a historical record of your progress via a web-enabled dashboard is popular with techies and non-techies alike.
Fitbit has been a leader in the tracking device market, and they have created an array of products from simple step-counting devices to more full-featured devices that increasingly blur the lines between activity trackers and smartwatches. The Fitbit Ionic is their latest release, and it definitely can be classified as a “smartwatch,” comparable to the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear and other popular models. We have purchased a number of Fitbit products through the years, so when the Ionic was announced, we decided we had to give it a try — especially since it was the most advanced device yet from the folks at Fitbit.
We definitely felt that Fitbit had moved into the smartwatch category with the Ionic when we saw the price. The Ionic set us back $299, so we were expecting something that would do much more than say “have a nice day” and tell us how many steps we had walked. The price point puts the Ionic on the same level as the Apple Watch, and so we expected similar features. We were very pleased.
WHAT WE LIKE
First of all, the watch face is large enough to be readable, but still not too heavy on your wrist. You can change out the wristband, but the band it came with is perfect for both casual wear and workouts. The second observation of the Ionic — once we turned it on — was the bright, colorful screen that showed up quite nicely even in the sunlight.
Setup was a breeze as we downloaded the Fitbit app on our phone and followed the step-by-step instructions. Unlike the Apple Watch, the Ionic will work both with iPhone and Android phones. But the Ionic does not have built-in LTE connectivity like the new Apple Watch 3. As a result, you must have the phone in close proximity to the watch in order to be able to get notifications and answer calls.