Fitbit launched its First “Proper” Smartwatch, Ionic, last year in October, and in February this year in India at a price point of Rs 22,999. While the Smartwatch offers everything its previous generation has offered, it also offers much more, especially with the recent announcement of Fitbit OS 2.0
Take a step back, let’s look at the previous attempt of Smartwatches from Fitbit. The Surge was the first which offered smartwatch look, followed by Fitbit Blaze, but of them didn’t make the cut mostly because of the current competition which offered more than just being a Fitness Tracker.
Ionic was launched with Fitbit OS which offers Apps, Payments, Offline Music over Bluetooth, Clock Faces, and so on. After using it for almost a month now, and recent firmware update which brings part of next major update of Fitbit OS 2.0, here is what I think about Fitbit Ionic from an Indian perspective.
What’s in the Box?
Design and Display
Ionic offers a complete metal build with a gorgeous display I had always expected. That, and it delivered a comfortable fit on my wrist none like any other. I had used Surge, Aria, Blaze, and others, understanding the difference was a no-brainer. It feels lightweight, and grip is impressive when working out. I really love the way bands lockout, and it doesn’t bother me when using the keyboard.
The Ionic design is well done even if it misses on the universal appeal. Its a square-shaped watch with Aluminium build and finish that attracts. Say, for example, it has the antenna designed. for GPS, aligned with the shape of the watch which looks attractive.
Like Surge, and Blaze, the Ionic has three buttons, but they are more prominent. This makes it easy using them even when not looking at it, especially when you want to pause while working out.
And That DISPLAY!!
Ionic houses a multi-color LCD screen of size 384 x 250, and the display looks rich, and brightness is fantastic even in auto mode. The advantage you get is that the screen is readable when in bright sunlight. I keep track of my heartbeat, and I had never been disappointed about it.
One of the biggest advantages you get of the big screen is more details it shows up. I can instantly figure out if the current heart rate is in fat burn zone or it’s in cardio which makes a lot of difference for athletes. What I really didn’t like about it was a lot of wasted space on the screen.
Bezels are thick, and even though the screen looks big, those are annoying. Fitbit should have used the display to the full. That said, The Display is protected by Gorilla glass, but still, expect scratches to show up!
When I first started using Ionic, I found the response of the display little slow. However, after the recent Firmware Update, it’s much smoother, and with shortcuts added to buttons, its much faster experience now. Though, Fitbit uses animations everywhere which is annoying and makes me feel that it’s rather slow sometimes.
Fitness Features & Real life experience:
Customization for Workouts
A lot has changed compared to Blaze and Surge, thanks to Fitbit OS. You can now customize stats on your screen before you go out for a workout. And once you are done, it stays for each of them. Those minute details actually made a huge difference. Here is the list:
- Choose what shows on top and bottom of the screen. I had placed current time on top so I don’t have to swipe every time to figure it out, and elapsed time at the bottom.
- You can choose which stats show up in the middle of the screen. Stats like Time and Elapsed time was redundant, and calories burnt, average pace etc were something I would like to see post workout. This made sure I do fewer swipes and see my details faster.
- Apart from these, depending on the workout you can change things as well. Automatic Lap Settings, Auto Pause & RUN Detect, and so on are very handy.
- You can jump into Workout mode by pressing the top-right button once.
- It also shows stats of the whole day, including a list of workouts you did. Finally, I can see everything without opening the App.
The onboard GPS has been impressive, and it never failed in between workouts. I can say this because Surge not only took double the amount of time to figure out, but it also used to break during runs. I am guessing that it’s probably had to do with the positioning of the antenna bands.
The missing Fitbit Coach Integration:
Ionic was marketed as “Leave your phone behind” tagline. but if you are hooked into the Fitbit Ecosystem, you will instantly miss the Fitbit Coach integration. There is no way to customize, and load workouts, especially the Audio workout into the watch. This is something I use heavily, every day, and leaving the phone is not an option for now. That said even if I consider Video workout pre-loaded into the watch, there is no audio cue, and it becomes useless.
Fitbit OS 2.0 is expected to bring this feature, but that’s expected by May this year. I will hold my comments unless I can experience it.
Apart from this, Fitbit hasn’t enabled SPO2 sensor as well. It helps to figure out blood oxygen levels, and if you are suffering from Sleep Apnea, Diabetes, and more.
Finally, you can take your Fitbit along when swimming. It has a 5ATM water resistance (50m). You can see your stats, and so on. The app offers Swimming mode as well. But then it’s at the basic level, and not for professionals. Say for example it cannot track length of kick, not automatic stroke detection, and so on.
Notifications & Messages:
Fitbit OS 2.0 supports notification from Apps, Email Client, SMS, and calls. I would say they work 95% of the time, and you can view a lot of details of each notification. This came in very handy for Long Emails and WhatsApp messages. I had to restart my phone every alternate day else notification gets buggy. The same used to happen with Blaze as well.
A small change which makes a significant impact is that Clear All option for notifications has been moved to the top. This makes it easy to clear all of them when there are too many.
Music & Bluetooth Support:
You can load music into Fitbit using the Desktop App. It uses WIFI to transfer the music which means you need to be on the same network. Fitbit App lets you create Playlist, and that can be synced back to your phone. There is no support to sync individual music files.
You get music control on the watch and stream it to a Bluetooth speaker or a Bluetooth headset. You can even switch between phone audio, and watch audio on the go. However, the connection is flaky during a workout. I am guessing the Bluetooth is not very powerful, and sound breaks when running or when you move your arms a lot.
As of now, there is no streaming service support except for recently introduced Deezer. It’s not available for India, so I wasn’t able to test it.
It easily lasts for 3-4 days with 1 hr of GPS every day. That’s how I use it throughout the week. I have notifications turned on for specific apps, emails, SMS, and calls.
App Store & Watch Faces:
While it does sound charming, it’s at a very nascent stage, and I am guessing it will take a year to evolve. Just like Android, Fitbit needs to get developers on board to develop complimentary apps that can work along with their phones. Its majorly Fitbit developed apps right now.
If you are a big fan of watch faces, you have tons of them here. You can load which suits your style.
Should You Buy it?
Fitbit Ionic is a much stable product as of now, especially when compared to initial launch. Even then, a lot of work is still pending, and with features like SPO2, and payment missing for the majority of people, only a major update can help.
That said, it’s still a great Fitness Tracker, and if you believe the company, especially with its upcoming Fitbit OS 2.0 which will bring features that will match with Android Wear, it should be much better to what it was 6 months before, and now. I still love its build quality, display, and that customization that it offers from Fitness Perspective.
If you have the money and want a rock-solid fitness tracker from Fitbit, this is what you need to pick up!