Fitbit Ionic: The $300 Apple Watch competitor ships in October

Glossy and sq..

Sarah Tew/CNET

In late August, Fitbit unveiled the Ionic, an all-new, full-fledged smartwatch that clearly aimed to compete with the Apple Watch. Again then Apple was nonetheless on its Watch Sequence 2, however the firm simply final week introduced the Sequence three, which comes with mobile connectivity and has lots of people excited.

The Apple Watch Sequence three begins delivery on Sept. 22. The smaller 38mm mannequin begins at $399 with mobile and $329 with out. Within the UK, that is £399 with LTE and £329 with out; in Australia it is AU$559 and AU$459. Bigger 42mm fashions have beginning costs which can be a bit dearer throughout the board. And, after all, you may want so as to add the mobile mannequin to your wi-fi plan. Within the US, that’ll price you about $10 monthly. 

The Ionic, in the meantime, is accessible for preorder for $300, £300 or AU$450. It is because of arrive in clients fingers’ someday in October.

It is unclear what the timing of the Ionic’s launch will imply for its gross sales, however each CNET editor David Carnoy and I’ve been utilizing it for a number of weeks and located quite a bit to love about it.  

Fitbit’s most feature-packed wearable

The Ionic appears to be like sharp, is absolutely waterproof as much as 50 meters and has a crisp, daring show, in addition to GPS. It additionally has higher battery life than the Apple Watch — round 4 days in contrast with simply 18 hours for Apple — and focuses on Fitbit’s core competency: health monitoring. Nevertheless, thanks, partly, to Fitbit’s acquisition of Pebble, the Ionic can have an actual app retailer when it ships (we have solely examined a really restricted variety of apps). There’s additionally contactless funds and onboard music storage. 

And the listing goes on: The guts charge sensor has added sensitivity for potential use as a sleep apnea detector. Embedded NFC additionally lurks for potential options that may allow you to faucet the watch in opposition to a sensor, like unlocking doorways maybe. Yeah, it is bold. It is a large fitness-watch moonshot to compete with the bleeding-edge watches available on the market. Whether or not Fitbit could make all of the items work completely stays to be seen.  

The Ionic is only one of Fitbit’s new merchandise: There’s additionally a set of wi-fi sport headphones, known as Fitbit Flyer, that are supposed to be a companion to the Ionic watch. However Ionic is, abruptly, a sequel to the growing old GPS-equipped Fitbit Surge, which Ionic replaces, and final 12 months’s watch-like Fitbit Blaze, which continues to be on sale.

After Fitbit finalizes its software program within the coming weeks, we’ll submit a full assessment, however within the meantime here is a fast rundown of the Ionic’s key options.

Swappable bands, new design: It looks like a sleeker Fitbit Blaze, with design touches of the Fitbit Cost 2 and Alta. For what it is value, that is Fitbit’s first in-house-designed tracker. Perforated sport bands and leather-based bands snap on and off simply, and all felt good. 

However the Ionic’s physique is huge, and considerably thick. It’s kind of bigger-feeling than the 42mm Apple Watch Sequence three. Sport bands price $30, £25 or AU$60, and leather-based bands price $60, £50 or AU$100. You may simply use the curved touchscreen glass show to get across the interface, and there are additionally three buttons for exercise management, navigation, funds and music or notification shortcuts.

Simple-on bands.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Swim-ready: Lastly, Fitbit addresses certainly one of its largest flaws (previous fashions have been barely splash resistant.) The Ionic provides 50 meters of water resistance and might do swim monitoring, catching up with the Apple Watch Sequence 2.

Funds: Fitbit acquired Coin final 12 months, and Fitbit Pay is the fruition of that. The contactless fee system works like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay. I attempted it with a preloaded card for a check fee and it labored. The facet button triggers the transaction. However the variety of banks and markets Fitbit Pay will work with at launch continues to be unclear.

Fitbit Ionic Watch

Pay on the go, in case your financial institution’s supported by Fitbit Pay.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Music: It will get extra sophisticated right here. Not like Apple Watch or Android Put on, which faucet into the Apple Music service and Google Play retailer for music, Fitbit Ionic’s 2.5GB of music storage can solely be loaded with a pc. 

Alternatively, there’s Pandora, the one music app Fitbit’s partnered with. Spotify, which works on the Samsung Gear Match 2 Professional, is a no-show. Pandora requires a premium subscription to sync playlists onto the Ionic for runs. 

Wi-fi headphones can pair to the Ionic over Bluetooth, with Fitbit promising that its new Flyer headphones pair robotically to it. Fitbit additionally touts that its headphones can seamlessly change between your telephone and the watch.

Fitbit Ionic Watch

Fitbit’s new watch does music, and Fitbit’s promoting wi-fi headphones too.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Notifications: Just like the Blaze, the Fitbit Ionic hooks into Android and iPhone notifications, (the watch syncs with Android, iOS and Home windows). They are not interactive, although. Notifications pop up in a feed for fast glancing or may be turned off. 

Apps: Fitbit has opened an SDK to builders and is launching an app retailer (known as the App Gallery) in October alongside the launch of the Ionic, promising watch faces, apps and even video games… if builders are able to ship. 

The app retailer is being constructed with inspiration from Pebble, the smartwatch pioneer Fitbit acquired in late 2016. The objective is to get numerous health watch faces and helpful new concepts, in addition to make it straightforward to develop for.

Fitbit Ionic Watch

Pandora, Strava, Accuweather and Starbucks come pre-installed, however apps may also be eliminated.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Within the meantime, 4 apps come pre-installed on the Ionic: a Starbucks Card fee app, Pandora, the health app Strava and Accuweather (which continues to be stinging from a privateness outcry). In response to Fitbit, some future apps embody Adidas All Day, Flipboard, Sport Golf, Nest and Surfline, together with new watch faces. The apps may be browsed by swiping and the grid structure appears to be like a bit like an outdated iPod Nano.

Fitbit Ionic Watch

The watch has completely different train modes and in addition exercise modes just like the Blaze had.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Premium Teaching: Fitbit can also be rebooting its Fitstar teaching subscription right into a service known as Fitbit Coach. Launching within the fall, it guarantees “dynamic teaching” for each exercises and well being steering. Some are multi-week plans, and others are ongoing. 

Guided Well being packages equivalent to “kick that sugar behavior” promise a mixture of milestones, steering and instruments, however that is not arriving till “this winter.” A few of it sounds fairly bold. The Ionic has a handful of baked-in exercise steps just like the Blaze did, however no teaching but… though Fitbit guarantees audio-based on-watch teaching for the Ionic coming in 2018. 

Fitbit Coach will price $eight, £eight or AU$13 monthly. Or you possibly can pay $40, £30 or AU$63 a 12 months. It is clear that Fitbit is relying on subscription companies to be a much bigger a part of its earnings sooner or later. 

Improved health claims: Fitbit says it has improved GPS accuracy by including each GPS and GLONASS in addition to redesigning the antennas (10 hours of GPS-enabled operating on a full cost). The watch additionally boasts improved coronary heart charge monitoring accuracy and added desired previously-missing options like auto-pause when run-tracking.

Fitbit Ionic Watch

The Fitbit Ionic subsequent to the 42mm Apple Watch Sequence 2 for comparability.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Future fashions: Fitbit can also be branching into variations of the Ionic, beginning with an Adidas special-edition mannequin subsequent 12 months. Contemplating the Ionic can have custom-built apps, it is potential that extra particular editions might come sooner or later, just like the Apple Watch’s Nike and Hermes variants.

Lengthy(ish) battery: A “4 day plus” battery life (or 10 hours utilizing GPS) is considerably equal to the place Fitbit Blaze landed. It is days higher than an Apple Watch, Android Put on watch or Samsung Gear S3. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless on the quick facet for much less feature-studded on a regular basis health trackers.

The worth tag: The Ionic launches globally this October, with out an absolute launch date. Its worth is not unreasonable for all that it guarantees, contemplating the way it matches up in opposition to premium do-it-all watches just like the Samsung Gear S3, Apple’s Watch Sequence three (at the least the non mobile model) and even equal GPS watches from Garmin. 

Nevertheless it all is determined by how good the Fitbit Ionic is in any respect that it desires to do. We cannot know that till Fitbit’s software program and firmware updates arrive and app retailer will get populated. That caveat apart, the Ionic does look like a major step ahead from the Blaze or the Surge. We look ahead to proceed testing it.

Editors’ notice: This story was initially printed on August 28, 2017, and has been barely up to date so as to add data on competing merchandise and a few hands-on impressions.

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