- Editor Rating
- Rated 4.5 stars
- Fitbit Ionic
- Reviewed by:
- Published on:
- Last modified:
- Heart Rate functionalityEditor: 90%
- Heart Rate AccuracyEditor: 95%
- Activity Tracking featuresEditor: 100%
- Running functionsEditor: 80%
- Cycling functionsEditor: 70%
- Fitness monitoring featuresEditor: 99%
- Ease of UseEditor: 100%
- Battery LifeEditor: 95%
Fitbit have had a turbulent time over the last 6 months of 2017. Competition from Apple, Xiaomi and Garmin has been relentless. To get through 2017 and regain their fitness band throne in 2018 Fitbit needed to pull something magic from their marketing bag. It looks like they could have done it. The new Fitbit Ionic could well be the strongest alternative to the Apple Watch V3. The Fitbit Ionic fitness smartwatch has been reviewed by Tristan Haskins aka CardioCritic
Release Date (US) > October 2017
Product it replaced > None – NEW product
Suggested Retail Price > from GBP £299 / US$299 upwards depending on case, strap etc.
Who’s it For
If you have been considering an Apple Watch, Garmin Vivoactive HR, Polar M600, Moto 360, Samsung Gear or any other sports focused smartwatch then the Ionic could be for you. The Ionic is seriously focused on monitoring and improving fitness. 24/7 heart rate tracking, cardio fitness level tracking, and built-in GPS – it’s all covered by the Ionic. Everything has been considered from the crisp graphics amplified by 1000 nits and a scratch-proof Gorilla Glass 3 to personalized coaching plans.
Fitbit had one product missing from their product range. The essential design brief for this missing link would have gone something like this
- Integrated GPS
- Wrist Based Heart Rate
- 3 or 4 day battery life
- Genuine smartwatch functionality including App support
- Internal Music store (with Bluetooth connection)
And that’s where the Fitbit Ionic comes in. It comes complete with the integrated GPS and genuine smartwatch functionality courtesy of Fitbit’s development platform (Fitbit SDK). A very practical battery life offering 3 or 4 days wear with up to 10 hours of GPS training time (this will impact overall battery life). For those looking for further freedom from their smartphone while training the Ionic also has the ability to store up to 30o songs on it’s 2.5GB of internal memory, transmitting your music to Bluetooth headphones.
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Blaze, Surge or Ionic?
The Fitbit Surge was the only Fitbit product with built-in GPS before the arrival of the new Ionic. The Blaze is now out of production (mid 2017) and has not had a firmware update for nearly 2 years …bear this in mind when browsing bargains. Personally, I’d avoid buying a Surge and consider the Blaze or Ionic instead. The Fitbit Blaze is a current product (Sept 2017) and incorporates the on-screen training and guided breathing exercises. It can piggy back with the GPS from your smartphone if you do want accurate GPS feedback but must be in Bluetooth range.
Range Comparison – Blaze, Charge 2 and Ionic
From the current line-up of Fitbit fitness trackers the top of the range offering is the Ionic, followed by the Blaze and the Charge 2. The Charge 2 is a smaller, thinner fitband style tracker with similar functionality to the Blaze. The main differences between the Charge 2 / Blaze and the new Ionic are as follows:
- Ionic is Swim Proof – Charge 2 and Blaze are just splash proof
- Ionic features built-in GPS – the Blaze/Charge 2 share the GPS in your phone
- App support only found in the Ionic
- Built-in NFC chip to store credit/debit card data for cardless payments – Ionic only
- The Ionic can store up to 300+ songs on internal memory with Bluetooth playback
Next model UP
The Fitbit Ionic is the TOP of the Fitbit Fitness tracker range.
Next model DOWN
Below the Ionic are the Blaze and Surge (obsolete). The Fitbit Surge was released in October 2014 and no longer benefits from firmware updates. If you want integrated GPS it’s the only Fitbit alternative – personally I’d opt for a Blaze instead as a current product. The Fitbit Blaze is was awarded 4.5/5 Stars when originally reviewed in early 2016. The Blaze is a stylish & sleek fitness band with a clear & bright colour display, wrist based heart rate, connected GPS and comprehensive smartphone connectivity.
Significant Functions & Features
Fitbit Coach: This is a key feature of the Ionic – your own personal trainer. Adaptable dynamic workouts that provide onscreen workout advice personalised to your likes and feedback.
Running companion: Your Ionic will automatically track when you run. Run Detect is a clever feature that automatically starts GPS tracking. The timer can also be set to auto-pause when you have to stop for a breather or traffic etc.
Swim mode: This is Fitbit’s first fully swim proof watch being water resistance up to 50 meters. Internal sensors will count your laps and provide real-time feedback on laps, duration and calories burned for pool swims.
GLONASS & GPS: Get better performance tracking with the integrated antenna providing a stronger connection to both GPS and GLONASS satellites
Wrist Based Heart Rate: The Ionic utilizes Fitbit’s enhanced PurePulse® heart rate sensors technology providing greater accuracy during exercises. You’ll also have access to real-time heart rate zones clearing identifying your training intensity. Finally the Ionic provides 24/7 heart rate tracking to help better understand your recovery status (Resting HR remains elevated for several hours / days following intense exercise).
SpO2 Sensor technology: This is feature CardioCritic are keen to test. Fitbit use a relative SpO2 sensor for estimating blood oxygen levels in a similar way to a pulse oximeter. This new feature has the potential for tracking / controlling vital health indicators such as sleep apnea and asthma.
Internal Music: Exercising with music is motivational and fun. The Ionic features 2.5GB of internal storage providing enough space for up to 300+ songs. Make use of the popular Pandora Plus music streaming service. It is possible to sync your favorite stations or curated workout stations to the Ionic. Listen to your favorite music ad-free and offline—all from your wrist, leaving your phone at home. Music is transmitted to any Bluetooth connected headphones or the Fitbit Flyer headphones.
Make Payments: Currently this feature only applies to customers in the US. There is no doubt the list of financial establishments supporting it will grow over the next few months. The internal NFC chip lets you leave your wallet and phone at home. Swiping your Ionic across a contactless payment terminal will complete the secure and hassle free transaction.
Smart Notifications: With extended smartphone notifications, receive call, text and calendar alerts, as well as notifications from apps on your smartphone like Facebook, Gmail, Instagram, Slack, Snapchat and more.
Extended battery life: Something that really lets down sports based wearables like the Moto 360 and Samsung Gear is their limited batter life, not much more than a day in some cases. The Ionic addresses this failure with a solid 4+ day battery life on a single charge (10 hours with GPS or playing music). Further tests of the real-world battery life are required. Initial reaction is that 3 days with 1-2 hours GPS training data should be possible …. more to come.
In addition to these new features, Ionic has everything you love about Fitbit – automatically track your steps, calories, floors climbed and sleep stages, see your cardio fitness level (estimated VO2 Max), maintain moments of calm and more. Read more about everything Ionic has to offer here.
Summary of Ionic Features
Closest Alternative Fitness Trackers?
The Ionic is going to be HUGELY popular, there is no doubting that and it looks to be justly deserved success. The best alternatives to this sporty smartwatch are the Garmin Vivoactive HR (and the new Garmin Vivoactive 3), Polar M600 and Apple Watch. All three of these alternatives include built-in GPS, wrist based heart rate and support of Apps via various platforms (Android Wear, iOs and Garmin IQ Connect) The Polar M600 supports over 100 different sport profiles and also includes built-in music store via Google Music.
Update Oct 2017 > If you want your activity tracker to include built-in GPS & wrist based heart rate but remain SLEEK & DISCRETE then Garmin could have the answer … they have just released their new Garmin Vivosport fitness tracker. Replacing the Vivosmart HR+, the Garmin Vivosport features built-in GPS, wrist based heart rate, dedicated running functions (auto-lap, pace alerts etc) a full colour display, VO2 max, Stress tests and much more. CardioCritic have awarded the Garmin Vivosport Best on Test in the Fitness Tracker category and expect it to be one of the best selling fitness trackers of 2018.
Garmin Vivosport Best on Test – a sleek, discrete fitness tracker with GPS and wrist based heart rate
Customization & Styles
Fitbit have designed the Ionic with quick release wrist straps making it easy to customise to suit your mood and style. The watch itself comes in several case colours including Slate Blue, Burnt Orange, Charcoal and Graphite Gray. Wrist straps come in numerous styles including some brightly coloured Sport Bands in Cobalt & Lime and Coral & Blue as well as a stealthy Black & Charcoal. For those looking for a more formal look the Ionic can be fitted with a smart perforated leather band available in Cognac (brown) or Midnight Blue Horween Leather
Fitbit Ionic – Launch Video
This is Fitbit’s promotional video that accompanied the launch of the Ionic. In their own words “Get the watch designed for your life with Fitbit Ionic—a motivating timepiece packed with fitness guidance, health insights, music storage, apps and more”
Fitbit Apps, OS and SDK
Fitbit have their own App Gallery . It’s from the App Gallery that you’ll find a wide range of apps including Fitbit’s own range of health and fitness apps like Exercise, Fitbit Coach, Relax, Timer and more. These apps are all specifically designed for the Ionic and run free your smartphone – removing the need for duplicate apps on your phone. Leading partner apps available now include :
Pandora delivers a seamless music experience helping motivate you as you train. A wide range of workout stations, including the new Fitbit Motivation Mixtape, or automatically sync your most listened to stations. Requires premium membership – US only at present (Sept 2017)
Starbucks Coffee Company seamlessly pay for purchases using your Starbucks Card and Ionic device. US only at present (Sept 2017)
Strava is the most popular social network for millions of athletes at all levels. Whether you run, bike, swim, sail, SUP etc, Strava has it covered. CardioCritic is looking forward to testing this feature extensively. Will it support SEGMENT notifications like the Garmin Fenix 5 and Forerunner 935?
Weather forecasting is powered by AccuWeather. Select up to 3 global locations and receive up to date weather predictions
The Fitbit App Gallery will continue to expand with more popular apps expected soon, like adidas All Day6, Flipboard, GAME GOLF, Nest7 and Surfline, plus many more apps and clock faces created by our developer community ….
Fitbit Ionic Images
Detailed Activity Review
The Fitbit App only gets better and improves in parallel with the Fitbit fitness trackers. A large portion of the Fitbit Ionic customers will be serious runners. The Ionic and Fitbit App provide a very detailed summary of each exercise clearly showing GPS route, heart rate data, calories burnt and automatic lap summaries. The heart rate data includes a breakdown of time spent in each of the 3 x Heart Rate zones (Peak, Cardio and Fat Burn). A useful feature is the breakdown of steps and calories burnt during the exercise and how they contribute towards your daily goal.
Advanced Sleep Tracking
Fitbit go a step further with their sleep tracking than other leading fitness monitors. The Ionic breaks sleep down in to 4 categories. Awake, REM (dreaming), Light and Deep. The Fitbit APP illustrates the nightly sleep pattern with an easy to understand graph showing periods of time spent in each sleep zone.
Review Summary and Conclusions
It’s a bit too early to draw any firm conclusion on the performance of the Fitbit Ionic. Over the next few months we hope to see how it performs in the real-world in different environments. However, from the many hands-on third party reviews of the Ionic it looks like it’s going to be a HUGE SUCCESS. CardioCritic hopes to have a Fitbit Ionic to test before mid-October. This review will be edited to reflect any findings uncovered during our own tests throughout October and November.
Other NEW Fitbit products
Fitbit have been very busy lately. The Fitbit Ionic is one of THREE new products released in the last few days. The other new Fitbit products are the Fitbit Aria 2 intelligent scales and the Fitbit Flyer Bluetooth headphones perfect for use with the new Ionic – more details to follow