Fitbit Announces Its Ionic Smart Watch

Posted on August 28, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile with 15 Comments

Fitbit, the world’s biggest wearables maker, today announced its first true smart watch, the Ionic. The firm also launched its first set of wireless headphones, a new smart scale, and some associated services.

“Ten years ago, Fitbit pioneered the wearables category with the introduction of its first health and fitness tracker,” Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park says in a prepared statement. “Since then, we have become the leading global wearables brand, setting the pace of innovation in the category and establishing the largest social fitness network that helps millions of people around the world be healthier. With Ionic, we will deliver what consumers have not yet seen in a smartwatch: a health and fitness first platform that combines the power of personalization and deeper insights with our most advanced technology to date, unlocking opportunities for unprecedented health tracking capabilities in the future.”

Long rumored, the Ionic seeks to take on the Apple Watch in ways its previous sort-of watch, the Blaze, never could. Where the Blaze was arguably just a watch-shaped fitness tracker, the Ionic features a more desirable design and true smart watch features like GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networking, custom watch faces, and, of course, apps. Like other Fitbit wearables, and like the Apple Watch, customers will also be able to swap out the straps.

To my eye—and, granted, I’ve not seen the thing in person—the Ionic looks bulkier and sharp edged, and is a far cry from the elegant style of Apple Watch. That said, the battery life is a lot better: Fitbit claims 4+ days of battery life, compared to less than one day with Apple Watch.

Other unique features include dynamic, on-device workouts; run detection tied to the GPS; water resistance to 50 meters and a new swim mode; improved heart rate monitoring; a blood oxygen sensor, 2.5 GB of onboard storage for music; Fitbit Pay integration; and smart notifications. “Expert-designed running and walking Audio Coaching sessions” are coming in 2018, Fitbit says.

Fitbit Ionic costs $299.95 and will ship in October. It is available in three color combinations—silver gray tracker and clasp with a blue gray band, smoke gray tracker and clasp with a charcoal band, or burnt orange tracker and clasp with a slate blue band—and various straps and other accessories will be available as well.

You can learn more about Fitbit Ionic on the Fitbit website.

Additionally, Fitbit today also announced:

  • Fitbit Flyer, the firm’s first pair of wireless headphones, which it says are built for fitness. The cost is $129.95 and it is available for pre-order with shipments in 4-5 weeks.
  • Fitbit Aria 2, its second-generation smart scale. The cost is $129.95 and it is available for pre-order.
  • Fitbit Coach, a paid subscription service that provides audio coaching sessions and guided health programs. This is coming in Fall 2017, the firm says.

 

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Comments (15)

15 responses to “Fitbit Announces Its Ionic Smart Watch”

  1. Avatar

    VMax

    Oh how I wish someone would just release another device like the original Fitbit or Fitbit One - the ability to collect that data without needing a visible accessory is the single greatest feature a wearable product can offer, IMO.

  2. Avatar

    MikeGalos

    Great looking design. Absolutely looks better than Apple's bloated, rounded edges that look like they overstuffed a sausage.

  3. Avatar

    mmcpher

    Actually the Fitbit Surge already has most of what the Ionic is promising, including bluetooth, on-board GPS, syncing and notifications, heart and sleep monitoring. . . . The Surge doesn't have 4 day battery life (a little over 1) and is of a bulky design. The Ionic looks sleeker and hopefully addresses some of the deficencies of the Surge in syncing and accuracy.

  4. Avatar

    Darmok N Jalad

    It looks a little too angular to me, but maybe it's not that bad in person so I'd have to see it to make final judgement. Also, harder edges tend to snag on clothes more, which can make it hard to quickly check when wearing sleeves.

    While I don't consider the Apple Watch to be the most beautiful smart watch out there, it's not bad looking. I would really like to see what Apple could do with a round design, but I can see why they didn't go there. I would also like to see them make a square analog face for the current design. I think it would look better than a round face on a square body, but oh well.

  5. Avatar

    skborders

    I have the blaze and I like it. It doesn't have all the features of the new one but It does have 5-6 days battery life. Update: I compared them online and they look about the same size.

    • Avatar

      edboyhan

      In reply to skborders:
      I also have the blaze which is a replacement for my Microsoft Band 2 (which fell apart -- literally). I like it a lot. It works with my Lumia 950XL smartphone -- it particularly lets me play disco music with Groove on the 950 XL, and I can control the playback from the blaze while roller skating at the rink and listening on wireless Samsung noise cancelling headphones I haven't tried email or phone notifications. I don't miss the GPS at all, and the fitness stuff on the Blaze is better than what was offered on the Band. I like the battery life too.

      The Ionic seems interesting (especially the waterproofing), but at that price I'll pass and wait a few years before I upgrade from the blaze.


  6. Avatar

    ben55124

    Miss pebble. $100 watch that relays notifications. And that's all I need.

  7. Avatar

    Jim Lewis

    As a soon-to-be Galaxy Note 8 owner, if there is a Galaxy Gear S4 that's 50m water-resistant, for ~$50 more or so, I'll get a lot more smartwatch in the Gear, I think. Samsung claims that it's next high-end smartwatch will have an emphasis on improved health monitoring, too (similar sensor upgrades?). Right now it looks like the Fitbit Ionic would beat out the Galaxy Gear on interoperability across platforms. Good to see that heart rate monitoring is improved in the Ionic as Consumer Reports rated the Blaze (its predecessor) as only very good in HRM and the Fitbit Surge (with non-replaceable, relatively easily breakable straps-according to disgruntled owners) as the best. So, hopefully the Ionic comes as a device with Surge-quality HRM and it does have replaceable straps (Hurray!). Seems like most devices breakdown in HRM when used at high exertion levels so a fix on that score would help make the Ionic a hit, too. My experience with the MS Band is that when you're really sweaty, too, the touch interface doesn't work so well. So for a watch that you can take swimming, it would be great if it still works well when you have just got out of the pool, dripping wet. Hope reviewers will look out for that aspect of wearables, too.


    BTW, The Verge has an in-depth review from a preview user of the Ionic. That reviewer cites Apple Watch and Garmin at the main real competition for the Ionic as a fitness smartwatch.

  8. Avatar

    OwenM

    The big deal here is that it's water resistant and can record exercise while swimming. So far the only device which does that is the cheapest model, the Fitbit Flex 2, and even then it's just swimming strokes. I've been using the Flex 2 for a while simply because I do a lot of swimming, particularly over the summer month. I didn't see a point in upgrading to a model I had to remove before exercising. TBH I probably won't upgrade to this one either (for now at least), but it's good to know the option is there.

  9. Avatar

    Mcgillivray

    I still don't get the draw of a smart watch that only has a day, or a few days of battery. I can only compare to my Garmin Fenix 3 which has 3 weeks of battery per charge / 6 weeks if you use it only as a watch. Online app store via web, or phone/tablet that can push new watch faces, apps, widgets and data fields to your device. Watch has regular GPS, and GLONASS if enabled for every kind of sport including Tri-Athletes where a 3-sport activity is desired. Wi-Fi and BT. Controls your phones usual stuff like music, notifications, calendar etc. Counts all your steps every day. Monitors your sleep every day. Compass, altimeter, barometer, temperature, calories. All the sports related activity tracking - loading courses, back tracking, virtual racing partner etc. Other usual stuff like countdown timers, stop watch etc. Colour display, water proof to 100m. Number of different colour and types of bands to change if you like.


    Connects with ,u Garmin Index scale, and to Garmin Connect and Strava so you get all the usual online stuff everyone seems to enjoy. A big plus - or minus depending on your taste is that the F3 looks like a mans watch. Not a smaller, slim device that anyone could use. (I have a Garmin Vivoactive that fits that category and it's great too)


    Anyways - again - I'm just wondering why people are willing to not only pay for, but put up with devices that only go a few days before needing to be charged? Much like how every other portable device - phones. laptops etc are always critiqued on their battery lasting power. - many smart watches seem to skate by with a day or two usage being the norm?

    • Avatar

      PincasX

      In reply to Mcgillivray:

      I can kind of answer this. I have a Garmin Forerunner 935 and and Apple Watch. The Forerunner is similar to the Fenix and gets nowhere near the battery life you are talking about. Looking at the Fenix 5 (the newest model) it gets same battery life as the 935. I tend to workout twice a day and ultimately have to charge it close to every other day.


      That said the Garmin crushes it for workout related stuff. The data it collects and the accessories it can connect to (HRM, Power meter, cadence etc..) put it head and shoulders above Apple Watch, Fitbit or Android Wear. It is my go to workout device.


      The Apple Watch is better due to it's integration with iOS that Garmin can't match (Maps, Apple TV Remote, Homekit, Responding to texts, answering calls ...). Notifications options are far more customizable, with the Garmin it is a firehose that is on or off. Apple Watch also has a significantly better screen (I assume this is part the battery challenge). Lastly the watch band options are just better with the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch also has Siri so it allows me to do things the Garmin just can't.


      Ultimately I don't use the "smart" functions on the Garmin and just have it for workouts (running, cycling, swimming and for races). The Apple Watch is better for just general day to day use.


      I would say for iOS users the Apple Watch is the way to go. For Android, Android Wear is the obvious choice. For someone that needs more robust fitness options and doesn't want two devices then Garmin is the way to go. Ultimately that leaves Fitbit as that Blackberry of fitness devices. It doesn't do Smart watch or fitness device well so I really don't see much of a market for them moving forward.

  10. Avatar

    SteveM

    Looks like I might have to retire my still used MS Band 1.

  11. Avatar

    Minok

    So the first wrist Fitbit came out in 2013, while the Jawbone UP came out in 2011; I don't think Fitbit was innovative there. Hip worn gadgets had existed well before 2007 as well.

  12. Avatar

    Bill Bortzfield

    Hey Paul, for a Windows-centric site, you missed the lead on this one. Fitbit Ionic fully supports Windows/Windows Phone. This could be a big deal when the new Microsoft pocketable ARM offensive finally launches w/CShell. I for one would never switch back to a Windows mobile device again until a true smartwatch platform is supported. A big (but not the only) barrier to re-entry has just been removed. Now bring on the folding-screen Surface Phone with full Windows/perfected multi-window Continuum before it's too late. With Samsung's Dex, Remix OS and other Android-based desktop monitor extensions for smartphones coming, Microsoft is dangerously close to losing what is likely its last chance of long-term survival in the OS arena as pocketable devices with desktop power become the norm.

  13. Avatar

    Omega Ra

    Personally I think $300 is a little steep. $250 would have been a bit better. I like that it has the new "tri-color" or whatever heart rate monitor, but 300 is out of my range. I am looking to get the Charge 2 or Alta HR. I only wish they had the HRM.

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