About 2 days back, Fitbit dropped a massive announcement showcasing three new products at one go. There’s the flagship Ionic Smartwatch ($299.95), the Flyer Bluetooth earphones and an upgraded Aria weighing scale. While the earphones and weigh scales are nice to have, it’s really the Fitbit Ionic smartwatch that has everyone’s attention since that will pretty much determine Fitbit’s fortunes in the months to come.
The appearance of the watch is consistent with leaks we’ve seen the past 3-4 months. Fitbit has produced a health and fitness focused smartwatch that’s deviated from the usual smart watches we’ve become familiar with; a bold move on Fitbit’s part in enticing users to strap one on.
The hardware appears decent with future updates suggesting possibilities of tracking new health indicators such as sleep apnea. Besides Fitbit’s in house innovation feats such as the PurePulse heart rate measurement, guided breathing and advanced sleep tracking, the Ionic SmartWatch will also be the first device in Fitbit’s arsenal to receive NFC payment options and music storage.
Press materials have also listed display brightness of up to 1000 nits for visibility in bright daylight. In comparison, the iPhone 7 peaks at 705 nits. I think that should give us a good idea how bright this device can go up to.
Fitbit Ionic Features
- All day activity tracker. Records steps, calories, distance, floors climbed, active minutes and hourly activity
- Tracks sleep stages like light, deep and REM sleep, and get personalised sleep insights
- Wrist based heart rate measurements with Fitbit PurePulse tech
- Guided workouts on screen
- Guided breathing sessions on screen
- GPS and GLONASS enabled
- Popular apps and smart notifications
- Water resistant to 50 m, track your pool lap workouts
- 2.5GB on board storage for songs or download and listen to Pandora stations
- Bluetooth 4.0 enabled
- Allows payment with on board NFC chip and Fitbit Pay
- Battery life of up to 4 days, up to 10 hours in GPS mode
- Changeable wrist straps and watch faces
- SpO2 sensor, possible sleep apnea tracking in future*
The lack of microphones and speakers would signal the absence of voice search or hands-free calls when the Ionic is not used with Bluetooth earphones.
While we’ve gotten a glimpse of the decent Fitbit Ionic hardware, the alarming poverty on the mobile app front is of concern. Despite buying over Pebble Watch with the intention to capitalise on the latter’s app platform, Fitbit lists Pandora, Starbucks, Strava and Accuweather as leading partner apps at present; comforting but hardly impressive compared to it’s competition.
The Fitbit Ionic smartwatch is expected to ship in October, just a month after Fitbit’s software development kit is open to developers in September. Perhaps stories of the Fitbit app store not being ready by the time the smart watch ships is true after all. You can pre-order the Fitbit Ionic from Amazon.
I’ve had good experiences with Fitbit wearables all these years and give credit to their mobile app for a job well done. However their wrist based wearables have been out shined by both low cost and high performance alternatives from the likes of Xiaomi and Garmin. Hopefully the Ionic impresses.