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Review: Fitbit Ionic smart watch
4.7Overall Score

Price (RRP): $449.95
Manufacturer: Fitbit

I’m only three quarters of the man I was at the start of this year. I attribute that in part to Fitbit. Specifically Fitbit tracking devices, which I’ve been wearing almost entirely without break since then, and the Fitbit Aria which I’ve been standing on daily to track my weight.

Now Fitbit has taken a step up, so to speak, on the tracking band front, releasing what it has dubbed its first “Smart Watch”. That’s the Fitbit Ionic.

Features

What’s the difference between a tracking band and smart watch? One word: emphasis. This year I’ve had wrapped around my left wrist almost continuously one of: a Fitbit Charge HR, a Fitbit Alta, or a Fitbit Charge 2. This last has been there for something like eight months. They could both tell the time and date. They could both receive notifications from my phone and display texts.

As can the Fitbit Ionic (you choose which ones). But it can do more because it is smart, because it does have a processor and significant storage, because it can hold and play music, because it can run apps.

Note, it uses Fitbit’s own proprietary Fitbit OS, not Android Wear, so it will be a “closed garden” as far as apps go.

It has a rectangle colour display screen, 1.5 inches in size, protected by Gorilla Glass 3. It’s a touch screen too, supporting swipes, not just the taps of devices like the Charge 2 and Alta. Resolution is not stated. Using my jeweller’s loupe I could make out the individual pixels. Using my strongest reading glasses I couldn’t. Let’s just say that resolution is sufficient.

The main body of the watch is 36mm wide by 48mm tall and 12.7mm thick and is constructed from 6000 series aluminium (aluminium leavened with a little magnesium and silicon, and traces of other stuff). The band is replaceable, and the watch is supplied with both small and large sizes in the box, along with a charge cable.

The display is adaptive, going as bright as required in prevailing conditions. The colour is bold and clear. You can choose watch faces so suit you, and some have large enough text to allow those who use reading glasses to get by without them. It switches on when you bring the watch up to a viewing position – it was very reliable at doing that – or when you press the left hand button. You can set it to manual on (or all the time on) if you decide that suits you better.

There are two buttons on the right, the functions of which depend upon what the watch is doing. Much of your interaction is through tapping options on the display or swiping.

The watch packs about 2.5GB of storage. No mention is made of the processor. It includes an altimeter, 3 axis accelerometers, heart rate monitor (there’s an optical sensor on the back), ambient light sensor, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi and GPS.

Things like the accelerometers allow all the tracking goodness you expect from Fitbit, and that can be assisted by the GPS. The watch stores up to seven days worth of “detailed motion data – minute by minute”, and daily totals for thirty days. Your heart rate is tracked second by second when formally exercising, and otherwise every five seconds. When GPS is in use, location is determined also on a second by second basis.

Fitbit doesn’t seem to go for IP ratings, but no matter. It says that it’s water resistant up to fifty metres and “is sweat, rain and splash-proof.” It’s also altitude proof to 30,000 feet, so you can take it with you next time you summit Everest.

Pre-loaded are a number of apps. “Today” gives you a summary of your progress for the current day, “Coach” gives you instructions for exercise and activities, “Relax” does the same for the opposite, “Music”, well, plays music. There’s a stop watch and countdown time, alarms, a weather app and a Wallet. You’re going to be able to use the watch for tap and pay.