This is the Fitbit Ionic Review, which is the first fitness smartwatch from Fitbit that was released in October of this year. It offers GPS, HR tracking and fitness sports tracking. Fitbit have also promised third party apps and these are coming later in the year.
Fitbit have been teasing a smartwatch for sometime now and now its here in the form of the Fitbit Ionic Smartwatch. When I heard the official announcement that Fitbit was going to launch a smartwatch I took notice, but didn’t get overly excited and this was mainly down to the design. However as always I try to keep an open mind about Fitbit’s new Smartwatch and in this review you will get my unbiased opinion on the using the Fitbit Ionic in real life across various exercises and activities
So lets get some of the standout features of the Fitbit Ionic out the way first
- GPS – Features built-in GPS to track activities outside
- Sports tracking, run – outdoor/indoor/ walk – Outdoor/indoor cycle – Outdoor, Strength, electoral and Cardio
- Daily tracking – Steps, calories, stairs claimed, activity minutes
- Sleep tracking and cardio age tracking – Similar to Vo2 max estimation
- Full colour display that works well in sunlight.
- Multi day battery life
- Various watch face options to choose from
Must read review: Garmin Vivosmart 3 review
Fitbit Ionic price deals from Amazon
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Essential reading: Garmin Vivosmart 3 review
Fitbit Ionic- Design and screen
- Light weight design at 31g
- Integrated Wrist Heart rate
- Full colour screen with wake on demand feature
The Fitbit Ionic is a square design weighing in at 31g and features an aluminium case with 1 button on one side and 2 buttons on the other side. The single button is the home button and takes you back and the other 2 are to access the main menu and enter the activity tracking screens. The band on the Fitbit Ionic is bad of an Elastomer material and again you can buy additional bands which can be easily changed out via a quick release catch.
When I first saw the design only in pictures I was not impressed, but now I have had it in my hand and used it I am impressed with the design and build quality. The Ionic fits nicely on the wrist and I have found I can wear it for nearly every occasion without it feeling out of place, which I believe is important for any fitness wearables with 24×7 tracking. You can also change out the Fitbit Ionic bands with either official bands via the Fitbit Store or via Online market places such as Amazon
Moving onto the Fitbit Ionic display, the screen is a colour LCD which is 348×258 pixels and mirrors the case design by being square in shape. The protection used on the Ionic is Corning Gorilla glass 3 which offers scratch resistant protection. The Fitbit Ionic’s screen is also very clear and crisp with colours that really stand out.
Design & Screen Summary
Overall I found the Fitbit Ionic comfortable to wear and also wore it overnight on a number of occasions and didn’t get any skin irritation as I normally do with Fitbit products.
I found the screen easy to read both indoors and outside in direct sunlight and the touchscreen aspect of the display is very responsive even when your hands are moist.
Fitbit Ionic – Menus and touchscreen interface
- Simple interface with buttons to aid navigation
- Watch faces can be changed
- Deep rich colours used that helps with viewing the screen
The menu’s on the Fitbit ionic are easy to navigate by a mixture of button presses and finger swipes to get around them. Software on the Fitbit Ionic is very smooth and I didn’t experience any lag when using it. When using the touchscreen in a workout setting I found it very responsive and even in the pool when wet.
Changing settings and customising can be done on the Fitbit istself, however changing things like watch faces needs to be done on the smartphone. The layout of the various menus just make sense and finding a menu option is simple and easy.
Menu and UI Summary
Overall I am impressed with the first smartwatch from Fitbit in terms of its menu and UI. You can tell a lot of thought has been given to how the user will interact with the Ionic and this is demonstrated by how the menus and settings are navigated.
Fitbit Ionic Review – Activity tracking
- Tracks steps, calories, stairs climbed, activity minutes, stress and sleep
- Counts steps whilst cycling!!
- Reminds you to move when you have not moved within the hour
The Fitbit Ionic tracks all day activity including;
- • Steps
- • Calories Burned
- • Steps per hour
- • Floors climbed
- • Heart rate and resting heart rate
- • Activity minutes
- • Distanced travelled
The Fitbit Ionic is pretty good at tracking all day activities and again it has targets like the Apple Watch in terms of steps, distance and workouts. These can be customised in the app on a smartphone and then you can track progress both on the watch and the app. The Fitbit will also remind you to move every hour and during the final stage of the hour will give you a reminder how many steps you are away from hitting the goal, which is helpful.
One of the biggest complaints I had with the Fitbit Ionic step tracking is when I was out cycling. It would record 5.5k steps over a 40k bike ride. I have had this issue with other Fitbit’s I have reviewed and I am surprised Fitbit have not fixed this.
The Fitbit Ionic has a feature called cardio fitness age. This is similar to Garmin’s Fitness age which based on your workout data and this calculates how fit you are against your actual age. Overall I found this useful and its essentially Vo2 max estimate for the average user providing good insights into your fitness journey
The Fitbit Ionic also does sleep tracking and again I found this fairly accurate when it came to identifying when I went to sleep and when I woke. It will also track deep sleep and REM, this is when you are dreaming. In my view the Fitbit Ionics sleep tracking does seem more advanced than some of its rivals like Garmin and this is one of the features that Fitbit seem to be heavily promoting at the moment
Activity tracking Summary
Overall I am impressed with the different tracking features of the Fitbit Ionic. It has sleep tracking and cardio fitness tracking which is useful to anyone looking to improve their overall health. The one thing that I feel lets it down is the counting of steps whilst you are out cycling.
Fitbit Ionic Review – Fitness features
- Tracks run, bike, strength, cardio, walk and other
- Integrated wrist based HR monitor
- GPS tracking with GLONASS
The Fitbit Ionic out of the box will track the following in the native fitness app
- • Run
- • Cycling
- • Swim
- • Treadmill
- • Weights
- • Hike
- • Spinning
- • Cardio
- • Weights
The Fitbit Ionic has a good choice of activity profiles to track sports activities. But right now you cannot download third-party fitness apps. Fitbit does have a service called fitstar which is Fitbit’s premium coaching app which is included with the Ionic, but you only get 3 workouts and if you want more you need to pay for the Fitstar coaching app. You can customise the screens to show you the data you want in the fitness app settings which is useful if you want to see different data points such as pace and distance at the same time.
When I do reviews I focus on the following workouts and did
Fitbit Ionic Running
I found the Fitbit Ionic good at running outdoors and will capture the distance pretty well and pace. I found the wrist HR sensor also works well when you are using it for running activities both indoors and outdoors when tested against a chest strap. Like the Apple Watch, the Fitbit is pretty basic in terms of data it shows, You will also not get advance running data like running Cadence on the Fitbit Ionic
Fitbit Ionic for Cycling
As with the Apple Watch, the Fitbit Ionic performs well when you are cycling capturing pretty accurate GPS track. The wrist heart rate also performed pretty well when measuring it against a chest HR sensor. You will not get information like cadence or power readings as it cannot connect to those sensors. One of the things that I found odd is that when I did a 40k ride it registered 5.5k steps during that time and this is something I have found with a number of Fitbit wearables.
Fitbit Ionic Swimming
Using the Fitbit for swimming I found it easy to start and stop the activity due to it being button focused for workouts. However using the touchscreen in the water worked better than the Apple Watch and Garmin Vivoactive 3. As with the Apple Watch, the Ionic would have a mismatch of distance and lengths. So, for instance, it would 16 lengths and only 350 meters recorded with the pool length set correctly.
Fitbit Ionic HIIT workouts
The Fitbit Ionic has a programme for hiit and this is a series of exercises designed to increase cardio fitness, tone you up and burn fat. I tested a couple of these out and found them pretty good. I also used the Ionic in a Hiit class and it did the basic job of capturing heart rate and calorie data well when measuring against my daily wearable that I use all the time
Fitbit Ionic weight training
The Fitbit Ionic has a strength workout mode, but it does not track reps or sets like you can with the Vivoactive 3 but it will record all the usual workout data like time, calories and heart rate data. As I mentioned in the wrist HR section the HR sensor is not great with strength training and I would recommend using a chest HR strap if you want accurate HR readings.
Overall the Fitbit Ionic gives you accurate, but basic tracking which will be enough for most people. You can customise the data that you see during a workout and you can export the workouts via the Fitbit app to apps like Strava and you if you use the web version you can download a file to export to other online fitness services.
Fitbit Ionic for External sensors
The Fitbit Ionic will allow you to pair an external HR chest strap via bluetooth, but it does not have ANT+ support like the Vivoactive 3 to pair other sensors
Fitness support Summary
The Fitbit Ionic is good at being a fitness wearable and I believe this comes from its history of making good fitness trackers. I am going to be very interested to see what other third parties do with apps to add to the fitness tracking capabilities of the Fitbit Ionic
Fitbit Ionic – GPS performance
- GPS and GLONASS
- Accurate GPS tracks
- Seems to get a good GPS lock quickly
I used the Fitbit Ionic for GPS based activities over a various test courses I use to determine accuracy of the GPS and these are the results
Fitbit Ionic running GPS performance
The Fitbit Ionic did a good job at running. I ran a 5k route using the Ionic alongside the other wearables and the checking both the paces and distance covered whilst on route it was fairly in line.
- Ionic – 5.07km
- Fenix 5 – 5.10lm
- Adventurer – 5.03km
So for running the Ionic did well and within what I would call an acceptable tolerance for what I need it for, maybe not for everyone though
Fitbit Ionic cycling GPS performance
The Fitbit Ionic did a good job at cycling also with the GPS track being pretty good. I cycled a 30k route using the Ionic alongside the other wearables and the checking both the average speed and distance covered whilst on route it was fairly in line.
- Ionic – 30.04km
- Fenix 5 – 30.10km
- Adventurer – 30.0km
So for cycling the Fitbit Ionic did well and within what I would call an acceptable tolerance for what I need it for, maybe not for everyone though
So overall I was happy with the performance of the GPS on the Fitbit Ionic and its something I could personally rely on if I was using it. However I want to point out that everyone has different levels of acceptance
Fitbit Ionic Review – Wrist Heart rate performance for 24×7 and workout HR
- Great for running and walking
- Cycling, strength and
- You can broadcast HR to another ANT+ device
I have split this into 2 areas, 24×7 HR, and workout HR. I will get the 24×7 heart rate tracking out of the way first. The 24×7 HR. It works well across both normal everyday use as well as things like sleep and stress tracking. The Fitbit Inoic also tracks your all day heart rate and takes samples every 10 seconds and 1 second during exercise. The Ionic also tracks resting heart rate and when you are using the Fitbit companion app you can look at this data in more detail. resting HR.
So down to the test for the Fitbit Ionic wrist heart rate sensor and with the exception of the running and walking, which it performed really well. However the Fitbit didn’t track well when comparing it against the chest strap for cycling, strength and cardio. The Ionic HR missed lots of the HR spikes and the drops and on a number of occasions, it recording a low of 85 reading when my HR was above 150 when I was out cycling.
HR performance Summary
The Fitbit Ionic performs well at everyday HR monitoring and for resting Heart rate. But for anything other than running and walking the HR performance is not great with it missing big spikes in heart rate when out cycling in particular
Fitbit Ionic Review – smart features
- Call and test alerts
- Companion app via Fitbit app
- Marekting as a smartwatch, but no third party apps at present
The Fitbit Ionic runs its own proprietary software which is a variation of Pebble after Fitbit acquired them. The Fitbit Ionic has various smart features, but I am not convinced its a true smartwatch due to the fact it does not have many third-party apps. Fitbit have just opened up the Ionic SDK to other developers and they say they have over a 1000 signed up at present. Only time will tell how much the Ionic will develop as a smartwatch and its really dependent on the the developers bringing quality apps.
The Ionic has smart notifications which will alert you when you receive a call or text, but does not allow you to reply to messages or make calls on the watch like you can with the Apple Watch. You can also get weather status on the wrist via a widget within the menus.
The companion app is a great app that comes with the Fitbit Ionic and I have rated it in all the reviews I have done on the Fitbit range. The app allows you to look at the post-workout information and gives you lots of information about the workout itself along with HR data and the map if it was an outdoor activity. You can also challenge friends within the app if they have a Fitbit and this can be great motivation for some people.
Fitbit offers Fitbit Pay of the Ionic and this is only available in selected countries at the time of writing this with more to follow soon.
The Fitbit also offers music support and you can pair external bluetooth earphones. I used the Fitbit Flyers with it and pairing was easy. However I was unable to use the music service for streaming as in Europe Fitbit don’t have a music streaming partner.
Garmin Vivosport Review – Battery
- Fitbit quote a multi day battery
- 10 hours on with GPS
- Real world usage – around 2 days and 7 hours with GPS
Fitbit claims with the Ionic that you get multi-day battery when using various features and I have found on average I am getting about 2 days before I am needing to charge. I also tested it on the same hike on a hike and the battery was down to 53% when I finished the 8km. This is not bad considering the screen and other features that will be using power on the Fitbit Ionic.