Fitbit Ionic Smartwatch Review 2020

Deal Score0
Deal Score0

The Fitbit Ionic ($230 at Amazon) was announced in August 2017 and released in October of this year to significantly less than rave reviews. The look wasn’t great, the program felt unfinished and its own price ($300, £300 or AU$450) was hard to swallow. A whole lot worse, it arrived following the 2017 refresh of the Apple Watch ($199 at Apple) line, which introduced the Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch Series 3.

Thankfully for Fitbit fans, the business has already released a fresh smartwatch. The 2018 Fitbit Versa ($189 at Amazon) gives an improved design and several of the same top features of the Ionic at a lower price. We advise that model to anyone searching for the Ionic, unless they want on-watch GPS tracking, that your Versa doesn’t offer. But smartwatch shoppers should remember that the existing 2017 Apple Watches continue being periodically discounted, and that new Apple Watch models may hit in September, if the business follows its traditional schedule.

A couple of years ago — before there is even any such thing as the Apple Watch — the best smartwatch was the Pebble (the very best one was Pebble Time). Pebble’s smartwatches accomplished what numerous others could not at that time: These were waterproof, had always-on screens and lasted for weekly on a charge. And, that they had some fantastic geeky watch faces.

The Pebble is fully gone now. Fitbit bought the business in late 2016, and is discontinuing support and services for Pebble smartwatches this season.

Fitbit’s first true smartwatch, the Ionic, debuted last fall. At that time, it was fine, however, not stellar. Promises of more programs watching faces weren’t fulfilled yet.

Now, things have changed. Because of a few of the former Pebble employees who are actually making a Fitbit software store in the same spirit, a large number of quirky watch faces and programs have appeared on the Fitbit Ionic since last December.

The Fitbit Ionic is currently pretty damn fun, if you are buying fitness tracker with a taste of what Pebble used to bring. It’s still missing a number of the finessed extras that other linked smartwatches like Apple Watch do better. And, its innovative features still hit a wall. But it’s finally needs to feel just like the Fitbit Ionic is living up from what it had been intended to be to begin with.


Editors’ note: That is a re-review of the Ionic. The rating has been raised to 7.8 as a result of the improvements described herein. My original take, posted October 13, 2017 and rated 7.2, is archived here.

What it can great: Adorkable watch faces, weird apps, great battery life
I put a crazy retro digital watch face on my Fitbit Ionic and quickly got compliments. I needed to share photographs of it. It reminded me of what the Pebble Time could do.

I don’t share pictures of my Apple Watch faces, because everyone gets the same faces. And Apple doesn’t have even a wrist watch face store, crazily enough (despite the fact that Samsung, Google, Fitbit and even the soon-to-be-extinct Pebble do).

A large number of watch faces are actually on tap for the Fitbit Ionic, up from the handful previously available. The Ionic is Fitbit’s first watch that may take good thing about these faces and apps. You can imagine more are coming. These watch faces make the Ionic a lot more fun to use. Pebble fans probably recognize a few of these.

The watch faces are cool, and nerdy, and ridiculous, and frequently ugly, but mostly in a great way. Abandon all sense of seriousness, all ye who enter the Fitbit watch gallery. But it is also a relief: The opportunity to swap in new watch faces from a far larger collection helps it be feel just like the Ionic finally includes a personality. In the end, isn’t that the complete point of a fancy smartwatch? You’re designed to be able to transform it into different designs on the fly.

Almost such as a Casio?

That perfect Casio watch-type face I mentioned previously makes the squared Fitbit Ionic appear to be a correctly retro digital watch. Fibit’s own virtual pet watch face adds a puppy or kitten which can be fed with fuel powered by your steps. A mood-logging experimental face from Fitbit Labs enables you to enter your energy and mood during the day, and see if patterns emerge.

Many of these watch faces will be the furthest thing from what I’d call “elegant.” However they are fun, and when you have patience, it’s fun to explore your options.

The main one big problem with the watch faces is that the Ionic only allows one face to be installed on the watch at the same time. Each new face install happens via the Fitbit app, and involves a slow syncing process. Some watch faces aren’t free, and so are only available as trial apps. But it’s hard to determine how to purchase them. You can’t pay in the Fitbit app, even though some watch faces I download via iOS advise some are “trial versions,” I cannot appear to discover a way to unlock all of those other features — plus they seem to be to work anyway. Also, you can’t easily seek out watch faces or store previously-acquired kinds in a collection.

Multiple applications could be installed simultaneously, though: Nowadays there are a large number of apps, too, many free. THE BRAND NEW York Times application introduces quick headlines, just like the Apple Watch version. Yelp finds local restaurants. A calculator iphone app and some puzzle games are here too.

I’d prefer a $200 version that had some of those features (GPS, wrist payments, music) and delivered on the watch faces and general fitness. Or, a $300 full-featured watch that nailed all of the extras better. Ionic is nearer to being better than it had been before, and it’s really now the best Fitbit. But as of this price, I wouldn’t recommend it for everybody. The sleeker Fitbit Alta HR is an improved, more affordable wager for some. Maybe the Ionic will receive a price drop, or Fitbit can make a far more affordable version? Check back six months.

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