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It Also Tells Time

Fitbit enters the smartwatch segment with Ionic. While it gets a lot right, it leaves one wishing for more

Fitbit is a household name in the fitness tracker space, with its bands (and excellent companion app) dominating wrist-share across the world. Now, the company wants to bring its fitness credentials to the smartwatch segment with the Ionic, and for a first-generation product, Fitbit gets a lot right, but leaves one wishing for more…

Let’s start with how the Ionic looks. Fitbit has nailed the space-age aesthetic, but it’ll come down to individual taste whether you prefer the Ionic’s clean lines over more modern and premium looking watches from Apple and Samsung. Fitbit’s opted for a rectangular form factor with the 1.42-inch screen, and while the screen is bright enough for outdoor use and shows rich colours, there’s a heavy bezel surrounding the screen, giving you a smaller screen than you’d imagine on a watch this size. Build quality is top notch, plus it’s waterproof so you can wear while swimming or in the shower. The use of the aluminum alloy for the frame allows it to be very light, so much so the watch is comfortable enough to wear while sleeping as well.

In use, the watch has three buttons to navigate through the new FitbitOS, though you’re more likely to use the touchscreen to move around. Speaking of which, FitbitOS is a ‘smart’ watch OS, so aside from the choice of watch faces, you can install apps designed by Fitbit and other third parties. The app selection is small — you get weather and other basic utility apps, but we’re quite some way off from widespread developer support. Besides, it’s not quite as smart as the competition — you can see notifications on the Ionic, but can’t act upon them. No calls or message replies either. With its built-in GPS and 2.5GB of music storage, you can pair this with a pair of Bluetooth headphones and go for a GPS-tracked run phone-free…and pay for that fruit juice on the way back, once Fitbit activates the NFC-based wallet feature. Now, because the Ionic isn’t trying to do it all, the battery life is nothing short of stellar — around 5 days of use — so there’s none of that daily charging cycle that most smartwatches put you through. The charging mechanism, via the thin cable and fidgety magnetic connector, could have been better for a device at this price.

Make no mistake about it, this is a Fitbit through and through, and that’s where the Ionic shines — from the usual step, activity and continuous heart-rate tracking, to exercise modes to track swimming, running, biking, weight training, among others — automatically tracking exercise if you’re active for over 10 minutes. The heart rate tracking is mostly accurate, and there’s even a sensor measure the oxygen-level in your blood, though the latter hasn’t been activated on the Ionic in India. It’s the sleep tracking that is Fitbit’s secret weapon, and the sheer amount of data you can glean from this device about your sleep patterns is phenomenal.

So, while it sounds like a smartwatch that has it all — apps, watch faces, notifications and Fitbit’s legendary fitness tracking, in use it delivers far more ‘fit’ than ‘smart’, and makes sense for fitness enthusiasts who’d like that extra dash of smarts on their all-day wearable.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Magazine 3 March 2018 fitbit

Tushar Kanwar

The author is Technology Columnist and Program Manager in Bengaluru, India

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