Finally joining the smartwatch foray, Fitbit augments their existing lineup of fitness trackers with the newly-released Fitbit Ionic. Unfortunately, while this product does have potential, its current performance feels a little stunted and it delivered a somewhat lackluster performance in our tests. This model does have an excellent battery life and a great display, but is quite sparse when it comes to smart functions or fitness impact — a bit of a surprise from a company that made its name on it fitness trackers. All in all, the Fitbit Ionic may one day claim the title of the top smartwatch, but it has plenty of work to do to get there.
Fitbit Ionic Review
Pros: Great battery life, good display
Cons: Limited smart functions, a little harder to use
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
Scoring right in the middle of the pack, the Fitbit Ionic delivered an overall lackluster performance. While we didn't dislike it, it still paled in comparison to the Editors' Choice award winners. The Ionic scored a few points less than the LG Watch Sport, the Editors' Choice award winner for Android users and well below the Apple Watch Series 3 and the Samsung Gear S3, the top two models of our tests. The Ionic scores slightly higher than the original watch from Huawei and is priced comparably and much better than our Best Buy award winner, but costs about $70 more.
To determine which wearable was truly worthy of an award, we bought the top 12 smartwatches available today and tested them side-by-side to see which one came out on top. We scored the performance of the Ionic and the other products on their performance in five weighted rating metrics: Ease of Use, Smart Functions, Display, Fitness Impact, and Battery Life. The Ionic' results are detailed in the sections below.
Ease of Use
Most important out of all of our metrics, the group of tests comprising our Ease of Use metric account for 30% of the overall score for each smartwatch. We ranked and scored each product on how responsive the screen is, the interface method, ease of swapping wristbands, the charging method and connections, as well as the ease of taking wearable screenshots and the water resistance rating of the watch. The Ionic delivered an unremarkable performance, meriting a 5 out of 10 for its efforts.
This watch doesn't have a physical interface method, like a rotating bezel or crown for navigating menus, but does have a decently responsive touchscreen. There was hardly ever a delay when moving between menus, but it did feel slightly slower than the Apple Watch.
It is very easy to swap wristbands, with the straps popping in and out. It is pretty easy to plug in the Ionic to charge, but it is prone to accidentally disconnecting when it is slightly jostled. The Ionic did earn some bonus points for being water resistant for up to 50 meters, but this watch does the ability to take screenshots of the display. However, this feature may become available at a later time.
Accounting for 20% of the total score and next in order of importance is the Smart Functions metric. We judged each product on its compatibility with popular apps, whether or not you could answer or make calls on the device itself, control music, or pay for things, as well as if there was built-in GPS or LTE connectivity. The Ionic delivered a subpar showing in this metric, earning a 4 out of 10 for its performance.
Out of our sample set of apps to test compatibility, the Ionic was only fully-compatible with Strava. It showed an ETA for compatibility with Uber, but no actual functionality. While the app compatibility of the Ionic should hopefully expand in the future, for now at least, it is quite limited and severely hurts its score in this metric.
This model doesn't have any standalone cellular connectivity, but it does have a dedicated GPS module and the ability to pay for items with Fitbit Pay. It also offers some bare-bones music controls, but lacks the abilities to make or receive phone calls on the device.
Tying our Smart Functions metric at 20% is our Display metric. We based the score for each watch on the quality of the screen, whether or not it had a clipped display, and the ease of reading in bright light, as well as if there were always-on or automatic brightness adjustment modes. The Ionic scored quite well, earning a 7 out of 10 for it stellar display.
The screen quality of the Ionic is exceptionally high, matching that of the Gear S3 and the Gear Sport, only being outmatched by the Apple Watch Series 2 and Series 3. The display is 348x250, though it is a little hard to read the text in bright sunlight.
However, it is very easy to read in darker conditions and features both an always-on and automatic brightness adjust modes.
Comprising 15% of the total score, our Fitness Impact metric assessed the ability of each smartwatch to track and monitor your daily activity and workouts. We looked at how precise the step counter and stair tracker (if it had one) were, the accuracy of the heart rate monitor, as well as the assortment of activities it could track. For the product of a fitness tracking company, the Fitbit Ionic didn't score terribly well, meriting a 6 out of 10.
We found the step counter on the Ionic to be quite accurate, only deviating from the true manual count by about 1.8%, or 57 steps over a mile-long walk.
We weren't the biggest fans of the heart rate monitor on the Ionic. Its measurement felt very erratic to us and somewhat inconsistent with the chest strap heart rate monitor we compared it to — exhibiting a discrepancy of over 20 bpm at one point while on a short walk.
The Ionic has a handful of different activities that can be tracked, including running, treadmill, swimming, cycling, weights, intervals, and a generic workout, with a handful of pertinent stats displayed for each workout. These include distance, duration, average and maximum speed, average and maximum heart rate, estimated calories burned, and elevation.
This watch also tracks the number of flights of stairs climbed each day.
For the final metric of our test, we evaluated the battery life of each watch. Accounting for the final 15% of the total, we based the score off of how long each wearable lasted with normal use and how quickly it would charge. The Ionic finished out our testing process with a superb performance in this metric, earning an 8 out of 10, putting it at the front of the pack.
This watch lasted for an amazing 96 hours of normal use in our tests before dying, outperforming the next closest watch by close to a full day. It also charges quite quickly, only taking about 45 minutes to reach 50% and a little over two hours to completely top off the battery.
The Ionic is a bit on the pricey side relative to its performance, so it isn't necessarily a great pick when shopping on a budget.
While the Ionic shows plenty of promise, it has plenty to improve on before it can claim an award. With limited app compatibility and a sparse set of smart functions, it feels much more like a fitness tracker than a true smartwatch.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer