Back in the early days of wearable technology, we were pretty exited about the prospect of a watch that linked to a mobile phone. You could see your messages, change the design, view information sent directly from the phone app and even play games. The reality hasn’t quite delivered the same level of excitement though, with short battery lives, limited functionality and an expensive price tags. On the couple of occasions where we’ve had smart watches, the novelty wore off pretty quickly, with us quickly moving back to our old trustee normal watches.
Fitness wearables however, have seen an alarming level of development over the past few years, with the spectrum of functions covering all levels of fitness. On one end of the scale you have the incredibly detailed products like Garmin or Polar; designed for the kind of athlete who 1) wants to shave seconds off their performance and 2) likes to spend evenings trawling through data about their workouts. At the other end you have Fitbit, a company whose focal point in the past has been more about monitoring a healthy lifestyle and helping people to proactively make adjustments to be fitter.
For the kind of person who’s into fitness, but isn’t particularly bothered about granular analysis, neither option works very well. Sure, looking at your exercise breakdown after a run may be interesting, but we’ve never actually used the information to modify our training. Measuring daily steps is also pretty pointless if you cover off your target halfway through a run.
Enter the Fitbit Ionic. A beautiful looking smartwatch designed to tick every box across the scale, but still be accessible to the general lifestyle user. We’ve been using it for a month now and in all honesty, it’s an absolute treat. We’ll break it down for you.
Although it may not sound like the most important aspect of smart watch, the major issue we’ve had in the past with smartwear has always been battery life. Nobody wants to have to charge a watch every evening. Either we forget and it runs out halfway through the day, or we’re in a rush in the morning and don’t even remember to put the damn thing back on. The Ionic comfortably lasts for five days without turning itself off. It charges damn quick as well, so you only need to have it off for an hour before you’re set for another few days.
Most fitness wearables that actually do a load of stuff, tend to be pretty bulky. That may be fine if you’re running down the road in lycra, but if you’re sat in a meeting room in a shirt and tie, they can look a bit cumbersome. The Ionic is actually pretty small and light, which makes it quite subtle. The screen is extremely well-lit, which only activates when you look at it, and you can also buy a selection of different colour variants and straps to go with it. Stick a fancy watch face on the silver version along with a nice brown leather strap (£49.99) strap and you’re basically just wearing a really nice watch.
The touchscreen also has a pretty slick quality display which makes the interface a joy to look at.
Here’s the big one for us, obviously. The first thing to note here is that the Ionic is a general fitness watch, so instead of focusing on running or cycling, it aims to cover everything off you might do as part of your daily routine. It’s not just designed to measure a run, but to record that run as a much larger overview of everything you do.
That’s not to say it doesn’t work well to measure specific exercises, in fact it’s damn good. When you’re about to do some sort of activity you simply head into the exercises section and select what you’re about to do from things like running and swimming (it’s waterproof up to 50m) to interval training an weights. Click go and it’ll start taking in your heart rate, steps and in the case of running, your GPS data. Click stop and it’ll store your data in your account and just go back to tracking everything else you’re up to.
The other nice feature is an actual workout section which gives you a set of exercises to carry out on your own. The screen will display a selection of workouts which you choose from. Just click the one you want and a handy little gif person will pop up on the screen to explain the exercises. Perfect if you need tome help in pulling a simple little training plan tomorrow. It’ll also monitor how well you did when carry out the exercises.
As we mentioned before, the Ionic is designed to incorporate a host of information to give a holistic view of your lifestyle. As well as consistently measuring heart rate and steps, the watch also picks up things like sleep monitoring, how much water you drink and what you’ve been eating. Obviously those last two need you to actually type stuff in the app (nothing is that good yet), but the sleep monitor just works it all out itself. It’ll even give you a break down of the different levels of sleep you go through in a night so you can start modifying it.
There’s also a Fitbit pay function on it for contactless payments. Time will tell how successful that is, but based on the widespread use of Fitbit devices, it’ll probably be pretty damn popular.
The fact that you can upload music to the watch and listen via bluetooth headphones is pretty cool. Means you can go running without needing to take a phone with you, or you have an emergency source of music if you ever need it. The only downside to this is the clumpy file transfer system from iTunes which took us a while to play around with. Still, we’re probably still a bit off being able to link a smart device to Spotify without the need for a phone nearby. We’re holding out for that one.
Fitbit have even launched their own pair of headphones designed to work with the Ionic called the Fitbit Flyers (£109.99) which are a damn nice piece of kit as well. Take a look for yourself.
Ease of use
After a few weeks of using the Ionic we can safely say it’s a lovely piece of kit. The fact that it simply just works without the need for unnecessary tinkering or reading through websites is a massive bonus and opens it up to a whole new world of smart wear customers. Aside from the music side of things, managing the app and the watch is ridiculously simple, especially considering how much information you can get out of the thing if you really want it.
It’s a beautiful piece of kit. Looks lovely, works like a dream, it’s s simple to use and holds a heap of data that can be used for anyone who really wants to dig deep into the app and use it. It’s essentially what all of those fitness smart watches in the past should have been like but never quite managed to make it simple enough for everyone to enjoy.
For more info on the Fitbit Ionic, head over to the website here. It costs £299.99 and has a selection of accessories available.
Picture Credits: Fitbit
Note: We received tests product for this review.