Smartwatch Fitbit Ionic
I bought Fitbit Ionic last year in November. It took me a while to write this review. I hoped that during that time a few bugs will be fixed, Fitbit OS will be little bit tunned, I will learn to use all features and there will be more apps available. There was no use in waiting for most of the things.
Main reasons why I bought Fitbit Ionic in the first place are:
- Waterproofness – It can be used for swimming.
- Operating system – It has apps that are created by developers which contribute to the ecosystem of this smartwatch.
Fitbit went to smartwatch market little by little. His last products like Blaze or Charge 2 have larger screens, show notifications and are capable of some level of interaction. The big leap for Fitbit for the acquisition of Pebble that brought an important know how to company.
In this review, I will compare Ionic to its predecessors, because I don’t own any other smartwatch. I don’t want to guess how other smartwatch works without real-life experience.
The frame is made of aluminium, the strap is made of plastic and the display is a Gorilla Glass (I have already a small scratch. Only a few days before my screen protection arrived). Watch is huge. I think that it has the similar size as Surge – the largest product in Fitbit portfolio. But I have to say that it fits me much better than Charge 2. So I don’t have any complaints about their size.
I’m worried about the quality of plastic strap. All other Fitbit models, that I had, didn’t last long. Luckily the strap is switchable so its loss won’t be fatal. You can buy a new strap directly on Fitbit or much cheaper on Aliexpress. You can choose between plastic, leather and metal straps.
Ionic is waterproof and it can be used during swimming. I tried it several times and it still works.
The display is great. It has a good readability under a bright sun. It can be turned on by button, tap or gesture of the hand. The gesture is easy to use and very reliable.
Usage of sensors in Ionic is a big disappointment for me. It has some interesting ones, but they don’t work in reality. Accelerometer, altitude meter a heart rate sensor is standard that we are used to.
The first problem I faced was with heart rate monitoring. When I was running, the first 10 minutes my heart rate went up to 200 and then it suddenly jumped back to normal. That was out of reality! I wrote to Fitbit support and they told me that they know about the bug and they are solving this. Unfortunately, they are trying it for several months.
Finally, I figured out where was the problem. I tightened a band one step more and heart rate tracking went to normal. I didn’t have such problem with Charge 2.
I’m disappointed that when I start to track swimming, heart rate tracking is turned off.
Integrated GPS is a great feature because I don’t have to carry my phone. In reality, when I leave the home, it is better to take it with me anyway. Especially when I’m going out for a long time.
GPS works pretty well. I think it gives me more meter than my phone sometimes. Searching for satellites is slow. I have to wait about a half of minute. In winter it isn’t comfortable at all. GPS last about 10 hours. I didn’t try it by myself.
Ionic also has sensors of ambient light and temperature. The only problem is that they work only internally. Data from these sensors will not appear in any statistic. I loved that some Garmin watch shows you a temperature you were working out. On the other side – it wouldn’t be very accurate. Anyway, sensors should be available for developers at last.
In some specifications, I saw digital compass. It mysteriously disappeared.
When the Fitbit Ionic was launched everyone was writing about oxygen saturation sensor. In all reviews, I saw it in plus section. The truth is that this sensor is missing in official specification The only source of this information was mention on the website for investors, where you can read, that hardware is there but the system is not ready yet. Ionic does not use SPO2 sensor and it is very unlikely, that it could change in near future. It just created crowds of unhappy customers.
Ionic has all features that you are used to from other Fitbit products:
- It tracks steps, floors, calories, …
- All day heart rate tracking and calculation resting heart rate
- It tracks sleep and his stages
- It counts your “fitness level”
- You can see your data in the very good mobile app
And now let’s review the core of Ionic – their operating system. From a technical point of view, it is a large leap in technology. Fitbit OS is fast and intuitive. On the other side, it is not finished yet and I miss some function that I couldn’t imagine they don’t implement them.
For example – you cannot lock your display. When you tap somewhere by accident, you can stop your workout tracking and you will not notice it. Very unpleasant.
Problems with synchronization are very often. I have to restart everything and then it starts working. I have to admit that these problems are with all Fitbit product, not only with this OS.
Another proof that system is buggy and unfinished is the last update. They released a new firmware which has some kind of sensor calibration. It notifies me every day that I should calibrate sensors. But it is buggy and calibration does not work!!! They are working on the fix for a month now. That is a very long time because this message disturbs me every day of my life.
Clock Face is the first screen you see on your Fitbit Ionic. You can turn it on manually or by a hand gesture. It contains the most basic information you need to know. Basically time, date and some fitness progression in the current day. Developers can create and publish their own clock faces so you can have weather forecast on your screen.
This part of Fitbit OS works great. You can customize your clock in your mobile app. You can change colour or choose to show a different type of fitness goal. Settings are different face to face… My current clock face shows me my heart rate in last 15 minutes.
You can see your notification by swiping down. In your mobile app, you pick which apps you want to see there. Sometimes it isn’t very reliable. Once I finished call and Ionic started vibrating that someone is calling me…
The big disadvantage is that notifications aren’t synced. It means that when I dismiss the notification on my phone it will be still on Fitbit Ionic. Every notification I have to dismiss twice. It’s like doing a useless job.
A nice feature is that you can turn off notification when Ionic thinks you fall asleep.
You can upload mp3 files to your Fitbit Ionic and listen to music through Bluetooth headphones. The process of uploading is complicated and unbelievably slow.
Most of us don’t have mp3 files of favourite songs these days. We are using music streaming services. The most common service is Spotify. Unfortunately, Fitbit does not have the contract with Spotify, so you cannot use it. When Ionic was released it had integrated only Pandora, which works only in the US. For other countries was integrated Deezer recently.
Uploading your own mp3 files to Fitbit is hell. You cannot do it by your phone and you have to use desktop application. Data are transferred via WiFi. At first, I was not able to establish the connection. It showed the error that Fitbit servers are not available. I don’t understand, why I need Fitbit servers when I was just to upload files from my computer to my Ionic…
The worst thing is that upload takes like an eternity. I wanted to upload my audiobook. It was 20 hours of spoken word and upload took 20 hours!!! That is insane. I can imagine that you can handle it with music. You can upload it one time and then you use one playlist again and again. You cannot use Fitbit for audiobooks or podcasts. It just takes too long.
There is NFC chip in the watch so you can use Fitbit Pay. I’m from a small country and it is very unlikely that some bank would integrate it.
I think it is a big disadvantage that NFC chip cannot be used by developers.
Fitbit OS have own store, where developers publish their apps. But … this store in the Fitbit mobile app is weird. When I compare it with other parts of the app it is like I step into a different world. It is very slow and user experience is just bad.
Apps are summed in a few categories. You can see the list of names and icons and that is all. There is not rating yet so it’s hard to find quality apps. Navigation in the app store is very slow.
I would appreciate if developers would gain more options in app creating. Activity tracking is closed part of the system and I have many ideas how it could be improved.
Truth to be told I use only one app for daily basics – timer. I don’t want to say that app store is useless and nothing is there. I just didn’t found any useful apps for me. Maybe you can find something interesting. There are apps for mood tracking, altitude meter or rate of Bitcoin.
Some of the apps are preinstalled by default. I can finally change alarm clock time on device and I don’t have to use the mobile app. Finally. I have only one notice to the alarm clock – when I sleep deeply, it cannot wake me up. Vibrations are too weak.
Final review of Fitbit Ionic
I would like to answer the question, if Fitbit Ionic is better than its predecessors and if it worths the money.
I cannot tell you. Everyone has its own expectation from smartwatch or fitness bands. Ionic suits my needs better than my previous Fitbit products. I can manage basic tasks on watch, they are waterproof and their size does not concern me. What I hate is very inaccurate heart rate tracking when the band is not tightened enough.
Ionic cannot be compared to professional running watch that is made by Garmin and others. It’s a different category. Fitbit Ionic is more for hobby usage. You cannot pair sensor with ANT+ or Bluetooth communication and you don’t even have basic cadence metric. I really don’t understand why Ionic don’t have this when the first Fitbit product was basically a step counter.
Browsing your activities on Fitbit website app cannot be worse. If I want to see run from last year I have to click 20 times on “show me more”. There is no navigation! No filtering! Nothing! You cannot see even your weekly mileage. You have to use Strava, Endomondo or some other fitness app. Fortunately, you can export your data to them.
Does it worth the money? I don’t think so. For me, it is kind of expensive timer. Fitbit Ionic is not bad, it just had been released before it was ready. I think that the next generation will be much better and I hope that the app store will grow and there will be more options to developers.
I’m also curious how long will Fitbit update OS on this watch. I hope that it will not be as in Android when update stuck after a few years.