Every Day Carry (EDC) is the special gear that elevated itself to essential equipment, the things our editors add to their personal lives. The Fitbit Ionic is one of those items.
Fitbit is floundering. The company is down in shipments because it was too late to the smartwatch party. How does it respond? Aim at it’s most fiersome competitor: Garmin. Taking down the big G isn’t an easy task. Fitbit announced the GPS-equipped Surge way back in 2014, when fitbits were still a thing. Since then the casual market the company made the bulk of its money on moved on to more serious fitness or technology pursuits. Crossfit was on the rise and the Apple Watch was about to rock the wearable world. The company released the Blaze in early 2016 to help stop the rot and acquired Pebble at the end of that year. Ionic is the product of that acquisition, a bastardised blend of Blaze and smartwatch platform, but with built in GPS.
What’s great? Definitely an evolution of the Blaze design language, but now cast in metal. Ionic sports an upgraded screen, unibody design and, importantly, massively improved heart rate sensing tech. GPS was a must-have if the company had any hope of catching Garmin in the fitness tracking game, but Fitbit’s trump card will always be the smartphone application and social integration; which is better than ever. WiFi connectivity and internal storage for music are also good additions. Regularly got above 3 days of battery life; that’s good.
What’s meh? Fitbit essentially took the Blaze, stripped off all of the functions and packaged them into apps on its new smartwatch platform. When you first fire the watch up it needs to download all the apps first before you can even think of using the watch. Adding music without a Pandora account is also a near impossible task which forces you to connect the watch to your computer. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Much like Garmin, Fitbit found it necessary to add a contactless payment method called Fitbit Pay… If Apple and Samsung can’t deliver the card-free dream to SA, these guys definitely won’t.
Verdict: This is a surprisingly capable GPS watch that gets very few things wrong. A recent software update also squashed one or two bugs, making it an even more enticing purchase. If you want a capable GPS sports watch that doesn’t look too much like a sports watch, this is the one you get. If you want a smartwatch that can pull a shift as a workout companion shop Polar M600 or Apple Watch for your respective smartphone operating system. The Ionic is the watch Fitbit needed to produce to get back in the game. Whether the company can compete is an entirely different story. Serious athletes should still purchase specialised tools, but the casual fitness enthusiast is well served on this platform.
From R5 000