An honest review of the Fitbit Ionic

So if you have found this you have probably been looking for a smart watch.

Let me start of by giving you a little background to my experiences. I have jumped into wearable tech quite early on. Buying an LG G Watch R – back when Android Wear first launched. I then moved to a Garmin fitness tracker and finally the Fitbit.

I will preface this review with a caveat. The reason when I chose Garmin, Fitbit etc is due to their platform independence, which given my natural desire to change mobile platforms on a semi regular basis makes it a much more sound investment.

Ok, so having owned the Fitbit Ionic for about 18 months now I feel I’m in a place to give a solid review of its positives, negatives and outright stupids.

Let’s break the review down into a few key areas:

  1. Smartwatch usage
  2. Fitness tracker
  3. Design and reliability

Smartwatch usage

Ok, firstly let me start of by saying if you expect the Ionic to compete with an Apple Watch – it won’t. If you want an Apple Watch – buy an Apple Watch.

This is primary focused as a fitness tracker (more on that later) – but it also offers some nice functionality as a smarter device.

Things that I like – it allows you to see calls, texts and other app notifications such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. These are all great it means I rarely get my phone out of my pocket to check what’s just buzzed.

Things I don’t like – simply put its to slow, the response time on the scrolling is slow, it often misses notifications and you have to add which apps you want notifications from in the Fitbit app. Which is a pain.

Ok, so what else can it do? Well it can stream music (and download playlists) – but only if you use Deezer – which I don’t – and judging by the over 8000 people who have signed the forums “suggestion/ideas” for Spotify support – neither do many others. This is a massive pain in the arse when you don’t want to have your phone near you in the gym or on a run. I am almost certain it’s due to them signing an exclusive deal with Deezer or that Samsung have a deal with Spotify – either way it’s shit. So much so I almost moved device if it hadn’t been so good as a tracker.

One big plus is it can do NFC contactless payments – but currently Fitbit Pay is only supported by four relatively unknown banks (except Santander) in the UK – Starling and a few others. By comparison Apple Pay and G Pay are widely supported by most major banks and credit cards. Still it’s nice to have the option.

UK Banks Supporting Fitbit Pay

It functions well at telling the time, setting alarms and ordering an Uber if you so wish. But that is basically most of its smartness exhausted.


Fitness Tracker

Ok, so this is probably why people consider a Fitbit in the first place. They made their name in activity trackers and sleep tracking.

The Fitbit app is well polished and works well – a preview of this is shown below:

It allows you to see your sleep analysis and track exercise (manually if needed), food intake, water intake as well as checking on all the stats you can see on the watch but over a trend / period of time.

The Fitbit actively encourages you to move 10 minutes before the end of each other if you haven’t met the steps required for your daily goal.

It self tracks many activities like running, bike, swim etc. Below is an example of a Yoga session:

And swimming is an interesting one, my Garmin actually died after 2 swims. This has been much more robust and I often shower and swim with it without issue.

It accurately tracks my steps, floor count and sleep as well as any other tracker if not better. Yes there are probably more accurate tools, but honestly it works well enough to give you an idea if you aren’t or are sleeping enough, how much time you spent in each HR zone during your last run etc.

Heart rate is of particular interest to me as I try and interval train and don’t want to push too hard when I go all out, I love the detail you can see as well as overview for a week as shown below:

The app also links you in with community forums for particular topics like running, weight loss etc. Really useful if you require inspiration and drive to keep going.

Another key area of the app is the “Workweek hustle” and similar. Basically step count competitions to see how many steps you can take against others in a week, weekend or event of your choice. It really keeps motivation high and exercise becomes fun!

So overall the app combined with the excellent hardware makes the fitness side of this a really great piece of kit.


Design and reliability

So I’ve owned my Ionic for 18 months (approx). In that time I’ve been through about 4 full resets/reconfigure and also about 4 straps.

Now, firstly I’ll start off by saying Fitbit have improved the software on the device no end. But it’s still laggy, slow to run apps and just isn’t really as “smartwatch” as they make out. It’s very much a fitness tracker with notifications.

The biggest issue by far for me is getting the bloody thing to sync to the app. Wow what a pain in the arse that is. It’ll work fine for months. Then nothing works. The tracker is recording my steps. Those always sync over, but the exercise and active minutes fail to sync over. Judging by the amount of people complaining online, I’d say it’s a fairly common issue.

The next probably biggest issue is when you try to reset the device because it won’t sync and you are greeted with this:

This is a pretty big deal, basically the firmware gets messed up and it cannot bypass it. If you get this issue follow these steps to solve it:

  1. Remove the Ionic from your Fitbit app
  2. Remove it from your Bluetooth devices list on your phone
  3. Hold all 3 buttons down on the Fitbit until the logo appears then disappears – the release the bottom right button
  4. Keep the other 2 held until it vibrates. Then release
  1. Setup the device in the app (it’ll probably want to update etc too)

A word of warning – the update took over an hour on my device. Very very slow to download and install – regardless of internet speed.

The strap broke within 6 months – it didn’t snap but it stretched by the clip that locks it to the watch face – a design fault in my eyes – but you can get 4 straps for about £15-20 on amazon and now I change them fairly often just because I change up my style.


Overall conclusion

The Fitbit Ionic is a great fitness tracker, a below par smart watch and a buggy mess when it comes to software. But despite all this it is still a device I would recommend. The positives far outweigh the negatives. Recommend.

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