In the world of smartwatches, Apple’s Watch rules the roost, Android wants to Wear the smartwatch pants, Samsung has geared up with its Tizen-based models, and now Fitbit Ionic wants to join in the fun.
Naturally, sceptics wonder whether Fitbit’s effort is doomed to failure in the face of so much existing competition, but with Fitbit’s undeniable heritage in the fitness space, and its obvious effort to create a well rounded smartwatch that is the company’s most advanced product ever, Fitbit is clearly hoping Ionic will resonate with the public and prove the next popular Fitbit product.
However, as it sells for $449.95 in Australia, a price point around $100 less than an Apple Watch or a Huawei Watch 2, it’s clearly going to be a battle for Fitbit to convince buyers to get a Fitbit rather than anything else.
Fitbit starts off by stating “Ionic offers a highly personalised experience not previously seen in other smartwatches".
Ionic “builds on Fitbit’s health and fitness expertise with a new relative SpO2 sensor, making it possible to track deeper health insights like sleep apnea in the future, industry-leading GPS tracking, on-device dynamic workouts, improved heart rate tracking, and water resistance up to 50 metres".
Then there’s the smartwatch feature-set like “contactless payments, on-board music, smart notifications, and a variety of popular apps and clock faces available in the Fitbit App Gallery” to tempt you into prucashing, including all the “core features” Fitbit users “love from Fitbit like 4+ day battery life, automatic activity and sleep tracking, and cross-platform compatibility".
Available to purchase from October 2017, and in pre-order now, along with a special Fitbit Iconic Adidas special edition due in 2018, Fitbit also has a software development kit (SDK) for app creation that will be open to developers in September 2017.
James Park, co-founder and chief executive of Fitbit, said: “Ten years ago, Fitbit pioneered the wearables category with the introduction of its first health and fitness tracker. Since then, we have become the leading global wearables brand, setting the pace of innovation in the category and establishing the largest social fitness network that helps millions of people around the world be healthier.
“With Ionic, we will deliver what consumers have not yet seen in a smartwatch – a health and fitness first platform that combines the power of personalisation and deeper insights with our most advanced technology to date, unlocking opportunities for unprecedented health tracking capabilities in the future.”
Here’s the list of features and benefits within the Fitbit Ionic:
- Personal trainer with Fitbit Coach: Access dynamic, on-device workouts that adapt based on feedback you provide on your wrist, or listen to expert-designed running and walking Audio Coaching sessions (available 2018) to increase endurance, speed and form on your schedule.
- Running companion: Automatically track your run with the new Run Detect feature that kicks in GPS tracking – just step out the door and go; see real-time pace and distance; auto-pause to grab some water or take a breather and automatically resume when you start running.
- New swim exercise mode: With water resistance up to 50 metres and industry-leading lap counting, use Ionic in the pool and see your real-time laps, exercise duration and calories burned for pool swims.
- Industry-leading GPS: The unique design and integrated antenna inside Ionic provide a stronger connection to GPS and GLONASS satellites, delivering industry-leading GPS performance. Leave your phone behind and see pace and distance right on your wrist, as well as record elevation climbed, split times, and a map of your walk, run or ride in the Fitbit app.
- Improved heart rate technology: Ionic has enhanced PurePulse heart rate tracking with greater accuracy during exercises like cycling, intervals and running; better measure calorie burn, see real-time heart rate zones to optimise intensity, and track resting heart rate 24/7.
- New sensor technology: The introduction of a relative SpO2 sensor for estimating blood oxygen levels opens the potential for tracking important new indicators about your health, such as sleep apnea.
- Motivation through music: Leave your phone at home and find the motivation to jumpstart your workout by storing and playing more than 300 songs on a device (2.5 GB of storage). Connect Ionic to the new Fitbit Flyer wireless headphones, or any Bluetooth device of your choosing.
- Make payments using Fitbit Pay: Leave your wallet and phone at home and effortlessly pay for items right from your device, wherever contactless payments are accepted. Over the coming months you will be able to add eligible U.S. American Express cards, as well as Mastercard and Visa credit and debit cards from top issuing banks in over 10 markets across the globe, including ANZ, Banco Santander, Bank of America, Capital One, HSBC, KBC Bank Ireland, OCBC Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, UOB and US Bank with more countries and banks planned soon.
- Smart notifications you need most: With extended smartphone notifications, receive call, text and calendar alerts, as well as notifications from apps on your smartphone like Facebook, Gmail, Instagram, Slack, Snapchat and more.
- Multi-day battery life: With 4+ day battery life on a single charge (10 hours with GPS or playing music), Ionic will outlast any activity you do during the day and still track your sleep all night.ii
- In addition to these new features, Fitbit promises its Ionic “has everything you love about Fitbit” – automatically track your steps, calories, floors climbed and sleep stages, see your cardio fitness level (estimated VO2 Max), maintain moments of calm and more.
Harrison Barnes, Fitbit Ambassador, Olympic gold medallist and star forward for the Dallas Mavericks, said: “Whether I’m trying to stay in shape during the off-season or train for the playoffs, tracking my activity and health on and off the court is crucial to my success. With Ionic, I can see my heart rate zones in real-time so I can gauge how hard I’m pushing myself during a workout, and track my sleep each night to make sure I’m rested and recovered so I’m at my best on the court the next day.”
Here’s the video for the new Fitbit Ionic:
Here’s some of the apps in Fitbit’s App Gallery at launch:
- Strava, the leading social network for millions of athletes at all levels, makes it easy to get inspired, stay motivated, track activities and analyse your performance data for your runs, bike rides and swims. Using the exclusive Matched Runs feature, you can benchmark yourself against past performances on your most common routes – right on your wrist.
- Weather, powered by global leader AccuWeather, gives you real-time weather predictions with Superior Accuracy from your three favourite locations. Get personalised forecast information with your exact location, so you can better plan your workout or weekend.
- The App Gallery will continue to expand with more popular apps expected this October, like Flipboard, GAME GOLF, Nestiii and Surfline, plus many more apps and clock faces created by our developer community.
Developers can download the Fitbit Studio app SDK in September, where you’ll get “access to sensors on the device and the opportunity for your content to be available to all Ionic and future Fitbit smartwatch users.”
Fitbit purchased the Pebble smartwatch platform, and has finally used some of that IP in creating the SDK, with “these industry-leading developer benefits and tools” on offer:
- Choose who you develop for: Skip the review process and create apps or clock faces just for friends and family, or submit for approval to be included in the curated Gallery. Developer apps and clock faces will be added to the Gallery starting this October.
- Cross-platform compatibility: Develop one app and reach Fitbit’s large, global community of users across Android, iOS and Windows platforms.
- Open platform for health partners: The SDK creates an easy way for enterprise health companies to encourage better health outcomes by utilising Fitbit devices and access to its sensors to build customised wellness programs for their customers.
- Future opportunities: The built-in NFC chip opens the opportunity to develop apps that provide keyless and cardless access to buildings, hotels, sporting venues and transportation in the future.
Other features including Ionic featuring “new processes and materials that improve weight, fit, durability, breathability and daily wear – resulting in an extremely lightweight, ergonomic design comfortable enough to wear all day and night:”
- Most advanced design: Utilising nano-molding technology, the unibody watchcase allows it to double as the Bluetooth and GPS antenna. This construction creates a stronger GPS signal that works in busy cities or on remote trails.
- Built to last: Ionic is built to be more durable with new materials, new bands and more extensive testing than ever before.
- Easy to read display: A colour, spherical glass touchscreen with crisp graphics and amplified brightness of up to 1,000 nits lets you read your stats wherever you are – in bright sunlight or a low-lit room.
- Trending styles and accessories: Ionic comes in a range of styles and colours (see below) with interchangeable Classic, Sport and Horween leather accessories so it can seamlessly transition from work to a workout or a night out.
Fitbit Ionic is available for presale now on Fitbit.com and select online retailers tomorrow for A$449.95.
Ionic will be available in stores worldwide beginning October 2017, including leading Australian retailers. It is available in three stylish colour combinations inspired by elevating everyday neutrals that fit seamlessly into your life: silver grey tracker and clasp with blue grey band, smoke grey tracker and clasp with charcoal band, or burnt orange tracker and clasp with slate blue band.
- Classic accessories in blue grey with silver grey buckle, charcoal with smoke grey buckle, and slate blue with burnt orange buckle - $49.95
- Two-toned breathable Sport Band accessories in black and charcoal, or cobalt and lime - $49.95
- Hand-crafted and perforated Horween leather accessories in cognac and midnight blue - $99.95
Fitbit also announced Fitbit Flyer, Fitbit Aria 2, and a new premium guidance and coaching offering - more detail here.