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For seven days we put the Fitbit Ionic fitness watch through its paces

For seven days we put the Fitbit Ionic fitness watch through its paces

Nick Watkins 2018/06/14

Before we get into this, you should know one thing – I’ve never worn a step counter, I don’t even wear a watch, all my fitness is tracked by an app, but only when I’m actually working out, not 24/7. A week of tracking my every move seems a little daunting. Generally I work out two or three times a week and use an app to track any long (5k, counts as long for me) runs. For seven days I’m trying out the Fitbit Ionic, the latest, most advanced (and most expensive) wearable in the range.

Day One

I’m intrigued to see how I get on with this, given I have literally no idea how many steps I do on an average day. I’m also a bit fearful that I’m not going to like my results as I spend most of my weekdays sat at a desk. Getting the watch fresh out the box, I’m excited to try my new toy, but it needs charging so it lasts about a minute on my wrist before I need to give it some juice. It plugs into my laptop’s USB port so there’s no problems there, what I do have an issue with is the time it’s taking to sync to my phone, admittedly I’m having Wi-Fi issues though, so I connect it via Bluetooth still expecting it to charge up quickly. A few hours later it’s fully synced and wirelessly hooked up with my phone via the Fitbit app.

Now, for someone who’s not used to having their fitness data tracked every minute of every day, it’s overwhelming to see everything laid out in black and white – the Ionic tracks steps, [equivalent] floors climbed, distance walked, calories burned and how long you’ve been active for – and all that is presented on the first page without scrolling or swiping for any additional data. The app also knows how much I weigh, where I am, what I’ve eaten and how much sleep I’ve had – so with all this information it should be accurate at least.

In terms of wearability, it’s quite big, with a tight rubber strap and a bright touchscreen. The screen shows the time in bright red numbers, along with your step count, heart rate and date at the touch of a button. In terms of actual exercise, the first day isn’t exactly a roaring success. Just 1,860 calories burned thanks to 2,427 steps. Something to build on I suppose.

Smartwatch: The latest in the range

Day Two

It doesn’t take me long to realise I’m wearing a bit of kit with a lot more to it than just a step counter. Buying a banana for breakfast prompts a notification from my bank to pop up on Ionic’s touch screen– that’s without me giving it any additional information, it’s just picked it up from being linked to my phone. Turns out you can also store more than 300 songs on Ionic and listen to them without a phone – you just sync them from your computer or Deezer. A nifty feature but you need wireless headphones to actually hear the music.

I’ve also realised I can change the clock face via the app, with literally hundreds of options. You just click the one you want on the app and it appears on the Fitbit. It’s literally like wearing a new watch every day. While yesterday felt daunting, today is more exciting, I’m looking forward to seeing how many steps I do, and I’m making a conscious effort to do more than the day before – which I wouldn’t have even thought about had I not been wearing the Fitbit. At the end of the day, a few swipes up on the Ionic shows all the crucial data, total steps, steps this hour, and resting heart rate. Today shows progress 5,611 steps complete with 49 minutes of constant activity. Emails land in my inbox congratulating me on my progress too, so that’s nice.

Day Three

I’m really getting into this now, I decide that I’m going to do a 5k run today to get more steps under my belt – and burn a few hundred calories in the process. Usually I use a running app to record such data but there’s no real need given that the Fitbit is doing everything, and more. It’s also rewarding to know that my steps are increasing everyday, but that’s probably the novelty of wearing something I don’t usually, at this point. My steps are up again (7,450) and I’m using music saved to the device to get me though the 5k run. The built-in GPS tracks where I’ve been so I can see real-time pace and distance on display during outdoor exercise.

Day Four

I’ve been playing around with the other features of the Ionic as I’ve been predominantly using it for counting steps the past few days. I try and pay for groceries using the watch, which I’ve synced with my Apple Wallet – the only thing is it doesn’t work the first few times I tap it on the reader, and I can feel the queue of people behind me getting later and later for work. I give up and use the trusty Chip and Pin method instead (I found out later that Fitbit Pay isn’t yet available in region). Day four turns out to be fewer steps than the previous few days (4,448 steps, which is still akin to climbing 10 floors) and shows I’m only active consecutively for nine minutes today. It’s actually a bit disappointing, so tomorrow must be an improvement.

Day Five

The best thing I’ve noticed so far about the Ionic is the battery life, which has lasted five days on a single charge. I actually forgot that it was running on a smart watch battery life and not ticking over like a regular watch. You can get 4-5 days battery life on one charge. It’s the most expensive Fitbit ever produced, however there’s no speaker or microphone so you can’t respond to messages. So you can read them but not reply, which is a slight issue as when you’re walking or running you still need to get your phone out. A long day in the office means yet more bad news on the step-count front – just 3,586 today, although that does burn 2,055 cals.

Day Six

When I first put the Ionic on, having been used to not wearing a watch, I found it pretty big and blocky, which even after nearly a week of using it I still feel it’s pretty chunky. This model is larger than other smart watches on the market and bigger than previous Fitbits. However the nano-moulding of the pieces improves the performance and build quality, and admittedly it does feel durable. It’s waterproof too, as a quick dip in the pool this morning proves. Keen to get to a record high, I make sure I’m wearing it for the two hours of football I’ll be doing tonight. 15,518 steps, 22 floors, 10.51km, 3,181 and 169 minutes of continuous actively later, I check my watch to see my results. What’s more as all of these are records for my since I started wearing the watch, they’re all nicely highlighted in green, giving another sense of achievement.

Day Seven

Today’s this last day I’m documenting my progress with the Fitbit and after yesterday’s two-hour football I know I won’t be able to beat those 15,518 steps. In a way I’ll be glad to take it off because it’s easy to see it as an enemy. Part of me doesn’t want it to tell me how little exercise I’ve been doing because I know it really should be more. However, I want it to feed me that exact information as seeing it written down means there’s no hiding from it. Having worn it for a week, I feel I should be exercising more (even though two/three times a week isn’t bad – the average male walks 5,000-7,000 steps a day). I complete 3,550 steps, burning 1,936 cals. I suppose it’s not awful, given today is again a workday and I’ve been deskbound but it’s basically telling me to get out after work and get those steps up.

Overall thoughts

As a smart watch, the Fitbit Ionic has been pretty late coming to the market, there are others out there doing pretty much the same things. If you are buying it for its notifications and smart watch capability it’s pretty limited. You should really look at it as a fitness watch, which happens to have smart watch features, as a bonus. It has 2.5GB of internal storage for apps and music, which is useful and using its own Fitbit OS elevates it into the smart watch sphere, so it can run those third party apps (like Starbucks for instance). Plus, you can tap to pay with it, which is a nifty feature, just make sure there’s not a queue of employees late for work behind you.

In terms of ease of use, pressing the home button brings you back to the main screen and if you swipe right you can see your workouts, alarms, music and workouts at a glance. It’s pretty easy. One thing I didn’t like, and this is purely because I couldn’t keep up with it throughout the week, is that it buzzed every hour telling me I need to 250 steps – which nine times out of ten I didn’t complete (shamefully).

All in all, if you’re in the market for a fitness watch you’ll struggle to find one that gives you such comprehensive coverage. It just depends if all that data inspires you or scares you off.

Features

Personal trainer with Fitbit Coach: Access dynamic, on-device workouts that adapt based on feedback you provide on your wrist, and 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.

New swim exercise mode: With water resistance up to 50 meters, use Ionic in any body of water and see your real-time laps, exercise duration and calories burned for pool swims.

Improved heart rate technology: Ionic has enhanced PurePulse heart rate tracking with greater accuracy during exercises like cycling, intervals and running.

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.

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 device (2.5 GB of storage), or downloading and listening to your favorite podcasts (requires headphones).

Make payments using Fitbit Pay™: Leave your wallet and phone at home and pay for items right from your device, wherever contactless payments are accepted.

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.

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.

Click here to purchase a Fitbit Ionic

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