Earlier this month, full device renders for Fitbit’s first-ever smartwatch popped up online to give us a pretty clear look at what to expect from the wearable. Now that the official announcement has been made for Fitbit’s first smartwatch — the Ionic — the company is promising to deliver a wearable that offers powerful fitness-tracking and smartwatch features in one single package.
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This is a story we’ve heard plenty of times before, and although Fitbit previously tried (and failed) with the Blaze, the Fitbit Ionic looks like a huge improvement over what we’ve previously seen from the company.
First off, the Ionic offers all of the typical fitness-tracking features you’ve come to expect from Fitbit. There’s a pedometer for counting your steps, built-in GPS that allows you to map your runs without needing your phone connected, sleep tracking, a heart-rate sensor that can track your active and resting beats per minute, water-resistance that allows for swim tracking, and personal coaching for on-screen workouts that you can use directly on the Ionic.
However, the fitness-tracking goodies are only half of the story here. The Ionic is Fitbit’s first technical smartwatch, and as such, the Ionic has the most non-fitness-related features we’ve ever seen on a Fitbit product.
Unlike the Blaze that only supported basic notifications for calls, texts, and calendar events, the Ionic allows for all of these in addition to notifications from Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, and any other alerts on your phone that you need to be aware of — you know, just like how a smartwatch works.
The Fitbit Ionic will have access to Fitbit’s app store, and while we’re expecting it to be a lot less packed than what’s offered on both Android Wear and Tizen OS for Samsung’s Gear smartwatches, Fitbit says that it’s already partnered with the likes of Strava, Starbucks, and Pandora.
Perhaps the most surprising (and welcome) addition to the Fitbit Ionic is the introduction of Fitbit Pay. Thanks to the NFC chip inside of the Ionic, you’ll be able to add your Visa, Mastercard, or AMEX debit/credit card to the smartwatch and use it to pay at stores that accept Android and Samsung Pay.
Google just introduced Android Pay compatibility on Android Wear devices earlier this year with AW 2.0, so it’s actually quite impressive to see Fitbit already introduce a similar feature with its own platform.
Rounding out the Ionic, Fitbit reports that the smartwatch’s “multi-day battery” should be able to get through 4 or more days of regular use. That’s substantially better than the battery life that most Android Wear watches provide, so if Fitbit can deliver on this claim, it’ll have a serious edge over a lot of the competition coming from Google.
You can get the Ionic in three main colors (Charocal & Smoke Gray, Slate Blue & Burnt Orange, and Blue Gray & Silver Gray), and you’ll be able to swap out the included classic rubber band for a perforated sport band and stylish leather one.
The Fitbit Ionic costs $299.95, and pre-orders are available now through the company’s website with shipping expected to start in 3-4 weeks. There are a lot of good ideas brought to the table the Ionic, and unless Google does something soon to resurrect Android Wear out of the mess it’s currently in, we could be looking at one of the better smartwatch options for this holiday season.