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A step forward, but a £300 step forward?
on 2 October 2017
As promised, here's an update after 10 months use - Original review follows after.
Unfortunately my battery failed after just 10months, only lasting <12hrs on a full charge. My free replacement from Amazon (thank you) is running nicely lasting a week+ for normal use, so if anything the battery has been improved from the original. Fitbit Pay is still worthless to people in the UK (unless you are with Santander or don't mind signing up for an account with people I've never heard of) but as predicted there are 1000s of watch faces to choose from. Most are junk, some are a bit niche, but there are plenty of great quality faces too - far better than Fitbit's own. Some you do have to pay a token amount for (£1-2) but they usually have a trial period too to test them out. There aren't many apps (Strava is good for those who use it) but really, what can you really use/see on a watch anyway? Just having it on your wrist, almost forgetting it's tracking your activity and checking up on it now and then is still as great and addictive as ever. I almost *want* to walk the dog now to burn some extra calories ;)
Sadly there are still literally no "official" straps, I personally would've loved a matching metal strap from Fitbit in the charcoal grey but they seem happy to leave it to 3rd parties this time. Shame. My original 4 stars still stand, I'm still very happy with the Fitbit ecosystem and still believe this is the best fitness tracker you can currently get as a 24hr wearable. Room for improvement but still a great purchase, and now £50 less than when I bought it.
Original review follows, thanks for all the +helpful votes! Happy to help.
As I own a Fitbit Charge HR and a Fitbit Blaze I guess you could say I'm well versed in the Fitbit environment. I'm more interested in fitness than style and Fitbit has suited that need so far. The Apple watch almost requires you to be invested in Apple products whereas Fitbit are platform independent.
I bought the Ionic literally for one reason. The Blaze has ZERO customisation. You're stuck with Fitbit rolling out new clock faces at a rate of about 1 per 3 months. And the faces often didn't show the information you wanted, so like me, you're a 6'4 guy with a pink clock face because it's the only one that showed heartrate, and time, and date. Great.
Enter the Ionic. Thank God.
Right off the bat you can see this is Fitbit's attempt at a premium product. The packaging is nice (think Apple) and you get both large and small straps in the box instead of trying to guess what Fitbit consider your wrist to be and having to order accordingly. The quick release/attach straps are a Godsend - you can literally press your thumb on a part of the strap and it detaches and click a new one in in literally seconds. Great. The straps are a bit chunky and don't lay as flat as you'd like but they feel durable. The charger also has a magnet on so it pops right into place behind the watch face with no fuss - no more popping the inside of the watch out to charge it like you had to with the Blaze.
Staying with the positives, the screen is much more responsive than the Blaze. It's still nowhere near as responsive as your phone, but it's a huge step up from the "work when I feel like it " Blaze. Scrolling lists is also smoother, but don't kid yourself, it's nothing like an Apple watch. It's all a bit clunkier and slower, but remember, this helps the battery last longer, much, much longer. The Ionic is also waterproof and has a built in GPS so there's less need to drag your phone around with you as well as your watch (surely kind of the point of putting all this stuff in the watch in the first place)
My primary usage of my Fitbit is to track heartrate (Fitbit's heartrate-based calorie burn is VERY accurate for me) and to track resting heartrate (overall fitness). The 24hr heartrate tracking is amazingly interesting to me, clearly showing the effects exercise, lack of sleep, alcohol and excess takeaways have on your heart. It really does make you *want* to be healthier and get that resting heartrate lower and lower. I find the sleep tracking interesting too. Again, it's surprising how things can have such a drastic effect on your sleep quality.
I'm a website developer myself, but in less than 30mins I had my own clock face (see attached photo), in a font and color of my choosing, showing date and current heartrate. To me, it's worth the cost alone to have that level of control over my watch display. I look forward to tinkering with it to suit my mood.
For us UK people, there's no music app as Pandora is US only. Also the Fitbit Pay option has limited cards it works with. I've not tested this at all yet but I assume at some point it will be more useful. Other than a weather app, there's currently nothing but Strava.
Build quality is nice overall but unlike the Blaze you're stuck with whatever bezel you buy. You can't buy a strap that completely replaces everything around the face. I'm also a little unhappy with the slight gap around the face and where the strap clicks in it doesn't sit perfectly flush on mine. Minor points, but I don't expect minor issues with a product that costs this much. It is worth nothing the watch face has a slight bulbous curve to it which looks rather nice and helps smooth off the blocky appearance that plagued the Blaze.
Screen visibility in bright light is very good, no complaints there. I assume it has some kind of polarizing filter as when you look at it straight on the blacks are very dark and visibility is extremely crisp. Bit of a shame that a large portion of the bezel at the bottom is AGAIN taken up with the Fitbit logo though. This means to vertically centre the time on the watch it's actually in the lower half of the actual screen which looks quite odd in the daylight. A small thing, but those with an eye for such things will be distracted at first.
Fitbit have also added 2 buttons to the right hand side of the watch. These do nothing new except make it easier to perform onscreen actions without having to tap the screen itself - e.g. if you are running or swimming.
As an upgrade to the Blaze, I would give this 2.5 stars - there's really very little new here, nearly everything is the same in the UI and you'll be hard pressed to notice much difference. You're paying solely for the waterproofing and the GPS and whatever apps get released in the future. As a standalone product I give it my 4 star rating above. It's expensive, but probably still the best fitness tracker out there. It has potential but it's a costly investment right now. If this is a lot of money for you, I'd recommend the Blaze still, otherwise jump in here and enjoy or wait a bit for a price reduction.
I'll update my review with further info and battery lifetime etc. in the near future. I ordered the charcoal/smoke grey finish which has a kind of matte effect and is quite dark and paid £300 on 2/10/17.