Fitbit fights to stay relevant with new entry into smartwatch market

The Ionic health and fitness watch will cost $299, a full $50 less than the Apple Watch 2 and probably considerably less than its new smartwatch, which is expected to come with an LTE cellular chip that allows the watch to communicate directly over the wireless cellular network. This wasn't a secret.

Tying together the entire experience together is Fitbit OS, the company's new smartwatch operating system, which the company says will launch with all smartwatch products it ships in the future. The watch also includes Fitbit's updated PurePulse continuous heart rate tracking technology, Bluetooth, and a new relative SpO2 sensor for estimating oxygen levels in the blood.

Unlike the Fitbit Blaze, the Ionic packs in premium smartwatch features such as Global Positioning System, water resistance for swim tracking and, most importantly, an app store with third-party apps. The App Gallery will have Strava, Accuweather, Flipboard and more, and Fitbit will open SDK for third-party developers in September.

The device may also beat the Apple Watch for battery life, boasting more than four days worth of power, Fitbit claims.

"We feel strongly that smartwatches are a platform for us to deliver the most advanced health tools that the market has seen", Fitbit CEO James Park said last week at an exclusive media event in Montauk. I love the Ionic's features and potentially game-changing health apps, but wish Fitbit had put as much thought into the design as it did the software.

Storage capacity of 2.5GB is available for adding tracks, audiobooks or podcasts to the Ionic, reiterating the phone-free ethos that Fitbit has tried to allow for with the Ionic smartwatch, while smartphone notifications are also available and not just for texts and calls but third party apps too, including Facebook and WhatsApp.

The company has also introduced Fitbit Pay with its first smartwatch. Like Apple Pay and Android Pay, Fitbit Pay lets you load credit cards onto your watch for making payments at standard store checkout readers.

Fitbit Ionic is now available to preorder on and will be available at major retailers in October.

Fitbit Ionic product render back 3-quarter
The rear-mounted heart tracking monitor

The Fitbit Ionic will go on sale in October for $300.

You normally can't take a personal coach everywhere you go.

Fitbit signalled its intention to move into payments a year ago when it bought the wearable assets of Coin, helping it move beyond its core fitness tracking service.

Adidas is set to deliver a Fitbit Ionic special edition in 2018.

Speaking of GPS, Ionic features the best GPS tracking of any Fitbit wearable to date - according to Fitbit. It features a color, spherical glass touchscreen display with a brightness of up to 1,000 nits and is offered in a range of styles and colors (such is also the case with the bands). Beyond all that, there doesn't seem to be much particular advantage in picking Fitbit's headphones over the competition.

Fitbit is also getting ready to ship an upgraded version of its Wi-Fi scale.

As mentioned above, the Ionic is available to pre-order now.

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  • Delia Davidson