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Here's what a $300 smartwatch from Fitbit looks like

The Ionic boasts a new design and a lot of new ideas. Here's a tour of what to expect.

Scott_Stein.jpg
Scott_Stein.jpg

Scott Stein

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Fitbit Ionic Watch
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Fitbit Ionic Watch

Fitbit's newest watch, Ionic, is an ambitious fitness tracker: it's a full smartwatch this time, with a lot of bands and a new design. Can it be the thing that lives on your wrist?

Fitbit Ionic Watch
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Fitbit Ionic Watch

Ionic does the same fitness activities as other Fitbit trackers: steps, exercise, sleep, heart rate, stairs climbed and standing hours. It also adds swim tracking.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

A variety of exercise modes track biking, running, yoga and more. A new swim mode counts laps, calories and distance.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

Onboard workout playlists are part of an upcoming coaching app update and deeper subscription service called Fitbit Coach. On-watch audio coaching is coming in 2018.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

There are a few fitness watch faces on the Ionic, but more will be available for download from a Fitbit app store at launch.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

Music can be stored on-watch if you transfer from a computer, or it can sync playlists from Pandora's subscription music service. A third music option is using it as a music remote for your phone.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

Another watch face: colorful and simple.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

Heart rate tracking is supposed to benefit from a new Sp O2 sensor that can measure respiration, and could eventually help recognize conditions like sleep apnea.

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Onboard contactless payments are on the Ionic: this is the first Fitbit that can make payments. Fitbit Pay works at contactless pay terminals -- like Apple Pay, Android Pay or Samsung Pay -- but banks will need to support the Fitbit Pay service.

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We were able to pay with a test cash card.

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The watch bands snap into the metal body. Three Fitbit body/band color variations are available at launch: this is the closest to black.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

A 1,000-nit LED display looks bright and sharp. Apps are laid out in a grid: Starbucks and Strava are some of the preinstalled apps.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

The bands detach easily with a button-press. Perforated rubber sport bands and leather ones are sold separately.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

The angular body of the Ionic is large, maybe too much so for some people. But it fit my wrist.

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The back of the included charcoal-grey band. The standard watch buckle keeps it on snugly.

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A look at the display outdoors.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

Fitbit's new Flyer wireless headphones pair with it, or use any Bluetooth headphones.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

This watch face shows steps, calories or heart rate with quick taps.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

The Ionic is also water resistant, up to 50 meters. It can track swims, too.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

This is how the Ionic charges. The plug is awkward, but at least it's small. A full charge should give the watch over four days of battery, according to Fitbit.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

A breathing and relaxation app called "Relax" measures respiration and encourages calm. It works like the "Breathe" app for Apple Watch.

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A view of the side buttons. The Fitbit Ionic has three physical buttons that can be used along with the touchscreen.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

There's a new heart rate sensor: Fitbit says that the new sensor could detect sleep apnea or atrial fibrillation down the road, and help improve heart rate and sleep tracking in the meantime. 

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

NFC inside the Fitbit Ionic could, according to Fitbit, be used for more than just payments down the road (smart locks, maybe?).

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Yet another proprietary Fitbit charge cable. It snaps on magnetically.

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The Ionic looks sharper than the Fitbit Blaze, and is easier to wear and charge.

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Will it be better than the Apple Watch or Android Wear watches as a smartwatch, though? That's not something I can answer yet. 

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

Some of the rubber and leather bands for the Ionic. The sport bands are $30, the leather ones $60.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

The sport bands are two-tone, with color elements peeking out through the hexagonal holes.

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They all felt nice to wear.

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Trying on Ionic alongside the Apple Watch Series 2. Ionic does feel bigger.

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And it is bigger: Ionic (left) has a longer metal frame compared to the more compact Apple Watch Series 2's (right) body.

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Stay tuned for a full review after we actually start testing.

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And swimming.

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Fitbit's health app and community are really big: those are reasons alone to stay with a Fitbit. The watch syncs with Android, iOS and Windows, too. But will the smart features work well?

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

Fitbit's on-watch dashboard of health stats is similar to the Blaze.

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Music syncing could end up being a lot more annoying than on the Apple Watch or the Android Wear platform: stay tuned for more on that.

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Will notifications work well? Will the apps perform well? 

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Fitbit's opening up app development and launching a store that will appear in the Fitbit app, called App Gallery. Expect watch faces, fitness apps and even games.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

A stopwatch, timer, alarm app and Fitbit Coach app are also onboard.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

Apps get loaded on or removed, where they appear as icons. Weather and Pandora also come included.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

Fitbit says to expect four days of battery life, or ten hours when using GPS. According to Fitbit, a new design and additional GLONASS support improved accuracy.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

This side button launches Fitbit Pay.

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Fitbit Ionic Watch

At $300, it's expensive. We'll have to see if Ionic lives up to its promises. (International pricing wasn't yet available, but the price roughly converts to £230 for the UK and AU$380).

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