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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?
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.
A variety of exercise modes track biking, running, yoga and more. A new swim mode counts laps, calories and distance.
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.
There are a few fitness watch faces on the Ionic, but more will be available for download from a Fitbit app store at launch.
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.
Another watch face: colorful and simple.
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.
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.
We were able to pay with a test cash card.
The watch bands snap into the metal body. Three Fitbit body/band color variations are available at launch: this is the closest to black.
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.
The bands detach easily with a button-press. Perforated rubber sport bands and leather ones are sold separately.
The angular body of the Ionic is large, maybe too much so for some people. But it fit my wrist.
The back of the included charcoal-grey band. The standard watch buckle keeps it on snugly.
A look at the display outdoors.
Fitbit's new Flyer wireless headphones pair with it, or use any Bluetooth headphones.
This watch face shows steps, calories or heart rate with quick taps.
The Ionic is also water resistant, up to 50 meters. It can track swims, too.
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.
A breathing and relaxation app called "Relax" measures respiration and encourages calm. It works like the "Breathe" app for Apple Watch.
A view of the side buttons. The Fitbit Ionic has three physical buttons that can be used along with the touchscreen.
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.
NFC inside the Fitbit Ionic could, according to Fitbit, be used for more than just payments down the road (smart locks, maybe?).
Yet another proprietary Fitbit charge cable. It snaps on magnetically.
The Ionic looks sharper than the Fitbit Blaze, and is easier to wear and charge.
Will it be better than the Apple Watch or Android Wear watches as a smartwatch, though? That's not something I can answer yet.
Some of the rubber and leather bands for the Ionic. The sport bands are $30, the leather ones $60.
The sport bands are two-tone, with color elements peeking out through the hexagonal holes.
They all felt nice to wear.
Trying on Ionic alongside the Apple Watch Series 2. Ionic does feel bigger.
And it is bigger: Ionic (left) has a longer metal frame compared to the more compact Apple Watch Series 2's (right) body.
Stay tuned for a full review after we actually start testing.
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?
Fitbit's on-watch dashboard of health stats is similar to the Blaze.
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.
Will notifications work well? Will the apps perform well?
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.
A stopwatch, timer, alarm app and Fitbit Coach app are also onboard.
Apps get loaded on or removed, where they appear as icons. Weather and Pandora also come included.
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.
This side button launches Fitbit Pay.
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).