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Apple better watch out, Fitbit’s gunning for them with the Ionic smartwatch

Fitbit has finally unveiled their first full-fledged smartwatch. It’s called the Ionic and it has the Apple Watch right in its crosshairs. Can it take out the competition? Let’s find out.

Right off the bat, the Fitbit Ionic looks pretty much exactly like what you’d expect a Fitbit smartwatch to look like…not that we didn’t already know that. It has a Blaze-like aesthetic to it with cleaner edges and an arguably more cohesive design. However, it has a blocky aesthetic and that helps it stand out in a world of rounded wearables. It also supports Android, iOS and Windows (LOL).

It’s built out of lightweight 6000-series aluminium with antenna lines around the case for GPS, Bluetooth and WiFi. Yep, it has built-in GPS, making it only the second wearable from the company to feature it besides the Fitbit Surge. The back of the smartwatch is also tapered in various sharp angles so that the sensors can more accurately contact your skin.

You also get a pair of buttons to the right of the case while a third sits on the opposite side of the display, much like the Fitbit Blaze. Speaking of the display, although Fitbit hasn’t released screen resolution specs, they say it’s “insanely crisp” and should have great outdoor visibility with its 1,000 nits peak brightness.

On the software side of things, the Fitbit Ionic will run on Fitbit OS — which it developed after the acquisition of Kickstarter darling Pebble — an operating system that Fitbit says will be the core of its future smartwatch endeavours. This means that the Fitbit Ionic will have a third party application platform which is the true differentiator that separates this Ionic from the rest of Fitbit’s fitness trackers.

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These new apps will live in the Fitbit App Gallery alongside other smartwatch-y features like downloading and changing watch faces on the watch too. The Ionic will have smart notifications, but there is still no way to really interact with it on the watch. Fitbit’s Ionic will also feature its own form of contactless payment called Fitbit Pay, that will work over NFC and will include support for a variety of credit card companies including AMEX, MasterCard and Visa.

Just because Fitbit’s making this a smartwatch, doesn’t mean the company is giving up on the fitness tracking that they built their brand on. In fact, Fitbit’s new smartwatch will feature an improved version of the company’s PurePulse heartrate tracking technology that they say will track heart rate more accurately. There’s also a new “tri-wave sensor” at the bottom of the watch that tracks relative SpO2 (oxygen saturation) which makes it possible for it to track deeper health insights like sleep apnea in the future.

But that’s not all. Fitbit’s Ionic will also feature water resistance up to 50 m, which is similar to what the Apple Watch offers, meaning you should be able to swim with this device no problem. Fitbit also includes a new swim exercise mode that will let you see your real-time laps, exercise duration and calories burned while in the pool.

Despite all these features, Fitbit says the smartwatch will last over four days on a single charge which is long by smartwatch standards but short by Fitbit standards. I remember the Fitbit rep telling me that they will always maintain a minimum 5-day battery life but I guess that’s only for their fitness trackers.

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Much like the Apple Watch, Fitbit’s Ionic will also have “special edition” watches including one partnered with Adidas, to include device and training programs, which is set for 2018. Ionic will also have perforated leather bands, for non-sporty people like me, which have been designed by the Horween Leather Company.

The Ionic will be priced at USD299.95 (around RM1,278). Unfortunately, it uses a proprietary strap mechanism so you only have a choice of a sport band that’s priced at USD29.95 (around RM128) and the leather band that’s priced at USD59.95 (around RM256). This watch will be “available worldwide” on October 17th, but there’s no specific indication that that date will include Malaysia. We’ll keep you posted.