HomeWearablesIonic is Fitbit’s First Real Smartwatch

Ionic is Fitbit’s First Real Smartwatch

After nearly a year of rumors, Fitbit finally announced its first smartwatch today—the Fitbit Ionic. For the past 10 years, Fitbit has been one of the biggest players in the wearables game. However, it took the company a while to embrace the smartwatch trend. Last year’s Fitbit Blaze was the closest the company got to creating a smartwatch, but the Blaze wasn’t advanced enough to take on the Apple Watch or any Android Wear devices. But given how late to the game Fitbit is compared to its competitors, expectations are high.

The design of the Fitbit Ionic confirms earlier leaks about the smartwatch, including how how it resembles the company’s earlier Fitbit Blaze fitness tracker, with its square display. Fitbit says it has used a nano-molding technique to fuse plastic and metal together in the watch body. The case’s back is an angled, tapered design.

The Ionic’s button situation is similar to that of the Blaze: its single left-side button powers on the device, while the two right-side buttons are used during workouts to pause and save data. The Ionic does have a full-color touchscreen that you can use during workouts as well as in regular use, but tactile buttons make better controls when your hands are sweaty from working out. The touchscreen is super bright at 1,000 nits, making it great for viewing in direct sunlight.

The battery life is supposed to last up to 10 hours if you use processor-intensive features like its built-in GPS or playing music constantly. If you don’t, Fitbit claims it will last up to four days on one charge. The watch can also hold up to 300 songs with its 2.5 GB of onboard storage.

On the underside of the watch, a series of optical sensors help the gadget keep track of your heart rate. “This is a tri-wavelength sensor,” says Shelten Yuen, head of Fitbit research, pointing to the LED in center of the watch. The tri-wavelength sensor, which can distinguish between red, green, and infrared wavelengths, allows the device to gather more fine grained information like relative blood oxygen level. Using this information, Fitbit is able to keep track of breathing habits, which could in the future help diagnose conditions like sleep apnea.

The Ionic runs new software, Fitbit OS, which the company says will become the core of its current and future smartwatch endeavors. Fitbit OS will offer full support for third-party applications, with Fitbit drawing on the legacy of defunct smartwatch manufacturer Pebble, which it acquired last December. Much like with Pebble OS, Fitbit applications will be relatively easy for developers to put together, with an SDK built on Javascript and SVG web standards. Developers will have full access to all sensors on the device, including heart rate, GPS, accelerometer and more. In addition to apps, users will also be able to install new third-party watchfaces through the Fitbit app, another aspect borrowed from Pebble.

The Fitbit Ionic is already available for pre-order directly from the company’s site, along with perforated leather bands for $59.99, and sport and classic band for $29.99 each. On Tuesday, other online retailers will launch their own pre-sales for the smartwatch. It will begin to go on sale in brick-and-mortar stores in October, including Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, Macy’s, REI, Target, and Verizon.

The Ionic will cost $299.95 when it’s released sometime in October. That price will make it the most expensive Fitbit device yet, and also means Fitbit is commanding a higher price than the $269 Apple Watch Series 1.

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