Review: FitBit Ionic & Apple Watch Series 3
This has been a highly requested blog post and I glad to be able to finally write it. I get lots and lots of questions on Snapchat and Instagram along the lines of ‘Would you recommend the FitBit Ionic?’ Or ‘Which is better - the Apple Watch or the FitBit Ionic?’, none of which I can answer in a few lines!
For some background - I had a FitBit Charge HR a couple of years ago and I don’t remember much about it. I was interested to see my steps on a day to day basis but as I mostly did weight training, I wasn’t too concerned about my steps and I was actually a bit hesitant about recommending them to clients as I thought some people who don’t understand hypertrophy training might focus on just hitting on a step goal rather than lifting heavy weights. There were times I would train really hard and I wouldn’t get near my step goals. I even remember spotting my client during a bench press and her FitBit buzzed to tell her to move!
I bought an Apple Watch (Series 1) two years ago and I loved it. I rarely used the fitness function though and never checked my steps. But more recently I have a new coach who wants me to keep a consistent step goal just to make sure we are keeping my NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogensis) constant.
In September, I was excited to be invited to Mallorca with FitBit to preview the new FitBit Ionic. I loved it! I came home and sold my Apple Watch. Here are some of the reasons I thought it would be a big hit:
- The FitBit app - In the years since I have used the app, it has come on a lot. The 'gamification' of fitness goals is extremely motivating. You are more likely to park your car further away from the shop (or even walk?!) if it means you’ll be ahead of Rosemary in the daily leaderboard (or is it just me who is extremely competitive!?).
While you can share your activity with a friend if they have an Apple Watch, the FitBit is compatible with all operating systems so your friend with an Android will be able to cheer you on. Although it hasn’t launched in Ireland yet (I don’t think), the FitBit app will be transforming into a full social network where you can share workouts, pictures, statuses and encourage each other towards fitness goals.
- Now that is before we even look at the functionality of the new FitBit Ionic. The Ionic has all the functions you expect from a fitness watch including one of the most advanced heart rate monitors on your wrist. The Ionic monitors your heart rate and movement constantly. It can even determine what exercise you are doing without you selecting a workout. E.g. it can tell if you are on an Elliptical due to the movement on your wrist. If you do select a workout, it will show you the most relevant statistics on your wrist to check during a workout.
- The Ionic has built in workouts that you can select on your wrist. There is a huge selection of various types and lengths of workouts with mini videos showing how to do each move. There is even a ‘Personal Trainer’ function that will ask for feedback on workouts and challenge you to better yourself by designing new workouts based on your feedback. This is a paid feature at €8.99 per month or €43.99 per year.
- The battery on the FitBit Ionic was very impressive and lasted a couple of days depending on use. I found this a big difference to my Apple Watch, which had to be charged every night. This meant I was able to monitor my sleep. The HR monitor is so accurate that it can tell you what cycle of your sleep you are in e.g. Light, Deep, REM and they have been used in several scientific sleep studies as they provide more realistic results, rather than trying to sleep hooked up to a machine.
- Another selling point for the Ionic is that it has 2.5Gb of storage for music without being connected to a phone. It doesn’t sync with Spotify though so you have to transfer music from your computer. I don’t know about you but I don’t “own” any music any more so I didn’t think it would be much use to me. The Ionic has Bluetooth capability to connect to headphones. FitBit actually just released their own wireless headphones which they also gave us - the FitBit Flyer, and I was very impressed.
After a few weeks using the FitBit, I missed a lot of the functionality of my Apple Watch. While the FitBit did show notifications for some apps, it wasn’t as slick as the Apple Watch. If Apple do anything, it’s ‘slick’. I wasn’t surprised when the novelty of seeing my sleep cycles etc wore off. I ordered the new Apple Watch Series 3 (€429).
- While FitBit have made their developer language very simple to allow developers to create all sorts of apps, Apple has a well established App Store with thousands of apps available for the Apple Watch to do anything from measuring sleep, to workouts, right there on your wrist.
- The notifications are a lot better on the Apple Watch. Any notification you get on your phone, goes straight to your watch. The phone screen doesn’t light up and you get a little buzz on your wrist. I like this because my phone would light up like a Christmas tree otherwise, which can be distracting, especially in company. However you need to train yourself not to look at your wrist for every buzz, if you are with somebody, as you will seem impatient! My phone is my whole business so I need to have an idea of what is coming through, without having my phone in my hand. I found this especially useful when I was training clients. It meant that I could keep an eye on, and respond to, messages if absolutely necessary.
- It is actually really simple to reply to WhatsApp’s and iMessage/SMS on the watch. There are a range of built in replies e.g. “No problem” or “Yep!” But you can also scribble a reply using your finger. I find it quite accurate and easy to do. If your phone rings you can answer it on your wrist. The phone needs to be within Bluetooth range though (the latest LTE version will have its own SIM card, and will be available in Ireland in 2018). These functions might not be useful for everybody but I’ve found it very handy. It also means I can read a message without picking up my phone and getting distracted.
- Now onto the fitness functions and I was pleased to find that the latest Apple Watch was more accurate with the heart rate monitor. E.g. It was recognising my ‘Move Calories’ even when workout mode wasn’t switched on. I used to find that the first Apple Watch was only checking my heart rate every 20 minutes or so unless I told it to switch on for a workout. While the Apple Watch does count your steps, it focuses on three main goals - Move, Exercise and Stand. I prefer the Move Calories to counting steps as a goal to strive for as it means that if I do a heavy weight session it will recognise my activity levels, even if I haven’t taken many steps. The FitBit shows your total day’s calories too but it puts the emphasis on steps.
- The battery on the Series 3 Apple Watch is much better than the first one - now it lasts up to 2 days but still not as long as the FitBit Ionic. The graphics are much more impressive on the Apple Watch though.
- For me, the integration with my other Apple devices is a big selling point. If I tell Siri on my wrist to remind me to put out the bins when I get home, it will flash up on all my devices once my GPS recognises that I’m home (it determines where ‘home’ is based on where I spend most time). When I open my MacBook I don’t need to put in a password if I’m wearing the watch. I can go into a shop and pay using Apple Pay on my watch. There is something very ‘matrix’ when you pay for your coffee with your wrist!
- Both the FitBit Ionic and the Apple Watch are waterproof and I have tested them in swimming pools, in the sea and in the shower (can’t miss any steps can you!).
- The Apple Watch has Apple Pay and the new FitBit has a similar feature but I don’t know how long it will take to get banks on board as only a few have allowed for Apple Pay.
- Both are hugely motivational and will make you move more. It may even make you realise how much you move if you have an active job which will mean you can eat more - yay! For me, I didn’t realise how inactive I was. I go to the gym most days but my office is my front room so I don’t get steps in on my commute and rarely do cardio. I also noticed how much more I move when I travel, which makes sense when I have no car.
- I like to track my intake as well as my output so it means I can increase my food when my activity is up while still getting leaner. As I mentioned above, my coach has me on a set step/Move goal. But I don’t know how valuable this data will be for others. I fear the novelty will wear off.
To conclude, I think the FitBit Ionic is an amazing watch and covers all aspects needed for fitness. I hope I have made some good points above for it. However, if you want a phone on your wrist, go for the Apple Watch. But do remember, this is coming from an ‘Apple Sheep’!
Price-wise, the RRP for the FitBit Ionic is €349.99. I saw it in Curry’s PC World last week for €389.99 but I saw it on Saturday in Dixons in Dublin Airport for €309. I was kindly gifted mine by FitBit. My sister is currently minding it for me and she loves it!
The Apple Watch I have is the 42mm screen which I think is essential to utilise the features. I paid €429.
I hope this review has been helpful. Both devices can do so much more than what is described above but I just included the bits I found useful. If you have any specific questions, please ask them below and I’ll do my best to answer them!
Thanks for reading,