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The Fitbit Ionic is now available in SA for R5,500

The Fitbit Ionic is now available in SA for R5,500

Fitbit’s first full-on smartwatch, the Ionic, is now available in South Africa. In addition to Fitbit’s usual fitness and sleep tracking features, the Ionic adds smartwatch features and works with Android, iOS and Windows devices. The local recommended retail price is R5,500, which puts it in the same league as an entry level Apple Watch, and competes with mid-range sports watches from the likes of Garmin and TomTom.

One of the key selling points of the Ionic is its battery life. While most smartwatches require daily charging, the Ionic can last up to four days, depending how many of its features the wearer uses each day. If you’re an endurance athlete and you’re using the GPS feature constantly, it should still be good for around 10 hours. It’s also got a built-in relative SpO2 sensor, which estimates blood oxygen levels. Fitbit says this new sensor could make it possible to track things like sleep apnea in future, presumably via a firmware update.

Other welcome features the Ionic offers include on-board memory for storing music, podcasts or other audio files and Bluetooth for connecting to headphones, and on-screen workouts that can be customised in the accompanying app. The Ionic also includes the heart-rate tracking, sleep tracking and ability to measure things like cardio fitness levels that are found in other Fitbit devices like the Charge 2.

We’ll have to wait and see how easy it is to get audio content on the Ionic, as that’s been one of our gripes about other wearables with storage like the TomTom Spark 3. While we’re glad to see the option, what we’d really like is support for offline storage from streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. Apple’s included support for Apple Music on the Watch Series 3, while Samsung’s Gear Fit2 Pro has the option to store content from Spotify. Still, it’s a start. Perhaps in the Ionic 2?

In terms of smartwatch functionality, the Ionic displays call, text and calendar alerts and offers apps for weather, sports info and the like. As you’d expect, there’s also a selection of watch faces to choose from. We’ll have to wait until we’ve actually had time with one to weigh in on how good the app support and watch faces are, but on paper it seems the Ionic could present a real challenge to Apple, Samsung, LG and other smartwatch makers, sport watch makers, and the numerous high-end watch makers that have turned their attention to the smartwatch sector, too.

Craig is Stuff magazine's editor. He's provides tech analysis and commentary for TV stations like eNCA, CNBC Africa and BusinessDay TV, and radio stations like 702, CapeTalk, PowerFM, MetroFM and Classic FM. You can contact him at craig@stuff.co.za

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