We put the new Fitbit smartwatch to the test. Here's our review.

By Kaitlyn Pirie

In case you haven’t heard, Fitbit just launched its first smartwatch. At $300, it’s pricier than the company’s other trackers, but it brings way more features to your wrist. After wearing one for the past six weeks, here are my honest thoughts about the Ionic—and why it’s worth checking out.

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What I love:

  • Fitness tools: The built-in GPS tracks running, biking or hiking and automatically pauses when you do—so there’s no fiddling with an app on your phone. After you log a workout (including swimming because it’s waterproof!), you’ll get detailed stats like how long you spent in different heartrate zones. The on-screen exercise videos are also handy for a quick workout.
  • Sleep tracking: I’ve used other brands of trackers before and the Ionic’s sleep data seems to be more accurate. It tells you how long you actually were asleep for—not just how long you spent in bed—which I appreciate.
  • Battery life: Fitbit claims the battery life lasts five days, and I can confidently say it lasts at least four.
  • The screen: While it’s bigger than what I’d normally want, the square screen is great for the workout tutorials, weather app, smartphone notifications and a customizable clock face. Whether you prefer digital or analog, lots of data at the ready or just few stats, you can make the clock face uniquely yours. Plus, the interface is super user-friendly and more apps are in development.

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What I don’t love:

  • Guided breathing sessions: The watch’s “Relax” app guides you through a short breathing exercise. I love the idea as it’s an easily accessible way to de-stress, but it uses your heart rate to determine if your breathing aligns with the guide and then tells you how aligned you are. Personally, I feel like I’m being graded on my breathing, which adds pressure to something that should be stress-free.
  • Interaction with notifications: You can set the watch to show incoming notifications that your phone receives (like texts or calendar reminders), but it doesn’t let you respond to them or make calls directly from your wrist. Theoretically, the built-in music storage, connection to Bluetooth headphones and NFC payment capacity mean you can go for runs without your phone—but I wouldn’t want to leave my phone at home and be unable to reach someone in an emergency.

What I’m looking forward to:

Tailored workouts: Fitbit is adding dynamic coaching as an extra feature people can pay for—and there will be one dynamic workout available for free on the device.

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Bottom line:

While a no-frills step counter is sufficient for most people, I was surprised by how quickly I took to this new gadget and came to depend on the metrics it provides. It’s ideal for anyone who wants to exercise more and embrace new technology, but prefers something simple to use from a trusted brand.

To buy:

Fitbit.com, $300

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