The decision about which smartwatch to buy just got more complicated.
Fortunately, there are enough differences between the new Apple Watch Series 3 and the Fitbit Ionic that, for most people, deciding should be fairly easy. For many buyers, it’s a no-brainer: both Fitbit and Apple have their own array of dedicated fans, so plenty of people will buy just based on the name alone. There’s also a bit of a price difference, with the Apple Watch running $30-$100 more (depending on whether you get it with or without cellular).
However, both have smartwatch capabilities and similar features, so if you don’t know which to pick, we’re here to help. We have compared the key features of both so you can make an informed decision.
Table of Contents
Fitbit Ionic: The Basics
The Ionic represents Fitbit’s most ambitious product to date. It addresses many of the items on Fitbit fans’ wish lists, particularly those who want more from the Blaze, Fitbit’s smart fitness watch.
Like the other Fitbit offerings, the Ionic is built for fitness. It includes all the tracking functionality of other Fitbits, such as fitness tracking, sleep tracking, and heart rate monitoring. It’s an all-around fantastic fitness tracker and it looks to be a great smartwatch. It keeps all the features that Fitbit fans love and includes plenty of new perks that make it relevant.
Some of the new features the Ionic is flaunting include:
- Water resistance up to 50 meters
- Built in GPS
- Music storage (up to 300 songs)
- App store
- NFC chip to pay from your wrist
These features help Fitbit directly challenge Apple, but is it enough?
Apple Watch Series 3: The Basics
The Series 3 is very similar to the Series 2 in design and function. Both run Watch OS 4 which continues to have useful updates for both models. Essentially, the Series 3 will have some improvements to speed, performance, and tracking. However, there is still a lot to like about the Series 2, so you might consider picking one up at a steep discount.
One of the most buzz-worthy features of the Series 3 is the option to pick it up with cellular included on the device. This will cost you a bit more, but should be a welcome feature for some.
In addition to the cellular, the Series 3 builds on the base of the Series 2 features and adds:
- Barometric altimeter for elevation tracking
- Improved sensors
- Better performance and Wi-Fi
- New processor
Ionic vs. Series 3: Similarities
There are plenty of similarities between the Fitbit Ionic and Apple Watch Series 3. Let’s take a look at a few of the features you’ll get with either device.
Making a smartwatch that is water resistant was an absolute must for Fitbit – no other Fitbit device (with the exception of the simple tracker Flex 2) provided water resistance, causing many would-be Fitbit-ers to jump ship. Fortunately, the Ionic offers water resistance to 50 meters and swim tracking.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is also water resistant to 50 meters and offers swim tracking, a function first seen in the Series 2. How well either of these devices track swimming remains to be seen, but both manufacturers have had experience developing that feature so we assume they’ll both be fairly good.
You’ll find built-in GPS on both the Series 3 and the Ionic, so you can utilize all the apps and tracking that require it. Having GPS built in means you don’t have to connect to your phone to track distance, pace, and so forth, and it helps ensure more accuracy on that data.
Both the Series 3 and the Ionic have excellent fitness tracking features. They both offer heart rate monitoring, have an altimeter for measuring altitude change and counting floors, and both devices boast enhanced technology related to all tracking functions. Fitbit normally dominates when it comes to fitness tracking, but Apple has invested in a ton of fitness tech and initiatives. WatchOS 4 is definitely fitness-focused, so it’s fair to say both devices will be great for fitness tracking.
NFC Payments & Music Storage
Fitbit also upped the ante with the addition of NFC chip contactless payments. Now, no matter if you have an Ionic or a Series 3, you can pay directly from your wrist. Both give you music storage but you’ll get more room on the Series 3.
Ionic vs. Series 3: Differences
One of the key differences between these two devices is battery life. For some, this might even be the deal breaker. The Series 3 has a terrible battery life: just 18 hours (and potentially less on the cellular option). Fitbit’s Ionic, on the other hand, can go up to 4 days (and possibly even more).
Obviously the Fitbit is much more desirable in this area, and the longer life enables you to do more in terms of tracking and fitness (like sleep tracking – more on that shortly).
Winner: Series 3
The Ionic represents Fitbit’s first foray into the world of OS and apps, so when it finally launches you’ll likely just find a few app options. However, if apps aren’t that big of a deal to you right off the bat, we imagine that the app store will expand and have more offerings in the not too distant future.
On the other hand, Apple knows apps, so the app availability for the Series 3 will undoubtedly be pretty huge. In fact, the Series 3 will run watchOS 4 which is already out, so we know for sure there are plenty of options. In this area the Apple Watch has the clear advantage simply because they have had much more time for development. It’s unlikely that Fitbit will catch up any time soon, though it’s possible their app store will be good enough for plenty of consumers.
Compatibility, Tracking App, and Cellular
Winner: Series 3 (Just Slightly)
The cellular option does give Apple a slight edge in this category. However, there is still one big issue to contend with here: unless you get the cellular option, you can only use the Apple Watch with an iPhone. Now, presumably there will be those who do not have an iPhone who will choose the Series 3 with cellular option. However, it still seems much more likely that Fitbit will dominate with Android users.
The apps are also hard to decide between, because both have definite advantages. We really like the Fitbit app and consider it to be the fitness tracking app out there. It keeps track of all your activities and even automatically starts tracking certain The Apple Watch’s activity tracking can be supplemented by activity-specific apps, which have more focused data and motivation.
Even having said all of that, however, there is a reason why the Apple Watch is so well loved. It works great, it’s convenient, and with Siri now built-in, it does even more to be a backup (or replacement) to your phone. It really is a smartwatch first and foremost, whereas the Ionic is a fitness watch first.
In this category, the Ionic is the obvious winner because the Series 3 doesn’t support sleep tracking. This may come primarily because of the battery life problem, but nonetheless, if you want sleep tracking you have to go with the Ionic.
Fitbit has done a lot over the past few years to really elevate their sleep tracking – better sensors, more comprehensive data, and just all around great information from the sleep tracking capabilities. In addition, there will soon be the option to track issues like sleep apnea thanks to some advancements in technology on Fitbit’s end.
Winner: Series 3
Obviously design rating is subjective, but we think the Apple Watch is much prettier than the Ionic. Plus, Apple’s smartwatch has been around long enough that there are plenty of accessories for it. The Ionic is new and won’t be able to match the number of available accessories any time soon. The Ionic also has a unique look to it that isn’t as appealing as Apple’s design. And, Apple will have some cool options for special edition watches via partnerships with Nike and Hermes. Both devices can be customized beyond the band and accessories, however – there is a wide range of styles for the watch face available for either.
Which One to Buy?
Now for the question you want answered: which one should you buy? The solid and attractive Series 3? The fitness-focused Ionic? Price differences probably won’t help you: the list price of the non-cellular Series 3 is $30 more than the Ionic. If you do want cellular, the Apple Watch is your only option, but be prepared to shell out more cash to get it.
Overall, the Apple Watch is probably the best all-around as a smartwatch. It has a ton of perks like a large selection of apps, attractive design, and an option for cellular. Apple has had more time to develop apps and software features, so you can be pretty sure you’re getting the best out there in those two areas.
It loses out to the Ionic when it comes to compatibility (Fitbit works with Android and IOS) and battery life. Those two can be pretty important to a lot of shoppers, so it’s safe to say that the Ionic represents some strong competition for the reigning king of smartwatches.
The Ionic is a fitness smartwatch with a heavy emphasis on the “fitness,” so if fitness is your main concern, this device is probably what you want. There are some things you’ll miss out on that the Apple Watch offers, but we really think this is a great device for any fitness buff looking for a smartwatch.
Bottom line? It’s a tough call, but there are enough of those small differences that we think each shopper will be able to find the best fit for their needs.
Tell us: which device will you choose?