The new Fitbit Versa smartwatch has generated a ton of buzz since its launch in April, so it’s easy to overlook the fact that Fitbit already has a pretty solid (if controversial) smartwatch available: the Fitbit Ionic.
There are two big differences between these two devices: price and style. However, there’s much more to it than that. We took a close look at these two offerings from Fitbit to bring you this comparison between the Versa and Ionic. One of them is probably better for your needs than the other, so let’s uncover which one it is.
When the Ionic first launched, the design of the face and the sheer size of the watch overall caused a bit of commotion in the world of wearables. The Ionic is not small and it is not a good option for a lot of women and particularly for those with smaller wrists. It also has a distinctly different design compared to most of the popular smartwatches on the market currently.
While style is an individual thing, it’s safe to say the Versa has more of a mass appeal style than the Ionic. It looks similar to the Apple Watch and the size is more suitable for slender wrists. The Special Edition versions of the Versa have woven wristbands and elegant color combos.
The screens themselves are very similar, with both watches featuring vibrant color screens and the same app store options for watch faces. Here’s what you can expect from either watch:
- Vibrant screen with plenty of watch face options via the app store
- Large and small bands included
- Interchangeable bands
Winner: Fitbit Versa
Despite the fact that the various styles will appeal to different people, the Versa still wins this category. Its smaller, more versatile style will fit more wrists more easily than the Ionic, and already shoppers have found the Versa to be preferable to the Ionic’s unique and bulky design.
On the wrist, both the Versa and Ionic offer similar experiences. The interfaces are essentially the same, with similar navigation and the ability to customize and add apps available on both. The buttons are also the same on the two, so there really isn’t much difference to speak of in terms of functionality.
Both watches are water resistant to 50 meters. Both offer up to 4 day battery life.
No matter which watch you choose, you’ll get:
Health & Fitness Features
- Activity tracking, including steps, flights of stairs, exercise, etc.
- Sleep tracking, including time asleep, stages, etc.
- Heart rate monitoring
- Multiple workouts and activities
- On-screen guided workouts (included, plus more through Fitbit Coach membership)
- SpO2 sensor
- Guided breathing
- Smartphone notifications
- Music control plus music storage
The Ionic does have a richer feature experience, and the most significant areas where it excels are the built-in GPS and the smart notifications. The Versa lacks GPS (though it can connect to your phone for it) and there are fewer options when it comes to interacting with notifications on your wrist. Additionally, NFC contactless payments through Fitbit Pay come standard on the Ionic, but you have to upgrade to the Special Edition to get that on the Versa.
Winner: Fitbit Ionic
Although you pay for them, the Ionic still wins at features simply because it has more of them. For those looking to leave their phone behind on runs or hikes, the Ionic is the only Fitbit that will give you music AND on-board GPS. The Versa is still an excellent smartwatch/fitness tracker, but the Ionic has more.
Those extra features we just mentioned does equal a higher price tag. The Ionic entered the market at a price point that matched the other smartwatches in the competition, including Garmin’s and the Apple Watch.
The Ionic is on sale for $50 off at the time of writing this, so it’s a safe bet that it will be priced down for sales on a regular basis. This means you’ll be able to pick up the Ionic for under $250 at certain times of year.
However, the Versa is regularly priced under $200, and it’s a good price given everything it does. To get a fancier band and NFC payments, you’ll need to shell out about $30 more.
Winner: Fitbit Versa
Obviously the lower price takes the win here, but even in terms of value for the money, the Versa wins hands-down.
Who Should Get an Ionic
The guts of the Ionic and the Versa are the same, with the exception of GPS/GLONASS on the Ionic. The look of the two is very different, however, so those two differences are going to be what sells you on one versus the other.
To break it down, here’s why you might decide on the Ionic:
- You want on-board GPS
- You want NFC payments standard
- You like the look of the Ionic (or one of the Special Edition versions, like the Adidas)
- You have larger wrists, or don’t mind the bulkiness of the Ionic
Who Should Get a Versa
If you’re leaning toward a Versa, you can be assured that there isn’t much you’ll be missing in terms of fitness and tracking features. The Versa is lighter in weight and smaller overall, so it’s a better option for many women.
- You prefer the smaller design
- You don’t need built-in GPS
- You don’t need contactless payments (or you’re willing to get a Special Edition to have it)
That’s really it! There are so few differences in these two devices that you can choose based on preference of design (and the GPS question) and not worry about missing out on anything.
We liked the Ionic when it first came out (here’s our initial review) and we really like the Versa. Therefore, it’s hard for us to pick one over the other aside from the more universally appealing design that the Versa has.
Both of these smartwatches offer excellent Fitbit technology in fitness and health tracking. We love the Fitbit app, so you’ll get all those data points and goodies on either. Neither the Versa or the Ionic is the very best smartwatch (no reply options or anything like that at this point; the app store is still pretty small).
The best one is a highly individualized choice that boils down to design preference and whether you need built-in GPS. The two devices are basically the same inside, so there isn’t anything beyond those two points to narrow down options.
Early reviews on the Versa show that the most common complaint is regarding the watch bands — they are difficult to get on and off. The most common complaint about the Ionic is bugginess, but some of those issues have been addressed through updates. Keep in mind that Fitbit is still relatively new to the world of smartwatches (particularly compared to Apple), so there will continue to be kinks to work out in this first year or so.
What’s your take? Which one of these watches has your eye?