Fitbit Ionic targets fitness wearable market with health features, smart functions powered by Pebble technology and contactless payments
Fitbit hopes its legacy in health and fitness accessories can help it crack the smartwatch market with the launch of the Fitbit Ionic.
The mobile industry had hoped the smartwatch would become the ‘next big thing’ and sales would offset any smartphone saturation. A number of companies, most notably Apple and to a lesser extent Samsung, have enjoyed success. But plenty have failed in their attempts.
Health features have arguably been the most compelling selling point, as evidenced by Apple’s increased focus on fitness with the Apple Watch 2 and later versions of watchOS.
And it is for this reason that Fitbit is optimistic. The Ionic combines the fitness features of the Fitbit wearable with smart functions powered by the assets gained in the acquisition of Pebble last December.
“Ten years ago, Fitbit pioneered the wearables category with the introduction of its first health and fitness tracker. Since then, we have become the leading global wearables brand, setting the pace of innovation in the category and establishing the largest social fitness network that helps millions of people around the world be healthier,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit.
“With Ionic, we will deliver what consumers have not yet seen in a smartwatch – a health and fitness first platform that combines the power of personalisation and deeper insights with our most advanced technology to date, unlocking opportunities for unprecedented health tracking capabilities in the future.”
The Ionic is powered by FitBit OS, which builds on PebbleOS, and delivers email, call, text and calendar alerts from a paired smartphone, and supports native apps that don’t require a companion app. An SDK will be made available to developers, who will have access to the device’s health compontents.
These include “industry leading” GPS and heart rate tracking, a new swim mode with water resistance of up to 50 metres, and an adaptive workout application that responds to user behvaiour and feedback. There is also a new relative SpO2 sensor that promises deeper health insights in the future.
The smartwatch also supports contactless payments via the new Fitbit Pay platform. This will support Mastercard, Visa and American Express cards in ten markets, but will be US-only at launch.
The Ionic will cost $299.95 at launch, which makes it more expensive than the Pebble smartwatches that provided the foundations.
Pebble was a pioneer in the field of smartwatches, with its crowdfunded devices offering an independent and cheaper alternative to the likes of Apple Watch. However there were suggestions the company was struggling to meet costs.
it told customers it could no longer operate as an independent company last year, much to the disappointment of users who lamented the loss and found their watches would no longer be supported.