When it comes to the big tech question of “Fitbit Versa vs Ionic: Which should you buy?”, I find myself in a uniquely strong position: I’m possibly the only person in the world who’s spent the past three days with both strapped to my wrist, having been invited to the European press launch (you can read my first-look review of the Versa on Coach mag). So which should you buy?
Fitbit Versa vs Ionic: what’s different?
There are two key differences: size and GPS. The Ionic is a chunk bigger than the Fitbit Versa but includes a GPS chip. If you want to accurately track the distances you run, cycle or indeed swim, the Versa will only work if you’re also carrying your phone.
This isn’t to say you won’t get any indication: I did a two-mile interval run with the Versa, with quite a few warm-up and stretching exercises at the start, and it guessed that the run was 2.6 miles.
The Ionic’s screen is also a fraction larger – 1.42in across the diagonal – and with a rectangular 348 x 250 resolution. The Versa’s 1.34in screen is 300 x 300.
Fitbit Versa vs Ionic: what’s the same?
Quite a lot. While their touchscreens are different sizes, they’re both full-colour, vivid and extremely easy to read in sunny conditions. Naturally, they’re not on all the time: you either activate the display by flipping your wrist (as you tend to do when glancing at the time) or by touching a Home button on the left. (They also share two physical buttons on the right of the bezel.)
They both include the same wireless technology inside as well: Bluetooth 4, 802.11b/g/n wireless and NFC. The latter is for Fitbit Pay, which Fitbit would love to be a rival to Apple Pay – sadly, in the UK at least, there are only two credit cards (one for Danse Bank, the other Starling Bank) that work with it right now.
Naturally, they both also include an optical heart rate monitor. The design is a little different, but in my tests they were both similarly accurate.
Fitbit Versa vs Ionic: battery life
One of the advantages of having no GPS chip is that you avoid the battery drain. This means Fitbit can get away with a smaller battery inside the Versa yet still promise 4+ days of battery life (on average, I found it depleted by around 20% per day).
The Ionic promises five days of battery life, but if you switch on GPS that drops to ten hours. They both take around two hours to recharge from 0 to 100%, but the Versa has a neat charging stand while the Ionic uses a cable. Sadly, both are proprietary chargers.
Fitbit Versa vs Ionic: customisation
One of the Ionic’s best features was its heavy amount of customisation. You could buy a range of straps, which were incredibly easy to remove and reattach, and thanks to around 100 different watch faces to choose from it really could mix and match with outfits.
The Versa carries on this trend, and – like the Ionic – comes in a choice of three colours. Where the Ionic came in a slightly dubious “burnt gold”, though, Fitbit has opted for the more demure rose gold to accompany ubiquitous black and conservative slate grey.
It has also changed the way the strap attaches. You now have to slide a pin to detach the strap, which is more fiddly than the Ionic where you depressed a catch and were done.
Even though the Versa hasn’t officially been released, though, it has more bands to choose from than the Ionic. There’s no doubt Fitbit sees the Versa as more of a fashion accessory than the Ionic.
Fitbit Versa vs Ionic: music and apps
If you want to go for a run and listen to music – but you don’t want to carry your phone with you – then there’s good news for both watches. They can each store around 300 songs, and if you’re willing to subscribe to Deezer (a rival to Spotify) then you can also synchronise playlists.
Both watches also offer access to app stores, but in common with pretty much every smartwatch app store – aside from Apple’s – there’s not much there to thrill right now. The only third-party inclusions of true note are Strava, Flipboard, the New York Times and Philips Hue.
While more third-party apps are on the way – including one for British Airways – you’re more likely to be hooked by Fitbit’s own apps, with the best arguably being Think Fast (a brain-training style game). A Tamagotchi variant is promised in the future…
Fitbit Versa vs Ionic: buying decision
I’ve only used the Versa for three days but have already grown fond of it. I genuinely think it will break through into the mainstream in the way that most smartwatches can only dream of.
Part of that is due to the price. £200 is hardly impulse buy territory, but it’s significantly lower than the £329 Apple Watch Series 3. While you can buy other smartwatches (such as the Huawei Watch and Samsung Gear) for a similar price, they’re considerably bulkier.
I also think most people will find the Fitbit operating system easier to use than its non-Apple rivals. You’ll soon find yourself zipping through using a combination of touch and the side-mounted buttons.
The Ionic – which currently costs £239 on Amazon – is more of a fitness watch, and other than the access to the Fitbit community – both the global one you can join in the app, and existing friends/family who you can challenge in weekly step count battles – it doesn’t offer anything compelling over rival watches from the likes of Garmin.
Still undecided? Plump for the Versa. Even if you decide that it isn’t quite right for you, you’re far more likely to find someone else among your friends and family who would love it.
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