Starting out as a novelty product, the Apple Watch has grown increasingly relevant by adding more fitness-tracking capabilities. They are likely to expand further with its third version, expected to debut next month (including, reportedly, a cellular antenna). Fitbit, meanwhile, is coming from the opposite direction: Having once soared with the popularity of its fitness-focused bands, it posted heavy losses last year amid budget competition and slackening demand. Now Fitbit’s trying to get its groove back by crossing into smartwatch territory with the $300 Ionic, announced today and going on sale in October. (That’s in line with the lowest-priced Apple Watches, for instance.)
In growing to about the size of Apple’s device (the 38-mm version), the Ionic makes room for a relative SpO2 (blood-oxygen level sensor), onboard GPS and GLONASS nav support, and battery life up to about four days (depending what features you turn on). New features on tap include a video and audio-guided workouts, and possibly the future capability to diagnose sleep apnea and even heart ailments.
Also on tap are smartwatch features including Bluetooth, a wireless payments chip, and an app store that could bring on many more capabilities, if developers sign on. (Like Apple, the company is also thinking big about the potential of all of our fitness and health data.) Still, the Ionic is mostly a fitness device with smartwatch features, while Apple’s product is the other way around. As the war for your wrist rages on, which approach will people prefer? We’ll learn more in the coming months. Read my rundown of the new watch here.