With the Fitbit Versa 2 around, is the Ionic still worth your money?

Now that these fitness watches are comparably priced, it is a little more challenging to pick an overall winner.

Mass appeal

Fitbit Versa 2

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$150 at Amazon

Pros

  • Battery life increased to 5+ days
  • OLED screen
  • Amazon Alexa onboard
  • Fitbit Pay on regular and special editions
  • Generally more affordable than Ionic

Cons

  • No built-in GPS
  • Less battery life than Ionic

The Fitbit Versa 2 is the embodiment of a modern fitness smartwatch. It has an appealing design, a gorgeous OLED display, 5-day battery life, and an onboard virtual assistant (Alexa).

Elite competitor

Fitbit Ionic

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$177 at Amazon

Pros

  • Battery life up to 7 days
  • Built-in GPS
  • Fitbit Pay on regular and special editions
  • Premium Adidas edition

Cons

  • No Alexa support
  • Polarizing design
  • Hasn’t been refreshed since 2017 launch

The Ionic was Fitbit’s first attempt at a real smartwatch. Even though it is now nearly three years old, it still has features that others just can’t match like week-long battery life with onboard GPS.

Fitbit’s first real entry into the smartwatch space was 2017’s Ionic, which is still for sale in its original form. In 2018 the first Versa smartwatch was released, followed by the Versa Lite and Versa 2 in 2019. As you would imagine, this third iteration of the Versa line is the most advanced yet, but there are still some things that it can’t do when compared to the Ionic.

Elite athlete or weekend warrior

Now that the Versa 2 and Ionic are comparably matched in terms of price, it seems more appropriate than ever to compare the two spec for spec. Fitbit has made some interesting choices between these devices in terms of features and tradeoffs, and there are certainly cases where one of these smart fitness watches will be better suited for some people over the other. Which one is best for you? Let’s start by how they match up.

Operating System Fitbit OS 4.1.1 Fitbit OS 4.1
Screen size 1.57 x 1.57 inches 1.15 x .83 inches
Weight 38 grams + 50 grams
Heart rate sensor ✔️ ✔️
SpO2 sensor ✔️ ✔️
Waterproofing ✔️(up to 50 meters) ✔️(up to 50 meters)
Sleep tracking ✔️ ✔️
Female health tracking ✔️ ✔️
Fitbit Pay ✔️ ✔️
Battery life 5 days 7 days
Music storage ✔️(up to 300 songs) ✔️(up to 300 songs)
Alexa support ✔️
Built-in GPS ✔️
Notifications same as phone smart replies and voice replies same as phone smart replies
Colors Copper Rose Carbon Mist Grey Smoke Gray Silver Gray Burnt Orange
Special Editions ✔️ (with premium woven bands) ✔️(Adidas version)

Both smartwatches are Fitbits, so both come with basically the same software experience (minus some hardware-specific features). Fitbit’s app has always been a treasure trove of health data that is presented in an easily accessible and digestible way. Both devices also have on-device connections to Fitbit Premium, a subscription-based service that includes adaptive workout videos, audio coaching, and in-depth analytics and insights covering your sleep, nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness data.

Both watches also have an SpO2 sensor, which enables the measurement of your blood oxygen levels. The feature finally received regulatory approval in the U.S. and has been slowly rolling out to users since the beginning of 2020. For more information on what the SpO2 sensor is, what it can do, and how to interpret the data it produces, check out our guide on how to use the feature.

Advantages Versa other Fitbit wearables

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The Versa 2 is the third iteration of the product line, and it is also two years newer than the Ionic. As such, you might expect that it has a better processor, nicer screen, and newer software features (which it does). It also sports a vibrant OLED display that is both more colorful and more visible in outdoor light than the screen on the Ionic, and the Fitbit OS is noticeably zippier in performance on the Versa 2 than on the Ionic.

Say what you will about the look of the Ionic, but the Versa 2 is arguably designed for greater mass appeal. It has a soft, squircle design reminiscent of the Apple Watch, and comes in more subtle case colors than the older Fitbit smartwatch. The Versa 2 relies heavily on its more responsive touch screen for navigation of the software, and only has one side button, while the Ionic has three buttons. While the battery life on the Versa 2 improved significantly over previous versions (up to 20%), it is still a few days shy of the outstanding week-long lifespan of the Ionic.

Having Alexa on your wrist is a game-changer for many people.

Perhaps the tentpole feature on the Versa 2 is that Amazon’s Alexa can be found onboard. To engage Alexa, all you have to do is hold down on the side button and speak to your voice assistant. There is a small microphone to pick up your voice, which you can also use to respond to some notifications from your phone (Android only). While there is a microphone, there isn’t a speaker, so Alexa’s responses are limited to text on the screen. But you can use her to get answers to simple queries, take notes and set reminders, and control your smart home devices. Pretty cool!

Isn’t it Ionic

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As we’ve mentioned, the Ionic’s design is unique. Like the Charge 2 and Alta trackers before it, it sports utilitarian and dramatically geometric hard lines with an oversized casing around the screen. From the earliest of days when the renders first leaked up to present day, its design has been polarizing — you either love it, or you hate it.

The Ionic was the first smartwatch Fitbit ever made and with it ushered in Fitbit OS, which was based in part on Pebble’s OS before it. It brought the first real apps to the platform, both from Fitbit and major and minor third-party developers.

While both of these premium smartwatches have so-called special versions, the Ionic’s is truly special. Just as Apple has partnered with athletic apparel company Nike on the Apple Watch, Fitbit partnered with Adidas on an Ionic Adidas Edition that features the Adidas logo, a special edition band, an Adidas watch face, and exclusive Adidas workouts.

It’s impressive that a two-year-old watch has better battery life WITH onboard GPS.

The most impressive features of the Ionic, and the most relevant for most people, are the built-in GPS and week-long battery life. Other Fitbit bands and smartwatches like the Versa series have connected GPS, which pulls in GPS data from your mobile phone, but the Ionic is the only one that has it built-in. And while the Versa 2’s battery life is better than most smartwatches, there’s nothing else in the lineup that can top the seven-day performance of the Ionic.

The Verdict

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The Ionic is still an excellent smart fitness watch, and if you can find it for under $200, it’s worthy of your consideration. No smartwatch from Fitbit, Apple, or Samsung has managed to pull off its unique combination of onboard GPS and week-long battery life. These two features alone make it a great watch for endurance athletes and outdoor enthusiasts. But its polarizing looks and lack of product updates mean it’s probably not the best watch for everybody.

That honor goes to the Versa 2. With a more contemporary rounded rectangle look, a bright and beautiful OLED screen, onboard Amazon Alexa access, and a still impressive five-day battery life, the Versa 2 is the watch for most people who are considering a Fitbit device. It is also arguably the best cross-platform smartwatch for most people.

Whichever Fitbit smartwatch you choose, you know you’re going to get a well-made device with excellent battery life and a plethora of fitness-focused features.

People pleaser

Fitbit Versa 2

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Fitness watch with more smarts

Frpm $150 at Amazon

The Versa 2 sports a more universal style with nearly all the features you’d want in a fitness wearable. It has a gorgeous OLED screen, Amazon Alexa support, and improved battery life.

Try athlete

Fitbit Ionic

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Run for days

From $177 at Amazon $159 at Walmart

Even though it’s a few years old, the Ionic packs two killer fitness features that set it apart — seven-day battery life and built-in GPS.