By Aaron Lim

It’s a weird feeling. You’re given an incredibly complex piece of technology – something which a company has spent millions and millions of dollars on to create – and asked to write a review of it. The problem is: it’s a Fitbit and you’re the type of dude who gets most of his exercise in the mornings when squatting down to pick up his shoes. How on earth are you supposed to write an objective review on the most sophisticated fitness tracker in the world when you can barely even carry your friends through a bad League of Legends game?

To start off, let me preface by telling you a little bit more about this thing. It’s called the Fitbit Ionic. Fitbit claims it’s the most advanced piece of technology that you can fit into a smartwatch. Honestly, after spending about two weeks with the thing, I’m inclined to agree. Also, this thing retails for RM1,399. Which is pretty hefty, though I can see why.

I’m not even a health nut, but this thing seems to be able to do mostly everything when it comes to fitness tracking – it’s got an SpO2 sensor which can measure oxygen levels in my blood, a full GPS tracking system to determine if I’m actually running, dynamic workout routines and calorie trackers, on-board music, heart-rate monitor, and even guided breathing exercises. The feature list is enough to make my head spin, even if I had no idea what some of these things did at first.

But what do these things mean for ME? Like, is any of this stuff actually useful outside of exercising? When the representative handed me a package emblazoned with the Fitbit logo on the box and told me it was the Ionic, I had to look around and point at myself twice before I was sure he chose the right guy. It’s just not something I’m used to reviewing, as opposed to gadgets and comp tech.

But of course, a hand fed is a hand saved, so with some trepidation and a mix of nervous anticipation, I unboxed the watch and resisted the urge to parade around with my left hand adorned with the watch held up high in the air. From the moment I opened the packaging, everything about the watch just screamed “premium” – from the unibody metal chassis to the textured anti-slip watch band. Then it was off to the instruction manual to figure out what this thing could do.

For the first few days, my new toy barely saw any action. At most, I had a weird and complete statistical record of my daily resting heart rate and sleeping cycles. And at worst, I had an expensive and completely overkill way to tell the time (1000 nit brightness display can get VERY bright). More impressively, I didn’t need to worry about the battery at all because of the 5 day battery life, but because of that, I knew that I definitely wasn’t doing enough with this watch. So I begrudgingly made a decision: to try and actually exercise with the thing.

Day 1. I started with the basics. I took my dog out on a run (I honestly should take them out more often). My old boy doesn’t have the same spring in his step like he used to, but he was definitely excited to be going out for the first time in a while. So, leash in hand, I ran. To be honest, the Fitbit Ionic worked. I saw my BPM rise on the watch to match as it actively began to track my exercise with its sensors, and at the end of the run I was greeted with a “Congratulations on running for 24 minutes” message, which was motivating. So, yes, running seems to work with this thing.

Day 3. It was time to take on the second exercise challenge – the pool. Donning my Speedos and large packaging, I did some basic stretches and proceeded to dive into the pool like a graceful manatee. Thankfully the water resistance worked as advertised, and I began doing a few laps after choosing the ‘swim’ option in the menu. The story here was mostly the same, and I got a good overview of my BPM, lap time and other statistical information as I struggled to finish up my second lap.

By the end of those 10 minutes, I felt accomplished enough to call it a day and log my health spree onto the accompanying Fitbit phone app. It had the option to sync with my Google Fit data, which was nice. All the information on my past two exercises had been logged in a nice and graphical readout, displaying a whole bunch of data about my health and other things.

In terms of fashion, the watch definitely seems to strike a chord with specific people. During my local outings to the mamak and gym, I received quite a few remarks about the watch – some asking where I’d gotten it, and some telling me how nice it looked. It’s definitely one of the better looking smartwatches out there, even if some people aren’t a fan of the whole angular look as opposed to something more traditional like the Huawei Watch with it’s round watch face.  

So, the final verdict? I think I’m finally beginning to see what the big deal is with all these health wearables and why some fitness nuts swear by it: there’s just something about the ease of automated activity tracking that makes exercise progress feel…substantial. If I had a clear fitness goal in mind and wanted to keep tabs on my performance, then using the Fitbit Ionic would be a no-brainer for keeping my activity log prepped. As a wearable though? Until the kinks with the lack of apps on the Fitbit App Store, problem with notifications on some devices and the actual implementation of the Fitbit Contactless Payment program are sorted out, the Ionic feels more like an overpriced watch with a fancy screen. I will admit though – this is the first time I’ve ever felt like exercising would be a worthwhile pursuit – and I have this little watch on my wrist to thank for that.

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