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First look: Fitbit guns for Apple Watch Series 3 with Ionic smartwatch

Long rumored but now finally here, the Ionic is Fitbit's first step beyond fitness trackers into full-fledged smartwatches, putting it in direct competition with the Apple Watch.

On a basic level the Ionic is much like other options from Fitbit, with sensors for tracking steps, sleep, heart rate, and mapping, the latter via GPS or GLONASS. A SmartTrack feature will automatically detect certain forms of exercise, though it's best to manually launch a workout whenever possible. There are also onboard coaching options, which can tailor themselves to recent activity.

Another similarity is the watch's dependence on the Fitbit iPhone app, since there's no HealthKit compatibility to speak of. The app does however include a very comprehensive dashboard, and hooks for third-party platforms like calorie counter MyFitnessPal.

Where the Ionic begins to differ is in support for onboard apps. The number of titles is extremely limited at the moment but does include ones from Pandora, Starbucks, and Strava, as well as first-party options for weather, timers/alarms, and locally-stored music. There's even a "Relax" app similar to "Breathe" on the Apple Watch.

There are many parallels with the Apple Watch in fact, among them the inclusion of Fitbit Pay, an Apple Pay competitor which is still expanding U.S. bank support but should work anywhere NFC payments are accepted. Apple Pay often requires specific support by merchants.

The Ionic also offers a handful of different watchfaces and swappable bands, and will soon come in a special Adidas version with a perforated band, much like the Apple Watch Nike+. Like the Watch Series 3, the Ionic has a bright 1,000-nit display, and water resistance to 50 meters, enabling swimming workouts.

AppleInsider is working on a full review, coming soon.