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Will the Fitbit Ionic Threaten Apple Watch?

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Fitbit has been struggling as a company to build a competitive advantage for years, but this week they have done something that will either kill or rejuvenate the company: they have announced the release of their own smartwatch. The Fitbit Ionic is set to ship in October and will come with a lot of changes to the Fitbits we are used to at this point.

Fitbit App iOS Ionic Dashboard
Fitbit App iOS Ionic Dashboard; image source: fitbit.com press kit)

Perhaps the biggest change is that the smartwatch will have the Fitbit OS (operating system) on it, which will allow for the installation of third-party applications. This crossover into the world of applications will hopefully allow the Ionic to offer a product whose utility will scale significantly as developers start catering to users.

The price of the Ionic is planned to be $299. This is an interesting price point as it is higher than both all past Fitbits and the Apple Watch Series 1 (although cheaper than the Series 2).

It is unclear how Fitbit is going to roll out the third-party app platform by October, but Fitbit has insisted it will be ready by launch-time and we can wait until then to judge that. Development of applications will be relatively easy as the program is built on Javascript and SVG standards, and developers will have access to all sensors on the device.

All of the features previously available in Fitbits, such as color touchscreen, notification support, music control, GPS tracking, water resistance and swim tracking will be present in the Ionic, but the smartwatch features are hoped to take this to the next level.

Product line up of all Ionic bands; image source fitbit.com (press kit)
Product line up of all “Ionic” bands, types and colors; image source fitbit.com (press kit)

With the Fitbit Ionic, we are seeing what could be the next generation in wearables emerge. Fitbit has been struggling for a while as wearables have proven to be more of a toy than a useful tool for improving health. This new bid for relevance will pit Fitbit directly against Apple, a company with much more money and brand value, and the only route to dominance seems to be by delivering better fitness related tools while still handling all of the day-to-day requirements of a watch with smart features.

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