Fitbit is easily one of the most globally recognized brands when it comes to tracking and monitoring health and fitness stats. With the brand offering so many different models of fitness trackers and smartwatches, it can be tough to know which is going to be right for you.
The Fitbit Ionic and the Versa 2 are arguably the most esteemed watches in the Fitbit lineup. I bought and used both for a minimum of 6 months, and have written up a detailed comparison review. Let’s take a look at each.
Ionic vs Versa 2 Comparison at a Glance
A Premium, Robust Fitness Watch
The Fitbit Ionic offers a 7 day battery life (in practice it’s more like 4 or 5), constantly monitors heart rate, and feels comfortable to wear all day long. HR monitoring is consistent and accurate, which is important for anyone who likes to have a good read on their intensity levels while working out.
GPS comes built-in to save you from having to carry along your smartphone every run and tracks your sleep at night to address each of the main aspects of health and wellness. Overall, the Ionic is a well-rounded watch that performed well for me until it suddenly conked out.
A Sleek Fitness Tracker / Smartwatch Hybrid
An excellent example of a hybrid fitness tracker and smartwatch, the Versa 2 has quite a few similarities with the Ionic, but includes newer technology. The detailed, bright touchscreen is pleasant to use and the watch overall has a very sleek and compact look to it.
Alexa sets it apart in theory, but not in practice in my experience. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include GPS like the Ionic. Sleep tracking seems to be very accurate, which offers a “sleep score” at the end of each night which makes it easy to comprehend. Battery life lived up to its advertised 5 days, which is probably due, in part, to not incorporating GPS.
The Ionic has a premium design, with some flaws
Overall, the Ionic is well-designed and has a premium feel. It was Fitbit’s original flagship smartwatch, and they obviously tried hard to make it a great watch as well as fitness tracker. In that regard, they were mostly successful.
A comfortable fit is essential if you’re going to wear a fitness watch regularly, more so if you’re going to use it for its intended purpose every day. The Ionic’s band is a course rubber that looks less comfortable than it is.
If you ever want to change out the bands, each side clips into the watch face easily and makes this a quick and seamless process. I also really appreciated the little knobbly thing on the end of the non-buckled band which you can clip into the holes to keep the excess portion tightly secured.
The watch still manages to look like something from the future, while offering a more premium/interesting look that you won’t find elsewhere. Admittedly, this is not to everyone’s taste. While it does have a touchscreen, it’s nice to have an alternative mode of control. This is where the 3 buttons on the sides come in handy. There’s one button on the left and two buttons on the right that control a large amount of the watches functions and, at times, make for a more practical option than the touchscreen.
For example, when my alarm goes off early in the morning to wake me for work, the top right button snoozes the alarm for 9 minutes, while the bottom right button turns it off. When I’m half asleep, it’s easier to use the buttons than the touchscreen, and can be done with my eyes closed. The Versa 2, on the other hand, only has these options on the touchscreen, which usually requires me to be able to see where I’m pressing.
Things I Didn’t Like About the Ionic’s Design
While there was a lot to like about the Ionic’s design, there were a couple of aspects that frustrated me.
The first is the oversized casing around the watchface. While the straps stayed tight against my wrist, the casing in contrast was just a bit too bulky and resulted in getting caught on things like my backpack straps when slipping it on and off.
Second, while I enjoyed the magnetized charger port on the back of the watch (it’s reminiscent of the one on my MacBook Pro’s), the magnet isn’t particularly strong and the connection is very easily broken if the cable is at a funny angle or is knocked even slightly. Thus, the charger would occasionally disconnect without me realizing it and leave me with an uncharged watch. Very annoying.
The Versa 2 is a sleek smartwatch / fitness tracker hybrid
In contrast, the Versa 2 has a very streamlined design all-around with a smaller watch face. Adding to the visual appeal was the all-black color scheme which I found to be sleeker and suited my style better. The touchscreen is also notably brighter and a bit sharper than on the Ionic, which is directly related to the higher-quality technology used in this model.
The band is very soft and pliable, which makes it comfortable and nice to use for long periods of time. Of course, you can easily change the band out with another material, if you’re going for a different look or feel.
Things I Didn’t Like About the Versa 2’s Design
Much like the Ionic, the Versa 2 is a really well-thought out watch that still has some annoying elements to it.
Whereas the Ionic has the little knobbly thing that clips the excess portion of the band into an unused hole and keeps it nice and secure, the Versa 2’s solution is less clever. In fact, it’s just the traditional smaller band that you loop the excess into that has been on watch bands for eons now. That’s fine, but I find it doesn’t work that well when I’m particularly active. The excess has a habit of popping out and flapping around, especially when I’m playing pick-up Basketball with my workmates.
Also, the Versa 2 only has the one button on the left of the watch face, which serves as a back button when pressed, and activates Alexa when held. This makes the watch more sleek and seem less cumbersome, but it also means you rely heavily on the touchscreen. No device has a flawless touchscreen, and smartwatches are no different. Additionally, smartwatches have small touchscreens by their very nature. Combined, these facts mean that I’ve had some frustrating moments trying to get my Versa 2 to do stuff by using the touchscreen and it not working. The Ionic’s buttons were much less prone to error, and made it more functional at times.
There’s actually little to distinguish the two watches here.
Both are premium fitness smartwatches, so you can expect them to hold up well against drops and accidental bumps that are sure to happen. Even with everyday use and abuse, I noticed that these types of impacts haven’t created any visible scuffs or other types of damage to either watch.
However, I will say that the Ionic has a slight edge here as the oversized casing does make it feel a little tougher, where the Versa 2 feels lighter and slightly more fragile.
No matter which one you select, it’s important to note that the bands on each watch do stretch a bit over time. For most users, however, this may actually be a bonus as it only increases the comfort and pliability of the band.
Arguably the most important aspect of any smartwatch is how well it performs. In this case, it’s especially important when it comes to fitness tracking capabilities. As smartwatches, both the Ionic and Versa 2 work just fine. They receive calls, notifications, let you respond with ease, track sleep, and offer various alarm modes. My favorite feature in both is the vibration-only alarm that only wakes you up – not anyone sleeping next to you – when you have to get up early in the morning for a meeting or to complete your morning workout.
Vale My Fitbit Ionic
Before getting into the Ionic’s performance, I have to mention that my Ionic completely died on me. The progression of the watch’s failure went like this:
The connection with my smartphone had dropped off, so I of course was missing call and SMS notifications. To get it working again, I had to perform a factory reset. After this, I decided to update the software, which is where things really started to go south. The touchscreen and buttons stopped working. Specifically, the touchscreen occasionally stopped responding to touch altogether, and was spotty at other times. The buttons would seem to activate without me pressing them. In hopes of fixing this, I did another factory reset, which appeared to brick it. I have been unable to revive it.
RIP my Fitbit Ionic.
After some research and digging around on the Fitbit forums, I discovered that this has happened to a number of other users and seems to have been related to a bug in that final update I ran. What are the odds?
This appears to have been fixed by Fitbit, and thus has only affected a small amount of users, but it’s important to note.
Now onto the Ionic’s performance while it was alive.
One of my favorite features of the Ionic was the built-in GPS, which will track your runs / cycles / swims without you carrying around your smartphone in your pocket (don’t do this while swimming obviously). If you find it irritating to have your smartphone on you while you run, then this is going to be significant.
The heart rate monitoring was always spot-on, and consequently, the smart activity tracker worked well too. The watch offers the option to run the “always-on” display, which is perfect while you’re running outside, so you can quickly glance at the screen without having to do an obvious turning of the wrist that the off-display uses as the cue to light up.
As you can imagine though, this feature drained the battery pretty rapidly. Working out daily, the Ionic’s battery would last me about 4 or 5 days. As it was advertised to have a 7-day battery life, the Versa 2 gets the win here.
Overall, although the Ionic may be 2 years older than the Versa 2, its software proved to be just as good in practice. While the touchscreen may not have been quite as sharp, it really made no difference to me.
Versa 2 is still going strong baby
The Versa 2’s fundamentals are very similar to the Ionic, even though it features newer technology.
Once again, the screen is a bit brighter and sharper, and it does have Alexa capability. However, as there’s no speaker, you’ll have to read Alexa’s responses from the screen. Not to mention, it’s not very fast. In practice, Alexa was all hype and I found it easier to just set up reminders or alarms manually.
I was satisfied with many aspects of the smartwatch, save for the smart activity tracker’s heart rate. There were times when I was workout out or cycling on a stationary bike, and it would tell me my heart rate was just above resting. My sweating and being out of breath indicated that clearly wasn’t true. However, if I would then start a particular activity, like “workout” or “run”, the heart rate reading would rocket up to a more realistic level. As such, you need to always activate the activity you’re completing if you want an accurate indication of your heart rate. I know this isn’t a big deal, however, for a roughly $200 smartwatch, this simply shouldn’t be a problem.
Ionic and Versa 2 Specs
|Battery life||4 – 5 days with regular activity tracking||5+ days|
|OS||Fitbit OS 4.1||Fitbit OS 4.1.1|
|Touchscreen size||1.42 inches||1.34 inches|
|Weight||50 grams||38 grams|
So, there you have it: An in-depth look at my experience with the Fitbit Ionic and Fitbit Versa 2 fitness smartwatches. They’re very similar but also have some notable differences that are hard to ignore. While I loved the Ionic, the Versa 2 is the superior watch in my view.
- Inbuilt GPS
- Very robust and resilient
- HR monitoring was almost always accurate
Fitbit Versa 2
- Sleek design that rivals top smartwatches
- Comfortable rubber band
- Sharp and responsive touchscreen
The Not So Good
- Friggin’ died on me!
- Oversized case could be cumbersome
Fitbit Versa 2
- Band excess is not as well held
- Missing the functional buttons