Week in wearable: Fitbit Ionic verdict is in, as the next smartwatch battle heats up

It's all kicking off
The week in wearable tech
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It's very much a Clash of the Titans installment of Week in Wearable, as Fitbit and Apple spent the last seven days vying for our attention, vacuuming up headlines and hoping to prove why they deserve that coveted space on your wrist.

That's because both have launched their latest and greatest devices, the Fitbit Ionic and the Apple Watch Series 3. Both of them want to be your next wearable, but only one can win, unless you're some kind of multi-smartwatch-wearing notification junkie. In which case, I have a twisted sort of respect for you.

As for me, I've only been wearing the Series 3 for three days, but already that cellular connection has delivered a few a-ha moments. Similar experiences I've had with other LTE watches in the past, mind you, so I'm not pretending Apple has pioneered the idea. But I would argue the Apple Watch advances this experience in other ways. I'll fill you in when our full review lands next week.

Fitbit Ionic - the verdict is in

Week in wearable: Fitbit Ionic verdict is in, as the next smartwatch battle heats up

Earlier this week we dropped our Fitbit Ionic review, which I co-tested with editor Mike. As it stands now, the Ionic is a smartwatch we want to love more than we can, by which I mean it feels like it's just not ready. In testing we came across a litany of small yet collectively annoying problems, all of them lying in the software, but we have confidence that Fitbit can resolve these before the watch launches in October. However sleep apnea detection, the very reason for Fitbit's new tri-wavelength sensor, won't come until later on, and that's a shame.

Design has been one of the biggest criticisms leveled against the Ionic, and sadly no software update is ever going to change that, but Mike and I both agreed that it grew on us throughout testing. For now it feels like the best fitness tracker Fitbit has made, but as a smartwatch it still has to prove itself (which will come with third-party apps) and in deeper health analysis. Go check out our full Fitbit Ionic review.

Perhaps the bigger issue is whether it can compete with the Apple Watch. Fitbit refused to call the Blaze a smartwatch, but the Ionic is, by its own admission, and marks the company's entry into this category. The Ionic will be going up against the Apple Watch shipment-to-shipment, with Cupertino currently holding the lion's share of this market.

There's another interesting facet to this, which is what all of this is going to the traditional watch market. The clock certainly hasn't stopped ticking for Swiss watch makers, but as smarter wearables finally mature and move out of their growing pains, it now feels like a case of when, not if, the tide will turn dramatically. At its event this month, Apple declared the Apple Watch is now the top-selling watch globally, overtaking Rolex for that number one spot.

A big week for the VR and AR space

Week in wearable: Fitbit Ionic verdict is in, as the next smartwatch battle heats up

There have been big movements in the virtual and augmented reality space this week too. The biggest was Google confirming it was to buy the brains of HTC's smartphone business, as HTC will be using some of the deal's $1.1 billion cash to boost its VR and AR business. So good news for Vive fans.

Less good news came from Intel confirming it is canning its Project Alloy VR reference headset. Apparently there just wasn't enough interested in the "merged reality" system, but that doesn't mean Intel isn't still bullish on VR. Along with its Wigig add-on for the HTC Vive, which makes the headset wireless (Intel told me it still has no firm plans for a Wigig launch - that will be up to HTC), it showed off another interesting concept project this week that could make high-end VR more accessible. Intel had turned a Google Daydream headset, running on a Pixel, into a wireless Vive by sending content via Wi-Fi and offloading some of the legwork onto the phone. Sounds messy, I know, but there's a good idea in here.

Last but by no means least, this week was iOS 11 week, which means ARKit is now out. We've been playing with it and rounded up the best ARKit apps and games for you to try out.

The latest episode of the Wareable podcast has arrived

If you're bored of reading my words about the week's news, why not pipe some hot takes into those ear holes via the latest episode of our podcast, You Wear It Well. We dive deeper into the topic of LTE wearables, sports teams breaking the rules, and chat to some fascinating new startups coming out of the Hax Accelerator. We also ask: if Apple's new "town squares" are really town squares, could we hold a protest there?

There are laughs. There are opinions. There's crumpet chat. Why are you still reading this? Go listen.

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