Charged Up: What I'm loving (and not loving) about Fitbit's smartwatches

Watch faces FTW, but I want to see more from Coach
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Now that I've been able to spend a considerable amount of time with Fitbit's first two smartwatches, I can say that I've liked using them more than I probably thought I would. They're certainly not perfect and I'll be the first to admit that. But on the whole, I think there's more reasons to be cheerful for Fitbit. I've even grown to enjoy wearing the Ionic, despite still not being entirely sold on that awkward-looking, angular design. I'm not the only one in the Wareable team who's still rocking one, either. Our reporter Conor still proudly sports his Ionic more than his Apple Watch these days.

Unlike our Ionic and Versa reviews, it's the long term living where you notice the little things that you either learn to love or irritate you to the point where you say, 'No thanks, I'm not going wear you anymore'.

Thankfully, there's more little good things than bad things. So I thought I'd share my Fitbit smartwatch love and hate list. Fellow Fitbit smartwatch owners are free to agree or disagree with me in the comments section below. I'm keen to hear your thoughts.

Essential reading: Best Fitbit Ionic watch faces to download

Let's start with the good - and it's a surprising good. I'm talking watch faces, people. The way I feel about watch faces on Fitbit's smartwatches right now is a bit like how I feel about watch bands on the Apple Watch. I didn't expect to be investing as much as time as I do picking out a new watch face or even browsing through the options. Especially on the Versa. I've not been alone in the criticism of the app support for Fitbit's smartwatches and for anyone that visits Fitbit's app store, watch faces comfortably outnumber apps. But whether it's the Apple Watch, Wear or Samsung Gear smartwatches, my app use has been on whole pretty limited across all smartwatches. In fact, I've used more apps on my Garmin sports watch than any of those smartwatches.

So the fact that developers appear to be showing a greater appetite to build interesting and original watch faces is something I can really appreciate now. It was a big part of that Pebble philosophy, and I get the sense it's finally beginning to bear fruit for Fitbit too.

Fitness tracking is Fitbit's bread and butter and provides the foundations for all of its wearables. Every smartwatch and fitness tracker under the sun can count steps now. Most automatically monitor sleep, too, but for me Fitbit still reigns supreme for the way it delivers its sleep tracking. The Versa is certainly more comfortable to go to bed with than the Ionic, but it's the presentation and interpretation of the data inside the app I can really appreciate, and shows that things have come a long way from the way sleep monitoring was handled back when the Fitbit One and Ultra were the only devices on the scene.

What I'd like to have, though, is the ability to see some of the sleep data incorporated into the new Today dashboard. It would be nice to get up in the morning, wake up the screen and be able to quickly glance at how miserably I failed once again at getting anywhere close to that recommended eight hours.

I have to finish up by talking about battery life. It's the thing about smartwatches I (and the rest of the Wareable team) moan about the most, but it feels like we are getting closer to an acceptable amount of time that proper smartwatches should be kept away from the charger. The Apple Watch has got better and Samsung is even issuing software updates to make the battery life better on its Gear S3. But for me, Fitbit's smartwatches are leading the way on this front, crucially without making you feel like you have to limit some of the more power hungry features to make it go the distance.

On many occasions I've had to take my Versa or Ionic off and put it in my bag to adorn my wrist with another wearable. Mot of the time I've reached back into my bag a day or two later to grab that Fitbit smartwatch and the battery is still going strong. I can't say the same would happen with an Apple Watch or a Wear smartwatch. In my mind, the longer you can wear it, the more likely it's going to stay on your wrist long term, and that has played its part as to why the Ionic and Versa have spent more time on mine.

Now, let's talk about the bad and the things I hope Fitbit is going to work on. Notifications is first up. Compared to Apple, Wear, Samsung and even Garmin, there's work to do here. On both the Versa and the Ionic, it just doesn't work out of the box as you'd expect it to, and I've not really experienced that with other smartwatches. While some tinkering inside the Fitbit app will remedy this, this smartwatch staple still needs some finessing.

Charged Up: What I'm loving (and not loving) about Fitbit's smartwatches

Come on Coach

Bringing more data to the wrist is a positive move but I'd like to have great control on customising and choosing what is shown in that Today dashboard. Talking of tinkering, I'd like the same to happen with watch faces. Like Apple and Wear with its complications/widgets, I'd love to see the power to customize being put into the user's hands. Right now, it feels like the emphasis is on the developers to offer this customization, but it would be great to give the control over to the Fitbit smartwatch owners too.

I may be the minority on this, but I'd still find it difficult giving up my Garmin watch for a Fitbit when it comes to serious sports tracking, too. For some casual swim, gym, run and cycle tracking, it will serve most people fine. But I think when you need to start taking things up a notch, it's not quite that Fenix or Forerunner 935 rival just yet. The Ionic more than Versa shows promise and I have no doubts these are features Fitbit will look to build on.

It could be massively helped by the last thing I want to talk about, and that's Fitbit Coach. Oh how I wish there's was significantly better support for this on Fitbit's smartwatches. The platform on the smartphone has some great workouts (once you've paid a subscription) and the recommendations based on sports you've tracked is a really nice touch. It's just a shame you have to pay additionally for the privilege, and there's still the same three (yes, three!) workouts available to follow on both watches six months after they first debuted. I'd like to see Fitbit take a leaf out of Microsoft's book. Is it really that difficult to be able to sync different workouts to the watches like you could do with the Microsoft Band? This really could be a killer feature for Fitbit.

Right, I'm done. I need to go change the watch face on my Versa...

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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