Fitbit is a global leader in the fitness band category, but its latest offering, the Fitbit Ionic, is taking a crack at the smartwatch space, which is largely dominated by Apple Watch.

Of course, the company isn’t about to its fitness credentials in the dust, so the Ionic offers a combination of both. However, this dual purpose does split the focus somewhat, and it remains to be seen whether customers will be convinced by the split.

Fitbit Ionic

Cool factor **** | Usability ***** | Value for money ***

So what’s on offer? The Ionic is a touch-enabled, colour-faced square digital watch that links to your smartphone, and has its own onboard functions. The look is sharp and angular, especially in comparison with the curved edges of the Apple Watch. It’s not small either, making a bold (read: not subtle) impression.

As a smartwatch, it lets you take calls, access messages and see calendar events, and it works with WhatsApp and Twitter — but it’s not the most sophisticated smartwatch out there. I like that it has its own app gallery, freeing you of the need to download the apps on your phone first, and that they work even when you don’t have your phone on hand.

In terms of fitness features, the Ionic offers a personal coaching function that serves up — and guides you through — personalised workouts on screen. It’s got built-in GPS, so you can track your outdoor workouts, map your routes and measure elevation. It also uses wrist-based heart monitoring.

Finally — and this is always a winner in my books — the Ionic is water-resistant to 50m. In swim mode, it will track laps and stroke style, as well as calories burnt.

The Ionic’s bigger competition-beating feature is a competitive battery life — it lasts up to four days, leaving many similar devices, which must be charged every day, in the dust. Note, though, that the GPS chews through your battery life, so the more track training you’re doing, the less time you’ll get between charges.

The recommended retail price for the Ionic is R5,499; that’s less than its Apple competitor, but it’s certainly not chump change.

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