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Which is the smartest smartwatch?

Two smartwatches are in close competition for the top spot

brunch Updated: Jan 13, 2018 23:41 IST
Rajiv Makhni
The Fitbit Ionic (left) works best as a fitness tracker while the Apple Watch 3 scores high on smartwatch functionality
The Fitbit Ionic (left) works best as a fitness tracker while the Apple Watch 3 scores high on smartwatch functionality

Smartwatches. A truly strange category. For more than 50 years now it’s been the stuff that has fuelled books, movies, TV shows and nerd wet dreams. A few years ago it turned into reality. But the reality wasn’t pretty. Terrible interface, crippled features, always needing a smartphone connected for achieving even the simplest of things and absolutely horrendous battery life. Most companies came in strong, got a severe backlash of complaints, sold a mind numbingly small number of watches, whimpered, flipped over and gave up. Most Android Wear watches came from legacy luxury watch brands who wanted to get their foot in the door and frankly, they were all terrible.

The Apple Watch turned things around. Better features, great screen, improved battery life and some fitness tracking. The AW was able to stem the tide of crap being spewed out by all others. With the Apple Watch 3 they took it to a whole new level. Until now that is.

Yes, there’s a new kid in town and it wants to be the Sheriff. The Fitbit Ionic is a serious piece of equipment that’s about to shake things up. A smartwatch has very different criteria to come out on top. Let’s break it down point by point and see which one ticks.

Looks

The AW3 has a better two way communication

Impossible to differentiate as both are really good looking. Each comes with different straps and colours and both look elegant and very sleek. The Ionic is thinner while the AW has that rotating crown that makes it look very techie. Verdict – Both look great

Screen

The AW has a 312 x 390 resolution screen for its 42 mm version while the Ionic has a 348 x 250 screen. Both go to a 1000Nits in brightness, are easily readable in bright sunlight and are gorgeous.
Verdict – Both are stunning

Sensors

Besides the typical sensors, both have an Altimeter to track elevation. Both are also very capable of contactless payments. The Ionic has a far more accurate heart rate reading with additional sensors that makes it as good as a chest based sensor. Also the Ionic has an additional SPO2 sensor to read bloody oxygen levels as well as track sleep disorders. This hasn’t been activated yet, but will happen soon and will be a gamechanger in wrist based sensors.
Verdict –The Ionic wins this hands down

Smartwatch features

AW has the lead as it has an app store full of stuff already. Ionic’s acquisition of Pebble will make sure that a large number of apps roll out soon. AW3 has a built in cellular connection, but as it’s an eSIM it won’t work in India. But it has much better two way communication between the Watch and the Phone.
Verdict –AW3 is the winner in smartwatch functionality

Fitness tracking

Both smartwatches can track your swim laps

Ionic tracks most fitness activities automatically without even the press of a button. Just start running and it’ll turn on its GPS, start tracking your run statistics and give you a report once you stop. Both can track your swim laps. Ionic has one other advantage. You don’t need any additional download of apps for various activities. Its single interface makes it very easy to use.
Verdict –Ionic is the easy winner here

Battery life

The Ionic offers a much better battery life

The Achilles heel of all smartwatches. Charging your smartwatch every night is one factor that is truly off-putting. AW3 will give you one day off the charger while the Ionic clocks in at about six days. GPS use will give you slightly lower numbers for both.
Verdict –Ionic wins this one by miles

Final verdict

If an extreme amount of smartwatch functionality is important and you are on iOS, then the AW3 is your better bet. If your quest is for the best fitness tracker in the world with outstanding battery life and good smartwatch features, the Fitbit Ionic is the easy winner. It also works with both iOS or Android and costs less.

Finally, the world has two smartwatches that are truly exceptional. Dick Tracy, you can stop spinning in your grave!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, January 14, 2018

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