Shares of Fitbit Inc. closed down nearly 5% Tuesday after a swath of reviews of its new Ionic smartwatch, many of which said it likely could not compete with Apple Inc.’s new watch.
Announced in August, the long-awaited smartwatch was aimed to be a challenger to Apple’s
line of watches, including a new cellular-connected smartwatch detailed this month. Priced at $299, the Ionic is $30 cheaper than Apple’s new Series 3 model without cellular, and $100 cheaper than the connected version. Long known for its fitness-focused devices, Fitbit
has high hopes for the new Ionic, betting that certain features would help propel it to a must-have gadget.
See also: Apple and Fitbit expected to boost sales of smartwatches and other wearable tech
Over the past year, Fitbit has struggled financially and investors have pushed the stock down 14.6%. The S&P 500 index
has gained 10.5% in the same period. Analysts have also seen the new smartwatch as the catalyst the San Francisco-based company needs to turn itself around.
One of the key features analysts expect to help propel smartwatches is uncoupling the device from a smartphone. Apple’s new Series 3 does that via its cellular option, and Fitbit has given the Ionic some unconnected functionality like its stand-alone payment option and Pandora
-based music playback.
Don’t Miss: Apple Watch will cost an extra $10 a month for cellular connection
But the reviews are in and many are not good. Here’s a short roundup:
At Barron’s, Emily Bary summed up the new watch as a device that’s good for a health nut really looking to maximize their fitness objectives. Otherwise, for those seeking a more general-purpose smartwatch, she says there are better and cheaper alternatives out there.
Most reviewers praised the Ionic’s long battery life—a writer from Gizmodo said she charged it about once a week—as well as the watch’s ability as a fitness tool. And for fitness uses there was consensus that the new gadget performed as advertised. Its heart rate tracking sensor, GPS unit, water resistance and built-in coaching and workout routines all contributed to make it an excellent tool for fitness enthusiasts.
Read: Smartwatch growth surges ahead of Apple, Fitbit offerings
Battery life came in useful even for those primarily interested in the Ionic as a health and fitness tool because, unlike the currently available Apple smartwatches, the Ionic lasted long enough to actually be useful for detailed sleep tracking, among other things.
Where the watch fell short was the “smart” capability, the category where analysts have said smartwatches most need to succeed. First off, because the Ionic doesn’t come equipped with cellular capability, it can’t take calls or interact with text notifications, which bothered some reviewers more than others.
The apps didn’t satisfy many reviewers either, and Mashable noted the small number of apps available at launch. For Mashable, the review ultimately came down to price. For another $30, consumers should probably buy a new Apple Series 3 watch, or possibly even a Series 2, which Apple has said it would discontinue.
Not every gadget publication thought that the Ionic’s failings as a stand-alone device doomed its release. ZDNet gave the product an overall 9.3 rating, and said that the only two cons it found were its inability to respond to calls or texts, and the limited number of music services it offered.
“While the Ionic might not be for everyone, at least not yet, it might appeal to fitness buffs who want more in the way of exercise tracking than a basic tracker has to offer, but don’t see the allure of a fancy smartwatch,” Consumer Reports’ Bree Fowler wrote.