Which Fitbit Is Best For Swimming? Fitbit Ionic Review

After swimming with many watches, I have found the Ionic as extremely accurate in counting laps, and it is still my favorite Fitbit for swimming in 2020.

For pool swimming when GPS is not required the Versa and Versa 2 are great options and I have recommended them in this article on the best Fitbit for indoor swimming.

If you are an open water swimmer and looking for the best Fitbit with a built-in GPS than honestly, you don’t have too many choices since the only Fitbit devices that come with a built-in GPS are the old Surge, the new band – Charge 4 and the Ionic.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the old Surge and I had great times with it, but it only takes one quick look at the beautiful Ionic in order to understand that it is worth the extra 50 bucks(which is approximately the price difference between the two).

Best Fitbit With a Built-In Gps For Swimming in open water, Fitbit Ionic Review

Which Fitbit has a built-in GPS?

It is a question that I get a lot and like I have mentioned – only the Ionic, Surge, and the new band – Charge 4 have a built-in GPS.
However, almost all the other Fitbits are GPS compatible, which means that they can sync to your phone’s GPS.

Fitbit Ionic Review

The Ionic sports watch, of course with GPS, is suitable for various sports activities: running, cycling and swimming in the pool, along with running on tracks, golf, tennis, weight lifting, functional fitness training and more.

It has another favorite feature: it can be loaded with 2.5 gigabytes of music, which will play using wireless headsets that connect to it via Bluethooth.

Oh, and another thing-the Ionic is the best Fitbit for sleep tracking from all the Fitbits that I have used.

In fact, the company itself has headphones intended for the Ionic, but they are sold separately.

Fitbit Ionic’s Specs

  • Weight: 49.8 grams (light! Every milligram counts).
  • Square shape, 3.73 cm2, comes with two strips: a small and a medium/large.
  • Pulse reading from the wrist by the PurePulse sensor (there is no option to connect a standard heart rate band).
  • Sensors: Altimeter, digital compass, GPS, a motion sensor that awakes the screen.
  • 24/7 monitoring of daily activity and sleep with daily goals that can be customized.
  • A rechargeable battery within an hour and holds up to five days according to the manufacturer’s data.
  • A Color touch screen (with dozens of designs to choose from).
  • Water-resistant up to 50 meters.
  • Vibrate alerts only.
  • Bluetooth 4 connectivity and wifi.
  • Ability to receive notifications from the phone to the watch.
  • 10 hours battery with GPS.
  • Support for running (outdoors or indoors), cycling and swimming in the pool.
  • There is no option for multisport. You can download more apps from Fitbit’s app store.
best Fitbit with a built-in GPS

Where can I get it?

Currently, the best place to buy the Ionic is from this seller on Amazon.
It is priced at a decent price of 229.99.

I have checked it also on Fitbit’s website where it is currently priced at 269.95.
You can check it out here on Fitbit’s website.

Best Fitness Tracker For riding horses

Which Fitbit is best for riding horses? This is a question that I get a lot and I always recommend on the Ionic from these reasons:

  • Built-In GPS – while riding a horse you are not moving too much and features like step counting, HR and calories counting are not important, although they can be to have when you are off the horse, however, a GPS which will show you where you are and where you are going, the mileage that you did during the different riding sessions and more – all these might be very helpful while riding your horse in nature.
  • A big screen with notifications – during your riding, it can be nice to be able to get notification from a large, beautiful screen on your hand.
  • App with a social network – The Fitbit app can be amazing if you want to share your stats with other riders. you can show and compare routes or find partners for riding.

Style + Hardware

Style + Strap – The Fitbit Ionic has a sleek, slim design.
Compared to his main competitors, he looks like Kate Moss after two weeks of heroin and coffee.

However, his belt (which I checked out of the thickest version of the two options) is made of thick rubber and instead of a clasp in the edge of the strap (so it will not flutter and pester), there is a metal pin that stucks to the holes in the strap.

Other straps (lighter and more breathable) can be purchased for the Ionic from Fitbit’s store. It comes in two sizes: small and medium/large.

Charging Interface – The Fitbit Ionic comes with a USB charging cable that connects to the watch using a magnet.

It’s pretty cool: at last, you can charge the watch without fearing that any sneeze will disconnect the watch during charging (I have seen it also in the Suunto Spartan Sport).

According to the manufacturer’s data, it takes about an hour to charge the battery, and in my experience with the Ionic, it takes a little more.

Besides Bluetooth connectivity, the watch is also equipped with WiFi connectivity which it is using when connecting to a computer.

However, except for version updates or for uploading songs to the device, you do not need to connect to your computer and you can upload training and data by using only Bluetooth for the Fitbit app on your mobile device.

Button Structure – Alongside the touch screen, The Ionic has three buttons: two on the right and one on the left. Their uses will be discussed below.

Weight – Here, Ionic has a real advantage thanks to its thinness, which is expressed mainly in running.

I have quite a bit of experience running with watches the size and weight of a refrigerator (one of them, the name is kept in the system, even gave me a blue and painful mark on the wrist), and the Ionic is excellent in comfortably in light of its low weight and probably because of the strap that holds the watch well.

Screen -The Fitbit Ionic has a color touchscreen, which includes an opening screen and a continuation screen.

The best feature of the Ionic’s screen is that, unlike other watches, the screen is darkened by default.

Just lifting your wrist in a gesture of “I check the time” or pressing the left or right button will turn on the screen.

This feature (which is also included in Samsung Gear) is cumbersome and especially annoying when you hold something in both hands and want to see what time it is, but after a while, you get used to it.

Of course, you can also change this and make the screen lightened all the time, but it causes the battery to dwindle very quickly (see below).

Sensors – The Ionic measures a pulse in the wrist in continuous measurement using PurePulse technology.

It also includes an altimeter (which allows the counting of floors you climbed during the day), GPS of course, and a compass.

Measuring the pulse also allows the watch to monitor sleep, and divide it into segments of light sleep, rapid eye twitching, and deep sleep.

Check out the Ionic reviews(there are tons of them), here on Amazon.

Main Screens

The welcome screen cannot be independently designed, but you can choose from dozens of existing designs (using the Fitbit mobile app), some more colorful and others less.

I’ve been dealing with it for a whole day, and it was quite fun. The Welcome screen shows the time, and some basic data of Active Trekking: the number of steps measured since the beginning of the day, the current pulse, and the number of calories burned.

In some designs you can compress more data, such as active minutes, temperature, and more.

In my opinion, loading data on the welcome screen only adds to the load in the eye and does not necessarily contribute, especially when the second screen has an icon called “Today”, which will open a window with all the daily data.

On the second screen is the exercise icon, where the widgets of running, swimming, riding, lifting weights and more are hidden.

Other widgets here are the music player Widgett as well as the “trainer” widget, which offers some short training, such as abdominal training, core training, and so on.

On the second screen, you can adjust the clock and alarms, and enjoy a relaxing meditation with a widget called “Relax”.

There’s also a widget called Fitbit Pay, which is offering a service in which you can charge a credit card and pay with the watch.

In summary, the last screen contains the Strava widget, the weather widget and the wheel through which the settings are changed.

Before you get happy, I must tell you that most of the settings cannot be made from the watch, but only through the mobile app or Fitbit’s website when the watch is connected to the computer.

If you want to show off to friends on the amazing exercise you did yesterday, you can not do it through the watch, but only through the app, because unfortunately, the watch itself cannot show the training history.

In fact, even in a workout that ended a minute ago, if you closed the summary screen (excellent screen) after you finished training, you will not be able to view the training data until you synchronize the watch with the phone and upload it to the application.

Customization and preparation for use

As mentioned above, most of the watch settings are done in the application. As usual, it begins by entering the personal information including age and weight, and continues with the selection of units of measurement, clock and clock configuration (24 hours or 12 hours) and setting goals for activity tracking (numbers of steps a day, number of floors a day, etc.).

However, the screen customization of the various sports activities is done on the watch itself, and it is better this way.

Most of the customization is quite intuitive, you just have to know that in Fitbit there are no alerts but only cues, which means that if you want the watch to alert you every mile of running, it is under automatic cue settings in the runtime configuration wheel.

The same goes for swimming. If you feel would like a vibration alert, say, every 500 meters, look for it under automatic cue settings in swimming.

Do you want to choose the information fields for yourself? You can!
This is under customize stats. But, and this is serious but, Fitbit Ionic has only one screen and only three data fields.

The middle field is a swapping field so you can compress several parameters into it, and in the swipe movement you can scroll through the various options, but it is not always the most convenient to do while active (and while swimming you cannot browse).

For those accustomed to three screens with up to four data fields in each, adaptation can be difficult and will require waiving parameters you were used to seeing.

Moreover, the data fields are very basic: Want to know the cadence of running (or riding)? How many hands movements per minute while swimming? You will be disappointed.

The watch just does not measure these things. If you need this data for training – you probably need to choose another watch.

In the framework of the customization, you can also download apps from Fitbit’s app store.

This is done when the watch is connected via Bluetooth to the phone. Sporadically there are not many apps for the watch, but you can download all kinds of things from a flashlight or calculator application to an App for Wall Street data or for reading updates from the New York Times(The last two need the Internet and therefore will only work when the watch is near a well-known WiFi network).


I mentioned the possibility of loading music, which is one of the features that made it pleasing to me.

Do this using the Fitbit Connect software, when the watch is connected to the computer.

The watch identifies the playlists that are on the computer (for me: iTunes on Mac), and you can download them to the watch.

But not everything is roses here: it’s a terribly slow process. Maybe because of my long playlists, each download took more than an hour, sometimes more than two hours.

In short, someone who is used to the agility of loading mobile songs must breathe deeply, and stacks songs for the Ionic the evening before running, while watching TV or doing something else.

Using the Fitbit Ionic for running, swimming and cycling

Clicking on the upper right button will immediately open the Exercise widget, where you can flip through the swipe on the touch screen to reach the desired activity: running, cycling, swimming, running on tracks, weight lifting, interval training (work/rest) For strength exercises, and a screen called workout that includes a timer.

To start a workout you have to press the lower right button, and there you also click if you want to stop.

To save the workout, briefly press the upper right button, and then a window opens asking if we want to finish the workout.

Pressing End will end the workout. Pressing cancel will return one screen back, and you can turn the watch back on and continue the workout.

Long press on the top right button will bring up the music screen, so you can change songs or playlists during the workout.

Check out the Ionic on Amazon

Running with the Ionic

In running I tried the watch only in the outdoor running mode, that is, with GPS.

I have to note the fast speed of the syncing of the watch to the satellites, unlike my other watches that sometimes dry me for a long time waiting for a watch-satellite pairing.

Along with the quick connection, I sometimes felt that the GPS was faking a bit, and brought me a few miles or a little shorter, and accordingly shows me some arbitrary rhythms that reminded me of a bingo game.

Another thing I noticed was the watch’s tendency to lose touch with the satellites as I passed under bridges – that did not happen to me with other sports watches.

What I really like is the summary the watch produces at the end of a workout. First, whether I am breaking an amazing personal record or a terrific run, the watch will bless you with a “nice work!” Then the measured data will appear: time, distance, average pace, average pulse, calories burned, and the number of steps.

And then, and that’s what I particularly liked, the list of splits will appear.
There is no longer a need to search for splits in a separate window: they appear there, below the general data.

Only if you are running longer than 11 kilometers, you will not find all the splits there: the list will include only the first ten kilometers – and the last one. A bit pity, because otherwise, it would have been excellent.

Another thing to consider, which I mentioned earlier, is that once you decide to close the summary, you can not go back and watch the workout data on the watch, and if you want to remember the training, you will need to do this in the app after you synchronized the watch with the mobile.

Cycling with the Ionic

If riding is your main sport – you will use Fitbit Ionic as a backup if you accidentally forgot to charge your cycling meter.

It also provides the pulse measurement without a belt, and all other data you need – distance, speed, time, etc.

Deepening the direction of watts and connecting to 3rd party sensors (Cadence meter and power meter), etc are not his thing.

You need to take into account the Automatic screen darkness – riding with the watch, you should turn on the watch’s screen by default, or you will need to raise a hand from the handlebar in the “What time” movement in order to see something.

In the experiment I did, an hour of training with a screen turned on has consumed 40% battery capacity!

Swimming With the Ionic

Here I have to compliment Ionic: along with his large, clear and comfortable screen display, he also appears to be the most precise swimming watch I have ever sampled. This dude counts pools in the most reliable way!

As for counting pools, it is important to note that this watch, unlike its competitors, counts the first pool as 00 and not 25/50 (depending on the size of the pool you choose).

Therefore, if you want it to alert every 10 pools, you will receive it only after you complete 10 pools, meaning, at the beginning of the eleventh pool.

Personally, I got used to getting a vibrating alert from my sports watch at the last 50-meter pool, and it took me time to get used to the new situation.

Using it in the sea using the built-in GPS was a great joy for me as it helped me a lot to get the distance and how straight-lined my swimming was.


Personally, I do not run with my phone, and when I do not run, I like to get my notifications on the phone and not on my watch, but I know people who run with a phone and a watch, and they love to see their updates on the watch.

And something else you need to know about the Fitbit Ionic: it sends e-mails! No, I did not go crazy, really.

At first, every time after training, I received an e-mail message from Fitbit congratulating me on my progress, and all kinds of badges in which I won in the training.

Then the frequency of these emails (thank God) declined a little – apparently because the watch realized that I was sufficiently motivated without his Compliments.
One day, when the battery of the watch began to weaken, I received an email from Fitbit informing me that the battery was low. Maybe you’ll get angry with it, but for me, it was quite amusing.

Fitbit’s App

The app is colorful, friendly and allows you to add a lot of data independently. If you follow your diet, you can keep a diet diary in your application.

If you need to keep track of your drinking – you can do it in the app, and you can download a drink application from the watch store.

Best Fitbit Watch For Sleep Tracking

best Fitbit with a built-in GPS

Another cool thing is to keep track of your sleeping habits: during the month I sampled the watch, I became addicted to this feature, because the watch was able to record my sleep quite impressively.

I was also surprised to discover how many arouses I had during the night, and I was amazed when the watch (the genius!) recognized one day when I grabbed a short nap and added it to my daily calculation.

For athletes who understand the importance of rest and its impact on athletic performance, the possibility of monitoring sleep over time is a serious plus.

The Ionic is the best Fitbit for sleep tracking that I have ever used.

Training History

Since I mentioned earlier that you can not view the training history on the watch, your only way to dig and drill in the training you’ve already done is using the mobile app (also available on Fitbit’s website but the app is more accessible and friendly).

Then, when you click on the training icon, you’ll find there except for the training you’ve done and you’ve saved a few more interesting things, such as “activity detectors”.

What does that mean? Suppose you went to the supermarket. Needless to say, you will not set up the watch for a routine walk like that.

But the watch detects that you are walking because of the sensor by which the watch counts the steps, and summarizes the data on the same hike (steps count, average heart rate, and calories burned.) Of course, the GPS does not work all the time unless you turn it on on the relevant mode – running or cycling).


In the United States, the homeland of the Fitbit, it is also possible through the app to communicate with friends with Fitbit, compete with them, and do all sorts of communal things.

In any case, the Fitbit Ionic interfaces with Strava, and those who are used to contact their community there will be able to continue with it using this watch.


I have a few comments about the Ionic sensors. First, the pulse: Although Fitbit’s pulse sensor should be quite reliable and based on continuous pulse reading (not sampling every few seconds), the heart rates that he called me in most of the training sessions were too high to be reliable, and often beyond my maximum heart rate.

The altimeter is also overly praiseworthy: during swimming pool training he determined that I had climbed four floors (and I did not even get on the springboard).


If you are looking for the best Fitbit with a built-in GPS, Ionic is the best and actually the only option for you(except for the aging “surge”).
Fitbit Ionic, as well as Samsung Gear, sit on the same niche of smart sports watches designed for a wide audience of gadget enthusiasts, strong watch connectivity to the phone and constant network connectivity.

At the beginning of my use of the Ionic, I was a bit skeptical, but pretty soon I got to know him and like his special features, the thin beautiful screen, and his excellent display, the strange emails he sends me, and the great mobile application.

In my opinion, this is an excellent watch for those who want mainly active hiking and intermediate trainers.
Triathletes, runners, and serious riders need a slightly deeper watch that can interface with dedicated sensors and will be able to offer them data beyond the most basic ones.

You can read more on the best fitness tracker watch for triathletes here.
For all the others, Fitbit Ionic is an excellent, fun and pleasant device.

I hope that I helped you with the question “what is best Fitbit with a built-in GPS?” and that you liked this Fitbit Ionic review.
If you have any comments, please feel free to leave them below.