Few wearable manufacturers have been in the fitness band game longer than Fitbit. Over the years, Fitbit has added more than just fitness bands to its lineup. The Fitbit Ionic is a smartwatch mixed with a fitness band, mixing exercise tracking with wrist payments, notifications, and more. On the back of that success, Fitbit recently unveiled the Fitbit Versa, a surprisingly similar piece of hardware.

The Versa sports a similar design, almost identical feature set and runs a version of the Fitbit OS that's rolling out to current Fitbit Ionics. With all that in common, there are only a few differences that affect your decision of which device you should go with.

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While Fitbit has a wide range of devices, the only one that's a real competitor to the Ionic is the new Versa. If you want a Fitbit that isn't a smartwatch, Fitbit has quite a few options. But when it comes to smartwatches, it's either the Ionic or the Versa.

What do you want to track?

Both the Ionic and the Versa track exercise, from running to cycling and working out in the gym. Both have up to 50 meters of water resistance so you can take them to just about any workout. The one major difference is that only one can track without a phone. The Fitbit Ionic has built-in GPS which allows you to track your exercise routes without the aid of a smartphone. The Versa doesn't have a GPS so you'll have to use a smartphone to keep track. In my opinion, this one difference is the main reason to pick one device over the other.

Fitbit sent me a Fitbit Ionic a couple of months ago for review, and I've used it regularly. What I've found is that while I enjoy tracking how far I've walked or ran, I don't need GPS. I'm OK with an accurate step counter and all the other features that record my exercise without GPS.

But that's just me. I mainly use my Ionic as a pedometer with notification support for my phone. If I were buying a new device myself, I'd consider the Ionic overkill and look at the Versa or other smartwatches. But if you need a GPS, the Ionic utilizes it well, and I think you'll be happy with it.

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Fitbit Ionic vs. Versa: Design

A much more nuanced difference between the Ionic and the Versa is in the design. Both feature bright watch faces, so bright that I use my Ionic as a flashlight to get into bed without waking my wife, and they allow you to switch out wrist straps depending on your preference. Both devices also have the same three-button setup for navigating the watch. The main difference is that the Ionic is thicker than the Versa, and where the Ionic is very square, the Versa rounds a few corners to make it sleeker.

Battery life of both devices should be similar; you should be able to get more than four days of life out of the two devices. The battery life of my Ionic has always impressed me, and if the Versa follows suit, I doubt many will have complaints.

To me, the Versa looks like a refined Ionic, softening the edges of Fitbit's first smartwatch while still packing a beautiful and bright screen. That being said, I don't think either watch is bad looking. Their design differences certainly aren't enough to steer you away from the Ionic if you need a GPS.

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Fitbit Ionic vs. Versa: Features

The features for these devices are practically identical, the only difference being the Ionic having GPS. Both have Fitbit Pay, Bluetooth music, the same exercise tracking, notification support, FitBit Coach, and all other features.

The Versa runs Fitbit OS 2 which improves the old Fitbit OS, but that same OS is already rolling out to Ionic. In fact, I already updated mine. Some new features such as female health tracking are a great addition and are a reason to look at the Versa, but the Ionic is going to get the same features so again, there's no functional difference.

Fitbit Ionic vs. Versa: Price

Aside from GPS being included in a device, this is likely the most important factor for anyone debating between these devices. The Fitbit Versa lists at $199.95, a full $100 cheaper than the Fitbit Ionic's $299.95 listed price tag. Though since the Ionic has been out for awhile, there are sales. You can get the Ionic for $269.95 right now on Amazon.

Is Fitbit Ionic or Versa a better fit for you?

The choice between the Fitbit Ionic and the Fitbit Versa isn't as easy as grabbing the newest device. The Ionic's GPS is a must-have for some people, such as runners, and if that's you, I'd go with the Ionic. If GPS isn't important, I think the Versa has a sleeker design and is thinner while providing similar battery life.

Price is also a factor, though, but with the Ionic being on sale it's not as much of a factor as you'd think. Yes, $70 is a difference, but I imagine most people that can afford a multi-hundred dollar smartwatch probably aren't swayed that much by that price difference.

Your thoughts

Which device are you going to go with? Do already have and Ionic but are considering a switch to the newer device? Let us know in the comments.

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