Accessories

Fitbit Ionic review: What forced me to get fit

Their very first smartwatch!

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I had previously reviewed the Fitbit Alta HR (and actually used it as my tracker for a long while) so I was pretty excited when the Ionic was announced. Fitbit, known for its fitness wearables, had finally ventured into the smartwatch category and there were pretty high expectations. With those expectations came questions: Would the watch perform well? Would it look and feel like a Fitbit? What other functions would it have?

I’ve been using the Ionic for around a week now and these are my thoughts on it.

It looks and feels like a Fitbit 

The Ionic has a unibody aluminum case and ships with their classic bands, made with the same elastomer materials as most sport watch bands. It feels sturdy and solid and it isn’t so heavy. The smartwatch comes in three versions: smoke gray face with a charcoal band, silver gray face with a blue-gray band, and the burnt orange face with a slate blue band which I tested out.

The watch face, though pretty big, is something me and my tiny wrists can live with. It’s surprisingly thick, however. Thankfully, you don’t really notice that detail once you’re wearing it.

There are three buttons on the watch: the back button on the left, the upper-right button which brings you to daily statistics, and the lower-right button which directs you to different exercise start screens.

It’s a touchscreen display, too, so navigation isn’t limited to those buttons. Swipe up for notifications, swipe left for quick settings, and swipe right for the main menu. It’s pretty responsive, though the lift to wake function does get slow at times.

My intense I-work-out look

Fitbit devices have a certain look that screams “I work out,” and the Ionic still has that vibe.

Usually perfect when you’re rocking workout clothes, this Fitbit will not match all your outfits, unfortunately.

Grays and minimal accessories, otherwise the look would clash with the Ionic

Fortunately, it does a decent job at trying — which means with a little extra effort (i.e. wearing neutral colors and staying away from dresses), it won’t look as comical with your everyday casual wear.

The screen is amazing

What I like about the Ionic is how the 1.42-inch screen feels so… wide. Now, I know, it’s a teeny thing, but navigation on the square screen with gestures was pretty enjoyable considering it’s still the size of a watch face.

It has four brightness settings: dim, normal, max, and auto. The screen is capable of 10,000 nits which is a number that meant nothing to me — until I tested it against bright outdoor lighting and I saw the light (pun intended); I could still see the display even with the harsh lighting.

Details on the screen are crisp and the display is pretty responsive. It’s also made out of Gorilla Glass so it shouldn’t scratch or break easily.

It’s a smartwatch!

The Ionic allows you to see notifications from your phone, and even read full messages (sans photos) on the screen.

Handy tip: When you read Facebook messages on the Ionic, they are not marked “read” on the Facebook app.

It works in tandem with the Fitbit app, like previous Fitbit wearables. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and syncs your information — steps, heart rate, exercise, sleep — with the app. The software collates all of this and sends you weekly reports via email.

And because it’s a smartwatch, you can install apps on it! App selection is still limited at this point, though there are useful ones out there. Yelp, Philipps Hue, HIIT timer, Pomodoro, and Flipboard are all available for download.

The Ionic also has built-in storage, a trend we’re seeing in recent wearables, so that you can take your music to go. This means you won’t have to bring your phone on that quick run because you can play your music directly from the device.

Battery life is at three to four days, depending on your notification settings.

It has a whole range of fitness features

Of course, the Ionic is designed with fitness in mind. It has built-in personal exercise coaching programs; each one walks you through the whole routine with details on each exercise which basically leaves you with no excuse to not work out.

It also has preset programs for certain activities like running, biking, weightlifting, and interval training. This allows you to properly track each exercise routine.

Aside from the usual Fitbit features like step tracking and calorie counting, this device is equipped with a continuous heart rate monitor.

“But Isa, most trackers have a heart rate monitor!”

Yes, except turning them on totally kills the battery life on other devices. The Ionic’s heart rate monitor is continuously on by default and in my experience, the battery still lasts three to four days.

You can also use the Ionic to track your swimming exercises because it’s waterproof!

But, this isn’t the end of Ionic’s impressive fitness features.

There are also very, very fun functions

Thing is, you can track movement all you want but without the initiative to work out, you have nothing. Despite all modern fitness tracking features, no smartwatch has ever gotten me to actually exercise — until now.

The Fitbit Pets watch face is a total game changer for me. Developed by Fitbit Labs, it almost forces you to go work out… with cuteness. Each pet face lives on in your watch. To feed it, you need a certain number of steps in a day. Otherwise, your pet will leave you a heartbreaking letter asking you to feed it. 💔

One too many times, I’ve gone and exercised because I didn’t want my virtual doggo to starve. Talk about motivation!

The true treasure here is your health, TBH

Treasure Trek is also a Fitbit Labs app that gamifies your activity. It’s a treasure hunt powered by your step count!

Verdict

In the looks department, the Ionic didn’t quite do it for me. To be perfectly honest, I’m not a big fan of its design. Though I do understand that this is Fitbit’s signature look, I still feel like the whole point of a fitness wearable is to have it on all the time. For me to be able to do that, it has to be able to match things other than sports and athleisure wear. I say it again: Like other Fitbit, the Ionic still screams “I work out!” The blue and orange color option (which is the only bright color option) doesn’t help either.

But, looks aren’t all that matters. The more I used this thing, the more I enjoyed the experience. The crisp screen is always enjoyable to tinker with and smartwatch to Fitbit app integration is always seamless. Battery time is pretty good compared to other smartwatches I’ve tried. Fun Fitbit Labs apps like Fitbit Pets and Treasure Trek are also great integrations that set the Ionic apart.

If there’s anything I expected from the brand that acquired Pebble, it’s that they’d do smartwatches right. The Fitbit Ionic might not be fully there yet, but they’re on the way.

SEE ALSO: Fitbit Alta HR review

Accessories

Jabra launches Elite 85t TWS earbuds with ANC

Elite 75t Range gets ANC upgrade

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Jabra Elite 85t

Long before smartphone manufacturers started making their own TWS earbuds after Apple made it a thing with the AirPods, it was Jabra that was quietly making waves in this device segment. Looking to take some of that power back, the company launches the Jabra Elite 85t with ANC (Active Noise Cancellation).

One of the biggest defining features other than the aforementioned ANC (which will dive deeper into later) is its design. It looks nothing like the stem-touting TWS earbuds that are all over the place right now. Jabra managed to add ANC functionality without altering their design too much.

Semi-open design

To balance comfort with wearability, Jabra opted for a semi-open design. This means the tower of the Elite 85t does not sit as deeply within the ear, giving users a more comfortable earbud, while maintaining a very secure fit.

Jabra has also adapted the ear gels to an oval shape providing a better sealing in the ear. The Elite 85t has 12mm speakers for producing “a big sound and powerful bass.”

Advanced ANC

To go beyond Jabra’s standard ANC and for optimized sound processing, the Elite 85t has a dual chipset. These are some of the smallest earbuds on the market that offer premium ANC to create a private, quiet space and deliver HearThrough to let the user hear their surroundings.

Both features are fully adjustable with extra focus on natural sound performance and limited occlusion (blockage/closure) and are achieved via the semi-open design and multiple ANC microphones.

The Jabra Elite 85t provides up to 5.5 hours of listening with ANC on, which extends to 25 hours with the charging case with ANC on and 31 hours with ANC off.

Elite 75t ANC upgrade

Both the Elite 75t and the elte Active 75t will get an ANC upgrade. The free upgrade is being made available to users through Jabra’s engineering on Qualcomm technology.

Taking advantage of the superior digital audio processor already available in the Elite 75t series and leading ANC know-how, Jabra has been able to deploy ANC in the existing product line.

The Jabra Elite 75t series will also be available to purchase with ANC as standard from October 2020. The ANC-enabled models will also continue to have IP55/IP57 rated durability, and a two-year warranty.

With ANC on, battery will be 5.5 hrs on a single charge (24 hrs in total with charging case), and with ANC off it will be the existing 7.5 hrs and 28 hrs in total. The addition of ANC as standard adds no additional cost to the earbuds.

Pricing and availability

Jabra Elite 85t will be available for pre-order at Jabra.com, Amazon and Best Buy in October 2020 and for sale online and in stores November 2020 at US$ 229. The earbuds will be available in Titanium/Black November 2020, and Gold/Beige, Copper/Black, Black and Grey January 2021.

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In having healthy connections: vivo TWS Neo

Learning the value of unattachment and secure connections

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Earlier this year, I embarked on a spiritual quest to heal my personal issues and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Something I’ve been dealing with for more than twenty years.

Unfortunately, the world paused when the pandemic struck, and I wasn’t able to have my own Eat, Pray, Love moment. Yet the universe — if you believe in that — finds its way to put you back on track. Over the last few months, I’ve been spending some time in isolation to safeguard myself from the invisible virus.

In between my full-time job, household chores, and other errands, I was able to sit with myself while scouring through my deep-seated emotions. In the fifth month of my healing journey, I got the vivo TWS Neo to accompany me in the last stride that helped me close my old wounds.

On removing my expectations

I wasn’t impressed the first time I met the vivo TWS Neo. Bluntly put, there was nothing extraordinary about it. It’s similarly designed with a striking resemblance to the king of true wireless earphones.

Little did I know, the vivo TWS Neo has something else to offer: Identifying what I like and didn’t like about myself through my likes and dislikes about this accessory.

Using it for a month, I got a better understanding of myself. I was able to realize how I tend to fixate on what I want, denying myself the chance to try something new. How I’ve been holding on to certain outcomes that aren’t for my highest good.

So I used it to start breaking my expectations and connected it to my four phones. From the Samsung Galaxy S20, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, Huawei Mate 20 Pro, and to the vivo X50, the TWS Neo connected seamlessly via Bluetooth.

This easy connection made me ponder about my struggles in connecting with and opening up to people. I wish I connect with people as easily as these wireless earphones.

I tried to listen to “Lo-Fi Beats” on Spotify, a calm playlist that lets me enjoy the novel I’m reading — History Is All You Left Me.

While I read a story about love, friendship, and mourning, my mind wandered in between the pages. I started relating my experience with the vivo TWS Neo to my journey in learning and healing my personal issues.

The value of detachment and secure connections

As I enjoyed the liberty of wireless connection, it helped me realize it’s time to free myself from the past. I’m not bound by any cords, I don’t have to carry all this weight with me anymore.

In between reading and bathroom breaks, I didn’t bother returning the wireless earphones to its case. I always brought it with me to the bathroom while my phone is left at my desk, thinking the connection won’t be disrupted. Plus, it has IP54 water resistance.

Of course, there’s a limit even though it uses Bluetooth 5.2 connection. It’s like how certain romantic connections can be disrupted by distance. Frankly, it’s something I’ve been doing unknowingly. An unhealthy habit I need to fix.

Thankfully, it’s easy to reconnect. The vivo TWS Neo has a good grasp of its connection, where you can just play your songs again through your phone or by tapping it with your fingers.

If you ever have to remove the earphones for a moment (or put it back to its case), the music will stop yet it will play again as soon as you plug it back in your ears.

A healthy reminder that connections don’t necessarily stop when you step away, and you can still pick things up where you left off.

The only problem I encountered was the fit. The open-ear fit didn’t feel secure enough in my ears that I always thought it’s about to fall. This is the reason why I’ve always preferred in-ear ones.

Learning about my preference made me realize the importance of feeling secure in yourself and in relationships. What most people don’t know is that a healthy connection is comprised of two secure and independent individuals. You can’t have a happy and stable relationship if someone’s worried and reeks of insecurity.

Everything is within your reach

One thing I learned and loved about the vivo TWS Neo is how everything is within our reach. I didn’t know the gesture controls I can utilize to fully enjoy my listening experience. Not until I put the effort to learn about it.

The vivo TWS Neo has Slide Control embedded on its stem, allowing you to operate it easily. I was able to access google assistant, answer a call, and control my music by double-tapping.

Calls can be rejected (which I barely do) or hung up (if people are annoying) when you press and hold. I also adjusted the volumes by sliding through the stem.

There’s also a Find My TWS Neo feature, which helps you search for your wireless earphones easily. It will beep through your phone once it’s in the connection’s range — a feature that I wish I could use for all the people I’ve lost.

There’s always a wonderful connection waiting

Diving into a story while listening to music allowed me to drown my emotions and distract myself. Sometimes, I shut the world out by putting the volume on max and using noise-cancellation.

I don’t care if my eardrums explode, as long as I can’t hear people or my thoughts, I’m good. This form of escapism has been an unhealthy habit that I’m actively fixing. Instead of enjoying the TWS Neo’s rich, quality sound (and probably staying in the present), I tend to prevent myself from feeling everything.

But what I learned so far is that sometimes, we have to allow ourselves to stumble and fall, drop our guards, and move out of our comfort zones. Maybe it’s time to stop repeating the same songs you’ve been playing for three months now.

The wireless earphones last for more than four hours and can last a full day when you recharge it through the charging case.

As I close my book to allow my wireless earphones to recharge, I realized that I, too, have to let myself rest. Just like the TWS Neo, I have to recharge (or heal in this matter) so I can enjoy another wonderful connection and listening experience that’s certainly waiting for me.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

The vivo TWS Neo might not be an option to most consumers unless you’re loyal to the brand. There are a lot of cheaper alternatives and if you have a few bucks to spare, you can increase your budget range and purchase several contenders such as Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live and Huawei’s FreeBuds.

In the same price range, there’s also the OPPO Enco W31. If your budget is in between and you prefer a connection that’s simple, long-lasting, and seamless, the vivo TWS Neo could be your GadgetMatch. And if you already own a vivo phone anyway, pairing with these should be at the top of your options.

The vivo TWS Neo retails for PhP 4,999 in the Philippines. It comes in two colors: Moonlight White and Starry Blue.

SEE ALSO: Wireless earphones: A life-changing switch?6 reasons why you should switch to wireless earbuds | The art of letting go with Sony H.ear On

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Nokia Power Earbuds launches globally

The earbuds that come with ‘150-hour battery life’

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Nokia Power Earbuds

First announced in China, the Nokia Power Earbuds have now officially been launched globally.

The Power Earbuds have the traditional set of components for the emerging technology: two in-ear pieces and a charging case. The set comes in two colors: charcoal black and light gray.

Inside, the earbuds sport a 6mm graphene driver unit, supposedly putting out high-quality audio. It is compatible with Google Assistant, allowing hands-free operation.

It supports Bluetooth 5.0, extending usage by up to 800 feet.  The Power Earbuds are certified for IP7 resistance. Supposedly, users can submerge the earbuds underwater for up to 30 minutes.

As for battery life, Nokia presents an interesting caveat. The earbuds themselves don’t last for 150 hours; instead, they last for a more believable 5-hour charge. Each bud contains only 50mAh capacity for battery life.

The gargantuan battery belongs to the charging case. The 3000mAh case has as much battery life as a smartphone. As such, users can charge the earbuds multiple times through the case before charging the case itself.

Pricing and availability will follow shortly.

 

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