Cue the Lemurs from that Madagascar movie singing the classic: “I like to move it, move it!” With beach time nearing it’s time to squeeze every drop we can into our summer bodies to get “physically fit, physically fit, physically, physically, physically fit.” Okay, no more singing lemurs let’s get (body) serious!
With the launch of the new FitBit Ionic, and its new waterproof ways, we decided to get our hands on the best active techwear watches around and find out which is the best by taking them out and about for an everyday active test drive and a casual moment at a pool party.
FITBIT IONIC, R5499
The original creator of the wrist companion mover and shaker is back with its most prolific watch to date. It’s quite a slick thing – in looks, watch face options and screen clarity – that makes for a nice “actual watch” and not just a “step policeman”, which, of course, it still does very well.
It will come as little surprise to anyone that the FitBit is a great active watch; complete with persuasive hourly “250 steps left to go” notifications, as well as different fitness app integration such as an optional tiny personal trainer. But where Fitbit shines is that you don’t have to tell it what you’re going to do, it just knows. It monitors what you’re up to and then next thing you get a notification saying good job on those 45 laps that you just did in the pool. It may confuse drum lessons with road cycling but at least you know that, either way, you rocked it.
Thanks to its four day battery life – even with heavy active use – and its super quick charging abilities, the Ionic is able to keep up with your busy lifestyle without becoming another device to charge all the time and worry about. It is also able to properly monitor your sleep at night, which apparently I don’t do near enough (surprise!)
APPLE WATCH SERIES 3, R5499 – R5999
The newest version of the slickest than your average and most popular tech watch is still a pretty little thing. This small-faced friend continues to pull off all sorts of fancy feats like taking photos by proxie or allowing you reply to WhatsApp’s by physically scribbling letters with your finger.
For swimming vibes, though, the water resistance isn't a permanent condition for the watch as it only automatically seals when it detects water activity. For this reason, it’s always good just to double check and click the water droplet activity setting just in case – even if it is a little bit annoying.
On the active side of things, the appropriately named Activity app tracks your movement heartbeat and life well enough and sometimes goes as far as to tell you to stand up for a minute once an hour or to breathe every now and again, but does little more than that to persuade you to move. Almost like a having a gym contract that you never have the time to go and use. It’s more an additional nice to have feature than the watches focus.
What it lacks in permanent water residence, battery life (at a push, 36 hours) and smudgey face glass, it makes up for in watch face designs: I mean who wouldn’t want a dancing Mickey mouse watch face that is acceptable for adults?
GARMIN FORERUNNER 935, R8499
The biggest, yet oddly the lightest, of the bunch, the Garmin, is a watch for the serious athlete. Due to its lightness it makes for a great workout and swimming companion but would probably feel more at home in Midmar dam than in a suburban pool.
Ultimately it feels like a watch for the type of person who doesn’t need to know if they are going to make 10 000 steps that day because they know they already will from their morning run. It’s the perfect tool to aid you in making better time for your 5th participation in Ironman but as someone who eats dark chocolate McVities biscuits for breakfast, I can assure you that I am not that person.
But I do have to appreciate the Garmin’s fantastic battery life (3 days with casual use) and in-depth phone notifications (even going so far as to alert me when my phone battery is running flat). Although the screen is not at all as bright as its counterparts, it’s far less distracting than the Apple or Fitbit that a flash of the wrist can wake you up in the middle of the night or least of all possibly distract you in a marathon – if you were that way inclined.
Lastly, I most appreciate their FACE IT app that allows one to custom design your watch face allowing me to have ferret in a polo neck jersey as my watch screen.
TOMTOM ADVENTURER, R4989
No one will ever accuse the Adventurer of being sexy. It’s a chunky orange block of a thing that navigates the world through a clumsy giant square button on the side of your wrist. Furthermore, it is the only one watch in the group that has a black and white display. In short, it’s not the kind of watch that you would want to wear dinner but would be great on, wait for it, an adventure.
The adventurer is the type of watch for the likes of those who drive Landrover Defenders. Camping, hiking, skiing (sure?), trail running – with downloadable trail maps right to your wrist – no set canoeing features but will work splendidly if you do so. And while you’re on that trail for days on end, the TomTom battery has your back (7 days and counting on the battery.) So a little less pool party, little more Moby Dick. It’s all about being hardcore outside and getting the job done – without power steering. And good for you if that’s what you are into.
For the rest of us living most of our lives in the suburbs, I don’t really see why you would want something this boxy for everyday use when it’s practically the same price as the Apple or FitBit. But if you’re an occasional country mouse with change and a couple of watches to spare, I say treat yourself.
It’s a tie! The Fitbit Ionic and Apple Watch Series 3 both win depending on what you’re looking for. No it’s not cheating, let me tell you why: The Ionic is definitely the better fitness watch, but The Apple works harder with your life but not as hard with your body. In the end, they are equally as great as each other and it will just come down to which lemur you like more: The cute one with the eyes (Apple) or the fancy footwork King (Ionic). Okay, now no more lemurs, promise.
Now that it is pool party season why not spring for some additional waterproof with the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom speaker. Fun, bright and lively, you can even connect a whole bunch of them up to make the party more epic. It has terrific sound and deep base and brings the life to the party even in a splash. Or have a moment in the bath with some white wine; talk about dynamic! Fun fact: Even though they have images of the speaker submerged in water on the box, it’s not advisable to do so mostly because the sound isn’t great. But rest assured that if someone does knock it in, it most certainly keeps those tunes a-going.