Who remembers Google Glass? The pair of smart glasses which had a transparent screen in the top right corner of one lens, alongside the (rather creepy) ability to take photos and record video? It never really caught on – but Form’s swimming goggles stand a much better chance. The device takes the digital read-out, ditches the camera and adds in a set of sensors to track your activity in the pool.
This means a selection of metrics (time as well as one of distance, calories or lengths) are displayed in your eyeline as you swim, and further details (split time, stroke rate, stroke count, distance per stroke, pace per 50 or pace per 100) displayed after every turn. There’s also the ability to set a different metric to display with the rest timer when the goggles clock you taking a break. And you can also turn off the display if you want to swim without the stats, checking them later in the app.
It’s a forehead-slappingly brilliant application of augmented reality and if you’re a gamer of any stripe who’s familiar with a head-up display, you’ll take to it like a duck to water. There are some great swim trackers out there, but all are wrist-based which means you have to pause your stroke to check your progress. To have the information in your goggles is as fundamental a change in experience as going from tracker bands to fitness trackers with screens.
The goggles themselves are easy to operate with a two-button system: the front power button selects things, the other scrolls through options. To get going you power them on, choose the pool size and type of session then push off. Pool size defaults are 25m, 25 yards or 50m, but there’s also a custom option (with minimum settings of 15m or 16.5 yards). The two session options are lap swim or intervals, with the only difference being that if you choose intervals your session will be split into sets in the app to reflect the usual structure of serious swim training.
As that suggests, this tracker is primarily designed for competitive swimmers, and only those with coaches or the ability to put together a training plan and sessions will be able to take full advantage of all the features. As a casual swimmer at best, only venturing to the pool when I’m reviewing a swimproof tracker, a mid-session option to track drills, for instance, isn’t of much use to me.
But even so I’m impressed with the design and experience of this unique tech. After trying many a tracker which came close but not quite close enough to a perfectly accurate record of my swim, Form was refreshingly on the money every time I swam in them.
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They also work well as a pair of goggles, with an anti-fog coating that never failed and a solid fit helped by five interchangeable bridge sizes. At first glance I thought the centimetre-wide housing for the electronics on the side might drag in the water and break the seal when pushing off, but those fears proved unfounded.
Set-up and pairing of the app was painless and you can even choose to flip the orientation of the text so it moves from your right eye to your left if you prefer. The depth of information as well as the multiple ways the same information – stroke rate, SWOLF score, pace, etc – can be sliced and diced is impressive, although once again it went well beyond what I needed.
There are some more simplistic features for people like me, with the ability to set a weekly distance, duration or a calories burned goal, and the Form app can export the data to third parties, namely Strava, Garmin, Apple Health and TrainingPeaks.
It’s a shame it doesn’t work with a service like Speedo On, which provides training plans and drills. That’s one development I’d love to see: plans and workouts which could help a casual swimmer like myself get the most out of these goggles.
In news that bodes well for the further development of the goggles, Form can now sync with a Polar OH1+ heart rate monitor (opens in new tab) (£69, sold separately) which clips on to the goggles strap and takes readings from your temple.
This will no doubt make for a more accurate estimate of the calories you burn and give an indication of how hard you’re working, but heart rate training isn’t as well established in the pool as it is in other drier activities. Hopefully Form will develop the content to support the tech, and perhaps one day it’ll manage to squeeze a GPS chip in there as well. Those are hard things to do and greedy requests on my part, but when a company develops something truly unique and launches it without the teething problems many wrist-worn trackers experience, why not ask for the moon on a stick?
At close to £175 if you have them shipped to the UK, I’d say the Form goggles are really only worth it if you are, at a minimum, a regular visitor to the pool. For competitive swimmers or triathletes, however, I’d be surprised if you could find a better training tool.
Buy from Form (opens in new tab) | $199 (around £151), plus international shipping from $26 (around £20)
Jonathan Shannon has been the editor of the Coach website since 2016, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and has run a sub-40min 10K and 1hr 28min half marathon. His next ambition is to complete a marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.
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