Swim shiny

I am permanently in the market for wearable tech for swimming. I hate to say it like this because I hate the words “wearable tech” where good old gadgets will do.

What I want is the perfect pair of wireless ear buds that don’t move, and a watch which does all the following:

  • stores 6 gig of music
  • tracks my swimming when I start swimming, and tracks every stroke. Unlike my running tracker which considers everything I do as walking, for some reason, even when I run 150m.
  • talks to my mobile phone
  • provides me with swim specific information
  • does not tell me when my phone is ringing because I am in the pool.
  • does not send me text messages
  • does communicate easily with my phone and syncs automatically with my platform independent fitness tracker, Runkeeper

I have spent a lot of my time lately looking for this device and it does not exist. To be fair, the whole wireless earbud thing is not made easier by the fact that sending signals through water is challenging to say the least, and really, if I think about it, there’s a high risk that I’d pick up the signal from that dude splashing around there, listening to Rammstein. Not ideal.

But.

In terms of an actual decent swim tracker, the one which most of my network (hello Jamie) recommend to me is the Garmin Swim with the proviso that Garmin have not updated it in some time. I think the device dates from 2012. It is now 2017. It does not talk to phones as far as I can ascertain, so it does not tell me when my phone rings, or send me text messages, and since it does not talk to my phone, it has to be hooked up to something or other to get the data from it into Garmin Connect which apparently I can then configure to talk to Runkeeper. It is not, by the standards of anything which can be taken into a swimming pool and used to track swimming, particularly expensive, although context matters. When the competition is around 200E and you’re coming in at 125E, you’ll look cheap as well. .But 125E in my opinion is too much to be paying for five year old technology in a sector which is supposed to be cutting edge. The alternatives which seem to be getting kudos in the reviews are the Garmin Vivoactive HR and the Polar V800. I think. They didn’t have it at Intersport today so, I could be mistaken.

I have spent a lot of time reading reviews for fitness trackers and the one thing which has surprised and disappointed me is there are very few swim specific reviews floating around. Almost every single review that covers the swim features of the Garmin Vivoactive and the Polar V800 all give a great detail about their capabilities in terms of step counting, GPS capabilities and stuff that really interests cyclists and runners, but is a bit superficial on the swimming front. There are a couple of others floating around like the Moov and some of the Fitbits. But while the Moov has got some kudos as a swim tracker, the review in question has not been really detailed in terms of how useful it is really for swim tracking.

I don’t own any of these electronics at the moment – the way things are going the Polar V800 is way too expensive, so that leaves the Vivoactive as next most likely. But I feel like I’d be buying blind because no review of them really covers the things I want to know. ┬áSure the Moov has coaching stuff but all that is irrelevant when I can’t be sure it gives me SWOLF values for swim efficiency. I know I’m not an efficient swimmer but I’d like to at least be able to get changes in how I am getting on. When I look at all the information that I can get together, it really looks as though the Garmin Swim is still the best option. I’ve had the Apple Watch 2 recommended as second best behind the Vivoactive in a test of several devices which did not include the Polar V800 which regularly outscored the Vivoactive in tests where both of them were included.

These are expensive gadgets. I’m not the kind of gadget freak who will be spending 500E a year on a new swim gadget – I want the damn thing to last me 2 or 3 years of regular swimming too. I’m resigned to them not playing music or podcasts at me because you cannot beat the laws of physics (yet). But it’d be nice to get a swim tracker again that actually focused on the needs of swimmers rather than being a bolt on to running and cycling watches.

It would be equally handy for them to actually look attractive. With the exception of the French company Withings who make attractive fitness trackers broadly useless for swimming, wearable tech watches are not really attractive, even the ones that their manufacturers claim are sleek and attractive to wear. I wear a Swiss watch with a traditional clock face and you will get it off my left wrist when I am dead. I’m not interested in wearable tech to replace my watch because none of them come even close. This is why I wish their manufacturers would work on making them do exactly what they are supposed to do in terms of fitness tracking and stop assuming we’re all going to wear them all the time.

In the meantime, I still don’t know what to do about swim tracking. All I can say is I’m not particularly enthusiastic about shelling out 500E for a Polar V800, and in any case, since none of the reviews seem to be genuine in depth reviews of them as a swimming tracking device (as opposed to a water proof device that we checked is it water proof and can you at least get in the pool with it). I’m not the world’s greatest swimmer but as matters stand, I really don’t know what to do when the reviews are just inadequate.

 

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