FORM Swim Goggles – GPS distance & pace for OWS
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FORM Swim Goggles have just got a whole lot more capable and a bit more complex in the process.
In a nutshell, this is a FREE update to existing FORM Goggles that allows you to view LIVE pace, LIVE distance and LIVE HR in your goggles, coming from a paired Garmin or Apple watch and it really would look something very similar to this
FORM added HR compatibility to their goggles a few months ago via a Polar OH1 attached to FORM’s strap. The OH1 was a little bit fiddly to get in just the right place but once you’d sorted out that, the HR data that was displayed was ACCURATE and nicely complemented the other swim stats when in the pool. That setup also worked in OWS in the sense that you still got great HR readings displayed and you could moderate your efforts accordingly. However, when in OWS, there were none of the distance-related metrics like those in the pool which were triggered by accelerometers each time you turned at the end of a length of the pool. Clearly there are no such turns in OWS.
Thus for OWS distance and pace, FORM needs GPS. As far as I know, the FORM goggles have no inbuilt GPS chip, which is a shame as it might be able to have a half-decent crack at the pace/distance conundrum when swimming. But it can’t…so let’s move on.
Roll on Garmin and Apple
Compatibility: Garmin Forerunner 945, Fenix 5 Plus, Fenix 6 Pro
& Apple Watch 5/4/3
First up, it’s interesting that I’m even mentioning Apple here. This must be a first for a ‘proper’ sports watch announcement ie it’s not just a Garmin announcement, it’s not Garmin and Polar announcement, it’s not a Suunto announcement. It’s Garmin AND APPLE at the same time for the FIRST announcement of a new, first-of-its-kind feature. In itself, I reckon this starts to signal many things for the futures of sports tech. It’s simply the case that the best-ever selling wearable is the Apple Watch and it’s simply also the case that a lot of its owners do sport with it…including swimming. Do the math, I’m sure FORM did.
Other 3rd party accessory companies will eventually all come to terms with the sporting reality of Apple dominance sooner or later.
During swimming, FORM gets the GPS and HR data from the sensors on whichever supported wristwatch you use (Garmin ones use BLE in CIQ). Apart from that, the FORM goggles work much as before, except now they can display more metrics namely GPS Distance and then derive related metrics like pace per 100m. Naturally, the older metrics like HR, calories and stroke rate are still available. This is all live data beamed into your goggles. #Cool.
At the end of your OWS workout, the FORM goggles send the HR and GPS that they recorded back to the FORM iOS/Android app and, of course, you have the same data recorded on your Garmin as before.
Is there a problem?
There might be several problems with all of this.
Whilst I’ve used the FORM goggles in the pool ‘quite a lot’, like most of you I haven’t swum in lockdown for several weeks, so I’ve not used this new feature at all. Let’s start off being positive. Here are some great use-cases with some simply awesomely positive points.
- Live pace whilst swimming OWS – YAY. This is a first. What’s not to like? Triathletes will love it and some swimmers might love it if they can bear to wear an electronic gadget #purists
- HR from the Polar OH1 mounted next to the FORM is ACCURATE almost all of the time. It will be accurate in OWS too.
- For pure swimmers FORM brings a lot to the table in terms of access to live data that you can leverage to change your effort levels mid-workout. You’ve never had this before outdoors.
- Having a good GPS track of your actual swim path with all the splits, changes of pace plus your actual HR exertion sent back to the FORM app will be great data for coaches to dig down deeply into your exertions post-workout.
Now let’s moan a bit
- When you swim your watch is submerged half of the time and, when submerged, there is ZERO GPS reception. NADA. So getting good positional data on the watch is tricky in itself.
- Having said that, the supported Garmins and Apple 4/5 (I don’t know about AW 3) have historically shown me alright-to-good GPS tracks for OWS – albeit after the workout when I looked at my app.
- However, I’m certain that the Apple Watch tinkers with the GPS track inside the watch before you see where it decides you’ve been during your workout. Apple does that for running/cycling and will just HAVE to do it for swimming as well. So I don’t really know how accurate any of FORM’s supported wristwatches are at any instant in time when they try to determine your precise swimming location. My suspicion is ‘not very accurate’. Thus when they get to the next position a second or two later that position will be ‘not very accurate’ too. Next, Apple/Garmin work out your speed between the two points and you can guess the rest without me saying it.
- But that’s only half the story. This potentially not very accurate position then has to be transmitted through water or air to the FORM goggles. See what I did there? ….transmitted through water. It can’t do that. It has to wait until both the watch and the FORM’s aerial are both out of the water and linked together. So there is going to be some combination of caching and bursting or ignoring of data gaps by the FORM goggles. This will introduce either lags or inaccuracies to the HR+GPS data.
- Then we come to oHR from a wristwatch whilst swimming. This is possibly THE HARDEST thing to get right for an optical HR sensor, then there is the same problem that the GPS data has ie intermittently getting it to the FORM goggles when both devices are simultaneously out of the water. FORM will be well-advised to enable the choice to switch to concurrent use of Polar OH1+ for HR and the Garmin/Apple only for GPS/pace – Personally that’s what I would use.
- A final and different point. I imagine that triathletes are not that interested in analysing their swim data in FORM’s app, they will use TP or some other platform for that. So I would assume that most triathletes will only be interested in the live data as they already can get post-workout GPS/HR data from their sports watches if they want to (and that data would be at least as accurate as what FORM captures)
As I say, I haven’t tested it. That’s all pure speculation and I could be 100% wrong and it could be brilliantly perfect data (I’m not, it won’t be). But it COULD be actionable. IDK.
A most-awesome technical innovation for triathlon and swimming. It will almost certainly win a triathlete.com award and many more besides. Deservedly so. Innovation is great especially when it tackling a difficult problem like live OWS distance/pace.
The devil will be in the detail of the accuracy of GPS+oHR from the wrist. I don’t like devils 🙁
I will test this…maybe next year…maybe the year after when the Covid crisis blows over. Sigh. Seriously though, in the UK lakes are allowed to open NOW they just aren’t doing so on H&S grounds. So I’m hoping it will be soon.
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FORM Swim Goggles Discount, Price & Availability
They are available at Amazon worldwide. NOTE: you will get a $20 discount on Amazon sites if you check the little box underneath the $199/ price to get $179 (try in EU sites as well) and then use the code SWIM20.
Get it here: FORM Goggles at Amazon