As a swimmer and a techie, every time a new activity tracker is announced, my first reaction is to skim its official page trying to find if it supports my favorite sport. What follows is an extensive research into what exactly it tracks about the swim because that can be anything from just the total time and distance to a detailed account of every lap. More often than not, none of that information is readily available and I just have to buy the device to test for myself.
When I saw Form's swimming goggles, I knew what I was getting into. They're purpose-built for swimmers and no one else, and the app clearly showed a great amount of tracking details. What most appealed to me, though, was the idea of having my stats in front of my eyes as I swim: no more lifting my wrist to check where I'm at and no more water drag with each stroke, I could just swim. In practice, Form met all those expectations.
|Battery life||16 hours|
|Waterproofing||Up to 32ft (10m)|
|Accuracy||Form got every single swim right, every underwater flip, every regular turn, every rest, every stroke type.|
|Form factor||It's nearly inconspicuous and saves you from looking at a watch or pace clock.|
|Just cool||Looking at the water in front of you and seeing your stats there is very, very cool.|
|Customization||You can wear it on your left or right eye, raise the display's brightness, and choose the metrics you want to see.|
|Seamless tracking||Whether you're doing laps, intervals, or drills, you just swim and it'll track everything.|
|Extensive stats||The app serves you every swimming stat you can imagine and then some.|
|Field of vision||It's very narrow with many artifacts from the display and harsh plastic corners.|
|It's a $200 goggle||Goggles break, lenses get scratched, seals rip, straps fall apart. You'll have to take really good care of this unit if you want it to last.|
|Some fogging||I'm told this wasn't reported by anyone else, but I keep noticing some fogging on the side or front of one lens when swimming.|
|No GPS or HR||Open water swimmers can't use this. Also, heart rate monitoring isn't built in, but compatibility with the Polar OH1 monitors will be added in November.|
Hardware, design, what's in the box
Unless you really look at them, Form's goggles don't scream "I have a high-tech equipment on my head." The smart module is off to the side and doesn't protrude much or look very weird. The all-black design helps in hiding it too, so the overall effect is rather inconspicuous. I'm not sure anyone at my pool noticed them, but if they did, they didn't say anything.
The goggles only have two buttons: one for power and selection, the other to move between the different menus. They're clicky with just enough feedback so you always know you pressed them. Besides, you only need a few clicks to start a swim, and there's very little reason to fiddle with any button until you're done.
Two pins for magnetic charging are visible to the side. It's a proprietary method, but given the form factor and need for excellent waterproofing, the choice is justifiable. The entire module is completely sealed to avoid any water leakage.
Goggle-wise, this isn't my favorite design. The most annoying aspect are the small eye lens pieces with harsh corners. I'm used to curved single-piece goggles that provide an immersive swimming experience with great visibility even to the sides. Form's design reduces my field of vision to only what's in front of my face with artifacts to the sides, bottom, and top. When I'm looking down, I can't see someone coming my way from the opposite end of the pool — thankfully, that's not an issue for me as I don't go to a crowded pool and often get the lane to myself, but it may be a problem where you swim. I can also barely see other swimmers on nearby lanes, so I can't indulge in my favorite underwater activity of observing their form and technique. You could say I'm forced to focus on my own swim, but that gets a little boring after a while.
This lens design seems to be dictated by the display projection system. It's a series of angled pieces of transparent plastic that reflect the image from inside the module to the lens in front of you. I understand the limitation for a first-gen product, but I hope Form is working on a way to avoid these tiny lenses with its next iteration.
However, the one nicety of this design is that it's reversible. You can choose to wear the goggles so that the display is on the right or left side, and change a setting in the app or on the goggles to flip the text.
Five different sizes of nose bridges are provided to help with fit. I usually prefer stretchable nose bridges that don't need to be adjusted, but I didn't notice any issue with the harder material on this one. The adjustable strap is fine, though its mechanism is annoying. You have to take your time passing it through all the loops. Ridged straps that can be quickly adjusted and stay put would've been better. When adjusted properly, the goggles provide a good seal and I never had an issue with water leakage, so even though I'm not a fan of the design, it gets the job done.
Form says it built these goggles to last four hours a day, six days a week. The silicone eye seals are ultra-durable and FDC certified, and the glass has a the same anti-fog coating found in diving masks. If you're used to dipping your goggle in the water before a swim or spraying Quick Spit to avoid fogging, you'll need to change your habit. Only fresh water can be used to rinse these and reactivate their coating.
In the box, you get the Form goggles, four extra nose bridge sizes, a large and breathable carry case, the charging cable, and manuals.
Swimming with Form
After adjusting the goggles to fit my face and setting them up through the app (a quick process), I was off to the pool for my first swim. The first lap was brutal. I had trouble seeing anything, I miscalculated my distance to the wall on my flip, and I nearly hit the wall again when I stopped. Gradually, I started getting used to them. My eyes learned to look past the projection to see what's further ahead and I accommodated to the narrow field of vision.
After a few swims, I managed to get accustomed to them and stopped worrying about what I can and can't see. It's certainly not my favorite aspect of these goggles and I would love to see the same functionality with a wider field of vision, but for now, it's a trade-off I'm willing to make, given everything else Form provides.
The display is super clear and easily readable all the time. When you're swimming, it looks like the words are overlaid on the water or floating several meters ahead. Despite that, Form tells me near-sighted people shouldn't have an issue reading them. Its brightness can be adjusted so a low setting is enough if you swim indoors, but for outdoor pools on a sunny day, you may need to crank it up.
In my swims, I noticed some fogging on the left lens — the one that doesn't have the display in my case. Rinsing them with fresh water before or after the swim is supposed to stop that, but it keeps happening. Sometimes it's just the side of the lens, but one time it was the full front part and I had blurry vision for my entire swim. I'm told this isn't an issue (and other reviews seem to indicate I'm alone in this) so maybe my unit has some faulty coating, or maybe I have chosen the wrong fit. I'll have to fiddle with this and try to find a solution.
The full experience
The best aspect of using Form in the pool is that you don't actually have to do anything after starting a swim. You turn them on, pick the pool length, choose whether you want to swim laps or intervals, and start. The timer doesn't even begin counting until you push off the wall or jump in, so you can take a few seconds preparing yourself before you go.
Unlike wrist-based trackers or pace clocks, you don't have to lift your head or hand or change anything about the way you swim to see your stats. That aspect is a bit magical. No more water drag from a watch, no more contorting your head to quickly spot the time as you do your flip, and no more guessing which length you're at because you lost count in the middle. The timer is in front of you, every length's timing shows up once you do a flip, and you can choose to see more stats when you rest. The experience is a little surreal, like you've got a superpower in your eye and it tells you everything you need to know about your swim.
Lap mode is great for casual or half-serious swimmers. You do your thing in the pool and Form will track everything. Stroke types (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly) are automatically detected based on your head movement. Flips too, whether you're doing underwater ones or making a regular turn. Rests are recognized, so you don't need to manually pause each time you take a break. When you're ready and push off the wall again, a motion detector bar fills up on the display, signaling that it started counting again. The bar really helps you see when the tracker is getting ready to tally a lap so if you're just fidgeting in place and notice it filling up, you can just stand still and it'll abort. No other swim tracker I've tried gave me this kind of feedback.
More importantly, moving your hand when you're taking a pause doesn't cause wrong additional lengths to show up, a boon compared to any other wrist-based tracker. I was even able to switch lanes twice during my breaks (to make room for a team practice session) without pausing tracking or influencing anything about my swim's stats. It's that accurate.
I usually swim in a 25m pool. My regular routine consists of a freestyle lap (50m) with an underwater flip on one side but a stop for one breath at the other side. I repeat that five times (250m) but go with a backstroke on my last length to break monotony. Then I rest a little, and repeat everything 6 times for a total of 1500m.
During my first swim, I noticed that any rest that's shorter than 5 seconds wasn't being tallied. The one breath stop takes me about 3-5 seconds so that shorter rest wasn't counted and its timing was added to my lengths. So I decided to pause just a second or two longer to avoid that. We're splitting hairs here, but that's how precise you can be with these goggles. No other swimming tracker would let you quickly understand what was happening and adjust on the spot.
Update: Form has informed me that shorter rests are detected in interval mode, but not in lap mode. That's because the latter is usually used by amateur swimmers who may take a bit of time doing their turn so the algorithm may mistakenly think that was a rest. Plus, they usually pause a little longer, so their real rests should be counted. Interval mode, on the other hand, is used by serious swimmers who take faster turns and short rests, so the goggles' algorithm was tweaked to detect them.
Left: Before I adjusted my rests, some weren't counted. Right: After. Beauty in regularity.
There were also a couple of swims where I felt one particular flip and wall push was very soft. I immediately feared that Form wouldn't count that and I was right. The entire lap was tracked as one long length and my stats were off by 25m for the rest of the swim. However, when I sync'ed the goggles to the app, that awkward length was nowhere to be found and the total distance was accurate. I reached out to Form and got confirmation that there's post-processing on the server's end that can rectify this kind of error. Never have I seen a tracker do a correction like this when it notices an oddity, and I applaud the company for it.
Interval mode keeps all the same benefits as lap mode, but is geared toward more disciplined swimmers. The main change is seeing timing and stats per set instead of total. You can also switch to drills from the pause screen in either mode to track your kicks, single-arm freestyle, and other exercises.
When you're done swimming, stop the exercise and you'll get your final stats through the goggles. They can store about 200 workouts, so there's no need to sync immediately after, but you'll want to do that to see your swim's stats. Don't forget to turn the goggles off though, as there doesn't seem to be an automatic shut-down timer. Battery may run out unnecessarily if you leave them on.
Android app and stats
The Form Android app is impressive. It's very well designed, easy to navigate, and quick to setup and use. The interface is divided into three main sections: Feed, My goggles, and My profile.
Swimming feed and one 5 x 100m interval swim's stats.
The feed is where you'll find all your swims and everyone else you're following. Tap on a swim and you're served a beautiful set of extensive stats. The first screen shows every length's duration, stroke rate and type, as well as all pauses. The second puts all that info into a duration progress table with separate total, move, and rest times. The third divides the entire swim distance by stroke. The fourth displays your SWOLF score by length, and the fifth your calories spent by stroke type. There's also a general view with total numbers by stroke type.
One swim's stats. Accurate, detailed, pretty.
These are by far the most detailed swim stats I've seen on any tracker, from the barebones Fitbit experience to Misfit, Mi Band 4, and Garmin. And do I need to repeat it again? They're really beautiful to look at. I'm a math person — numbers, graphs, and stats talk to me — and I just love how everything is shown in the Form app.
Same 1500m swim. Form is correct (left), Fitbit Inspire HR says 1525m (middle), Mi Band 4 somehow decided it's 2750m (right).
They're also the most accurate swim stats I've ever seen. Every swim is tracked perfectly — no weird lengths popping in here and there, no incomprehensible distance totals. Even the stroke rate is correct, which is amazing given that the tracker is on my head and not my hand. The only discrepancy I noticed was with stroke count in backstroke: Form always counts around double, but I'm told this issue will be fixed this month.
I tried to do a weird swim where I alternated between different styles. Didn't faze it.
The goggles section lets me manage my unit and choose which stats I see in lap and interval mode. The swim screen can be disabled in either, so if you prefer to avoid any distracting numbers while you're swimming, you can. The temporary turn screen (when you flip) and rest screen are mandatory though. Two metrics can be displayed at a time: the top one is usually locked to the timer, but the bottom one can be customized as you see fit. The rest screen allows you to rotate between three bottom metrics, which is a nice bonus.
Choosing which metrics to see on the goggle's swim, turn, and rest screens.
And lastly, the profile section is where I can edit my profile info and make it private, see some general stats and goals, change units, disable notifications, and connect to third-party services. Strava, Garmin, and Training Peaks are currently supported, but Google Fit and Apple Health will be added in the fall.
Of course there are things I'd add to the app, but only to take things to the next level. Comparative stats between swims, access to current-length (and not just previous length) stats while swimming, better recommendations for other users to follow based on my speed and level, competitions and challenges between users, etc... I'd also like on-goggle coaching, exercises, and challenges.
For a first-gen product and app though, Form is near perfection. Rarely have I seen a software experience as impressive and polished as this — only Nuki comes to mind.
Form setup and settings.
Should you buy it?
Yes, with a few caveats. I was very skeptical before trying out Form for myself, but my first swim, though awkward, simply blew my mind and I can easily recommend these goggles if you're passionate about swimming.
For casual or semi-serious swimmers who like surpassing and challenging themselves and also enjoy stats and numbers, Form is excellent. It helps you keep lap count when your mind wanders off, push yourself when you want to improve your timing, and follow your progress across swims. It also tracks your every move, leaving you free to swim however and whenever you want without worrying about frequent rests and moving arms, soft turns, or unstructured intervals.
For athletes and serious swimmers, nothing else comes close in terms of accuracy and simplicity in the pool. The live feedback as you swim is unrivaled, the head-based tracking is more precise than wrist-based ones, and the app gives you more detailed stats than you can shake a stick at to help you understand where you're slacking or improving.
The main drawbacks are the narrow field of vision and price. If you're curious about those, Form offers a 45-day fit guarantee so you can return the goggles for free if you feel they don't work for you. The company also has a one-year limited warranty and replacement parts are available if you reach out to customer support. That's not something I want to worry about with my goggles, and I would've preferred a form factor that separates the goggle from the smart module to make replacements easy, but that's where the good swimming tech is at now.
Several goggle-based swim trackers have popped up before (ZWIM, InstaBeat, Phlex EDGE, SWIMAR) but they stalled for years and never launched or disappointed when they did. Form on the other hand is available now, works as intended, and was made by a team of people who have previous experience building AR eyewear: Its founder was behind Recon Instruments, which were bought by Intel and left to die. Maybe that wasn't a bad thing though, because we now have a more focused company that knows what it's doing. The Form goggles are good proof: This is AR eyewear done right.
Buy it if
- You love swimming and don't mind paying for the best activity tracker out there
- You're a professional athlete and need immediate feedback as you swim and detailed stats afterwards
Don't buy it if
- You like swimming but can't justify paying $200 for goggles
- You're an open-water swimmer
- You never took great care of your goggles and think you might damage or lose these