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FORM Swim Goggles Adds Openwater Swimming with Garmin & Apple Watches

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Today, FORM, maker of the heads-up display swim goggles, announced that it’s partnering with Garmin and Apple to bring openwater swim support to their goggles this summer, if you’ve got a compatible Garmin or Apple Watch. The move is notable because some saw FORM as stepping on Garmin’s toes a bit, given that both companies make devices to track your swim data in the pool (the same could be said about Apple, but likely to a lesser extent).

This post will be a quickie, since it’s more news than pure hands-on (that’ll come later). But I did get a chance to chat with the FORM folks about how it works, and I think it’s a good example of using existing platform developer API’s/options provided by wearable companies to shim in solutions – even if a partnership wasn’t there. In the case of FORM, they did this work without any added partner aspects, instead relying on the development tools of both Garmin and Apple.

But first, an explainer.

The Quick Overview:

The FORM swim goggles, up until this point, are entirely targeted at pool swimmers. They do a fantastic job of tracking your swims, and have a bunch of algorithms that in my testing seem to do a better job at not making mistakes on pool tracking. Whether or not this single-use device is worth $199 and appreciably better than any wearable is a different question (unless of course you’re a swimmer’s-swimmer, in which case wearables are sacrilege in the pool).

The challenge though has been attracting folks that swim beyond the pool, namely, openwater (where else would you swim?).  The FORM goggles don’t have GPS in them, so while it could endlessly count strokes, that wouldn’t really solve much for distance/pace/etc tracking. They also can’t measure your heart rate, though, last year they added support for the Polar OH1 pod, which can clip right on the side of the goggles and transmit your heart rate that way.

FORM_Open_Water_Heart_Rate_1

So how to solve the openwater piece? Two apps:

A) Garmin Connect IQ app
B) Apple Watch app

In the case of both apps, they can then leverage the native GPS capabilities of those watches as well as the built-in optical HR sensors in both watches, via the Bluetooth connection, to the watch from the goggles.

While that Bluetooth signal won’t go more than a few centimeters, there’s enough time between each stroke when your arm is above the water and you’re breathing that it works out, according to FORM.

So, in the case of Garmin, they’ve developed a Garmin Connect IQ data field. This means it’ll work in the swim mode, but also within a triathlon too – and it knows to just track the swim mode. Here’s what the field looks like. Super simple, similar in concept to other connected 3rd party accessories that have used the data field:

FORM Smart Swim Goggles connected to Garmin Forerunner 945

While on the Apple Watch, they’ve developed their own app that’ll pair with the goggles and will be offered via iOS if you’ve installed their iPhone app:

FORM Swim App for Apple Watch - Start

While swimming, you’ll see your total swim time on the upper line in the goggles, and then on the lower data portion you’ll see your distance, heart rate, and pace (per 100m/yards). That will be rotating through on that lower line:

FORM_Open_Water_Time_Distance_POV

Nothing on your Garmin watch changes, so you’ll swim as normal, and if you want to use the data on that watch, that’ll work as normal. In the case of the Apple Watch, they’re leveraging their own app – so you’ll use that instead. The only recommendations they have is that it helps to keep the display on the same side as you breathe (left vs right), or, if you’re bilaterally breathing – then that’s no problem. Also, they found for some watches keeping the display on the same side of your head as the watch is (i.e. right side with right wrist) helps too.

In some ways, it’s probably like Bluetooth headphone connectivity. Mileage will vary based on the exact watch. I suspect by launch they’ll have any gotchyas listed. The company says they’ve got retry/wait intervals built-in, in case people stop at buoys or such to wait for a group and the watch loses connectivity. It won’t ever end the swim, just put it into a ‘retry connection’ state on the goggles if the data gets too stale.

When you stop the swim on your Garmin watch, it’ll automatically end the session on the FORM goggles too. And for triathletes, once you press lap to end the swim and continue to T1, it’ll also end the swim on the goggles. Post-swim from a Garmin device it already sends that data from Garmin to FORM. And, on FORM’s app, you’ll see the openwater swims displayed there too:

FORM_Swim_App_Open_Water_Map

Ok – so there ya go, everything I know about. Oh, wait, here’s what it’ll be compatible on:

– Garmin Forerunner 945, Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Series and Fenix 6 Pro Series
– Apple Watch Series 3, 4, and 5

(Note: The reason the non-Pro Fenix 6 series isn’t supported is that it has much smaller memory for Connect IQ data fields than the Pro does. FORM says they’re trying to find ways to perhaps make it work with the Fenix 6 – but they don’t want to make any promises there. Also, as for why not other watches like the FR935 or original Fenix 5 series, they don’t support Connect IQ data field connectivity via Bluetooth Smart.)

Again, this is slated for mid-summer by the sounds of it, so I’ll have to wait till probably June or early July to get some legit testing of it.

As for whether or not this is a needle mover for FORM, I’m not sure. I think it’s a mover if people were on the fence. Or, if they were big openwater swimmers but didn’t like the challenge of trying to frequently view data on a watch while openwater swimming (it’s a tricky wrist move/glance thing, in my experience). So for those folks, and folks that were on the fence – this is a huge win.

With that – thanks for reading!

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58 Comments

  1. Edwin

    Are there any technical reasons why the new field is limited to those Garmin models? Specifically, why wouldn’t the 935 work too?

    • It seems vaguely tied to optical HR functionality, though, I’d think they could still do GPS at least. I’ll ask.

    • JJS

      I think only the actual oHR-sensor is working in water.

    • sabeard

      Looking at the CIQ capabilities, I am sure it comes down to a data field memory limits. The supported devices (F6pro) have 131kb of memory available to data fields where the others devices (F6) are limited to 32kb in a data field. I suspect 32kb is not nearly enough to run all the checking needed to implement these features.

    • Your Fenix 6 assumption is indeed spot on.

      FORM confined in an email today they’re looking at any possible ways around that limitation, but for now that’s the line in the sand until/if they can find a way around it.

    • Joop

      Then the Fenix 5x would do as well; it has 128kB available for datafields, just like the Fenix 5 plus series

    • Except the Fenix 5X doesn’t have Bluetooth Smart Connect IQ support. 🙁

  2. Will this work anything like the IOLITE GPS-Enabled goggles, where it will provide visual cues if you are veering off course? It seems like that could be a huge advantage to a triathlete – not having to sight (or at least, not having to sight as often). Nothing was mentioned in your article about it, so I assume not, but is that something on their roadmap to add in via firmware?

    • JohnW

      Does Garmin support course following for open water swims natively currently?

    • JohnW

      I tested it indoors and I see the FR945 at least does support following courses for OWS.

      So, I guess they would nominally be able to do an alert using the CIQ offCourseDistance() call once you stray too far off course, although after scanning through the CIQ API docs, I’m not sure there’s a way to know in which direction the correction is required.

      Just having a HUD alert that you need to do a sighting ASAP would be better than nothing I guess.

  3. Chris

    Hey Ray. Do you think we’ll see any movement on cycling HUDs over the next few months? It feels like quite a while since their Recon Jet, and the Varia Vision and such. Do you think companies are working on second-generation versions? Or have they given up on the cycling segment for the time being?

    • I think most companies have given up on it. The challenge is really the clunky factor. And that clunk mostly comes from battery.

      FORM seems to thread the needle much better than others in that department, partially because tech advances and gets smaller, and partially because it focuses on one thing: swimming.

      Still, I think until things get to the size of being unnoticed, most land-focused folks aren’t going to put up with it.

    • Evgenii

      I use the Solos by Kopin and like it, but that project was closed last july and there are still some bugs that will never be fixed.

  4. Joel

    “Makes perfect sense to not release this for the 935”
    -No one ever.

    • Duncan Tindall

      As a 935 user that was my initial reaction too. However, with a tiny bit of thinking since then I’m not too upset. My 935 is currently working fine (only a matter of time until the barometer blows, but a different issue). My 910xt lasted for 8 years before the battery went, but all the other functions were as good as the day I got it. Compare that to my mobile phones where now after 2-3 years they are almost unusable, and that’s not because my expectations have raised, it’s because I’ve added newer software on and the OS has been updated that’s beyond the processing power of the unit.
      What I’m saying is that by constantly expanding the features available to the 935, many of which I’ll not use it runs the risks of me being unable to actually use the core functions I bought it for and rely on. And I’m still hoping that includes barometer and vaguely accurate / repeatable GPS when OW swimming, hence still allowing firmware updates (for the latter).

    • FORM shot over a note detailing why it won’t work on the 935, and it’s simple: The FR935 doesn’t support data fields using Bluetooth Smart within Connect IQ.
      If I remember correctly, that was only rolled out a year or two ago.

    • sabeard

      BLE in ConnetIQ apps was announced at the CIQ summit last year with CIQ 3.1. the F5plus was the first watches to support it. Neither the FR935 nor original F5 support BLE, but the non-music F6 does have BLE. Not sure why it was left out.

  5. Peter

    Funny you ask if this is a needle mover for people to buy the goggles. I’m a sucker that already bought them and was starting to enjoy using in pool before everything shut down. But I have yet to upgrade my 935 to the 945 as it really only provides one additional feature I would use (the digital wallet) as the music feature isn’t something I would use. Now this may be the needle mover I need to upgrade to the 945.

    Any idea why it can’t work with the 935?

  6. David E.

    Very interesting. If this works well, triathletes will be all over this. Swimming time/pace is the one piece of data has been the one piece of data that is impossible to track in real time during a race.

  7. Joshua S Gordon

    Does it work with OH1 and the connect IQ field at the same time?

  8. Tizzledk

    Whether or not this single-use device is work $199 me thinks you meant ‘worth’

  9. Chan

    In a sense, I wasn’t in a sense about it. I started Masters swimming pre COVID and didn’t really feel like i needed real time feedback in the pool. Plus it’s easy to stop and take a glance between sets or even take a second or two in continuous swim. I’m a crappy swimmer by the way.

    For me, open water is stressful, but I’ve learned to manage the nerves. I really enjoy the Platysense device because I get real time feedback of how far I’ve been in OW. My swim is roughly 6-800m each way depending on where I turn around. Sometimes platysense is off probably due to my not swimming in a straight line or whatever.

    Unfortunately you can’t use Platysense in a race as far as I know. With this new compatibility of the FORM goggles, I can now get distance and pace to replace my platysense. I’ll still keep both devices. It’s a bit more than I’d like to spend, but for me, I’m buying a “stress reducer”. Knowing that I’m on pace (i have a terrible case of not knowing how fast I’m going on a wetsuit) and how much I have left to go is a big deal to me.

    Also, I’d be less worried about having to replace the goggles due to using them 3x/week in the pool since I’d only use them in open water. Which for me it’s roughly once or twice a month depending on the season.

  10. Crispin E.

    I assume the Garmin MARQ series should be on the compatible device list too (as basically Fenix 6s Pro in fancy clothes)?

  11. Michael Coyne

    It’d be awesome if it also helped me swim straight without a line to follow. One can dream…

    I know there was another product that did that but I think their kickstarter failed and idk if you can get them anymore?

    Any word on that, or whether FORM would be able to do something like this using data from the watches?

    Thanks for your work as always man

  12. Chris

    No Garmin Swim 2 compatibility? Seems like it should.

  13. I find this makes their product a lot more compelling. It’ll be interesting to see if this makes these goggles more popular. 🤷🏻‍♂️

  14. Steve

    Needle mover?

    I’d probably buy these now. I wouldn’t use them every swim but once a week/fortnight for select OW sessions.

    But I’ll wait for user reviews and at least the first bug-fix patch 😉

  15. Rob Jessop

    To anybody in the UK at least thinking about using these in a triathlon, note that that “Swim pace or tempo devices” are prohibited and these goggles with this feature may fall into that category in my *totally amateur I am not a technical official* opinion. (link to britishtriathlon.org)

    Have Form investigated this?

    • But wouldn’t any GPS watch fall into that category? This is the same data as on a watch.

      Typically in swimming, a ‘tempo’ device is one that transmits a specific metronome-style beat to match stroke rate to. The usage of the word ‘pace’ in their rules is ambiguous.

    • Rob Jessop

      It should rule watches out with that wording, right? As for the goggles, I spoke to a clubmate of mine who happens to also be the chair of Triathlon England South East. He asked some contacts of his in the organisation and replied to me “Initial comments from my sources are there is no way these will be allowed to be race legal”. Obvs. take that with a pinch of salt as they were informal conversations, but that is rather harsh and I wonder what the process for these rulings actually is. I’d love to be able to use something like this in a race.

    • Andrew

      Speaking as a swimming (not tri) official in the UK I can guarantee it wouldn’t be allowed for open water swimming races as it would come under FINA OWS Reg 6.10 – ‘No swimmer shall be permitted to use or wear any device which may be an aid to their speed, endurance or buoyancy’. But then as Ray points out in his article, swimmers are so allergic to technology it’s a moot point!! 🙂

    • Ruben

      Based on that phrasing of the rule I would likely interpret the exact opposite, because both watches and these bulky goggles would not aid in speed.

      They are heavier than wearing nothing at all, and create more drag than normal goggles; so they do not aid in speed, they actually slow you down!

      It’s not like these devices have a miniature propeller in them driving you forward faster..

      Wearing a GPS watch and/or these goggles doesn’t suddenly make your fitness endurance better, and I can think of way bigger goggles without any electronics in it which would provide more buoyancy because they’ve got a larger air pocket in them and those aren’t illegal.

    • Andrew

      It’s certainly less clear (if you pardon the pun) in Open Water but in a pool they’d absolutely be banned, you’re not even allowed a bracelet around the wrist or ankle, let alone a watch. My feeling is that FINA/Swim England/whoever would work along the lines that it’s giving you information that will aid your performance (by allowing you to optimise your pace) so it’s aiding your speed and/or endurance. Swimming is oneo of those sports where they try to keep it all about the athlete and remove technology from the equation wherever possible – witness the whole Speedo Lzr business.

  16. Beroman

    Any chance they will extend their partnership with Polar to the Polar watches as they already partner with Polar on the OH1?

  17. Ian

    Do you know if it will be possible to take the more accurate HR from the OH1 and disregard the HR data from Garmin, while still receiving the GPS data?

    • They say that at launch the OH1 and CIQ integration won’t work concurrently, but that they’re looking to try and mesh those two together, based on community feedback.

    • Ian

      Thanks. I guess that means I need to join the community to give feedback. I just hope they fit my odd shaped eye sockets, as it‘s going to cost about $70 in delivery, return shipping and import taxes if they don‘t.

    • Ian

      According to this article link to triathlete.com

      “This compatibility comes with trade-offs too. When paired to a smart watch, the updated FORM goggles will essentially become a remote display, relegating that beautifully swimmer-designed AI to the lane lines. The display will show any information measured by the smart watch, including distance, pace, stroke rate, and heart rate, but the workout will be run by the watch, meaning the auto features, like interval notifications, and auto pause are limited to what is already on your watch.”

      So FORM basically becomes a waterproof Varia Vision?

  18. Diego

    Do these work in an endless pool? Looking for a way to tell pace while using an endless pool

    • JohnW

      Yes they’ll work, but your GPS pace will be zero 🙂

      I’m not aware of any way to record pace in an endless pool.
      Maybe you can measure the flow rate at different settings and calibrate pace from there?

  19. I love this update and it’s something I would definitely find useful in an open water swim.

  20. Ruben Philipse

    Interesting to find out if tracking will be more accurate by putting the watch up in your swim cap, seeing as there now isn’t a requirement anymore to check your watch mid-swim.

    Also, DC Rainmaker, with all of your influence as an sport tech influencer, could you propose to FORM to integrate the GPS Tracking also into their own mobile app..?
    This way users without the new Fenix’s and Apple Watches can still use this Openwater feature by putting their phone in their Pull Buoys/Tow Floats!

  21. Stuart

    No prescription lens option makes this a non starter for me, no matter how useful it might be. I’m short sighted, with correction around -2.5 dioptres; the last time I tried to do an open water swim with non-prescription goggles, I struggled. It’s possible, IF there are sighting buoys that aren’t too far apart, and the water safety crew are wearing a different coloured top to the sighting/turning buoys, but very much not desirable. If the sighting buoys are separated by a substantial distance, though, forget it.

    A pity. But so it goes. Realistically, I need to do a lot more work on my swimming before looking at gadgets like this that are only going to tell me how badly I suck at swimming. 🙂

  22. Jose A del Cueto

    Maybe a “course” information, some compass guidance, will be more helpful for frequently view data.

  23. robin wade

    Ray
    with the closure of pools the pacific northwest we are having lots of people swim in 14 C water in the ocean yes Sasamat lake is even warmer around 16 C with Tri’s off the table so far openwater is taking over

  24. JohnW

    Will they be able to show HR from the Garmin watch during pool swimming?

  25. Bill

    How do I get the data field from connect IQ? I have a Fenix 5 plus. I searched but didn’t see anything from Form. If it reads the OHR from the polar device, why couldn’t you broadcast your OHR from your Garmin straight to the goggles.