Yep, we're asking - why are you still using Android in 2019? A couple of years ago, if I were to ask this same question, I'm guessing the answer would
Doesn’t leak • Comfortable fit • Well-organized app • Heads-up display is mostly clear and easy to see
Pricey • Really only for pool swimmers • Proprietary charger
FORM goggles perform as advertised, but competitive swimmers using a pool will get the most out of the device.
As I glided through the cool water, a timer ticked away, floating in front of my right eye. Blocky, yellow numbers projected underwater warned I had 15 seconds to make my goal.
Almost there. I can do this.
I kept my head down, stretched my arms with each stroke, and kicked like hell. After I took a gasp of air at the pool wall, the word “REST” popped up above the timer. I made it.
I was wearing FORM swim goggles, which display performance metrics in real time using augmented reality. The goggles’ onboard computer collected information about my swim, including speed, distance, calories burned, rest time, and type of stroke. It also detected when I started, stopped, and turned. With a few clicks, I could review some of the data while looking through the goggles, or I could take a deeper dive on the FORM app after syncing the goggles with my phone via Bluetooth.
If you own an Apple Watch Series 2 or higher, you can collect similar swim data, but you won’t have any information in front of your eyes mid-swim. That’s the key difference here: FORM acts like a digital coach, getting in your face underwater, pushing you to swim faster in real time. And if you’re the type of serious swimmer who shaves their body to slice seconds off their time, you wouldn’t want to wear a watch during workouts. (I’m not a competitive swimmer, at least not since high school. I swim regularly, but am not a particularly speedy fish.)
FORM also goes deeper on the data than some other wrist-worn trackers, like the Fitbit Charge 3, which displays swim distance and time on the watch face. But other data, such as calories burned and how your swim fits into your overall activity, are hidden in the app. FORM tracks your split time, stroke rate, stroke count, and distance per stroke in the AR interface, but you can only see one of those at a time below the timer (and you have to make the selection in-app before your swim). You can select different metrics to appear below the timer for when you’re swimming, turning, or resting. The app also includes a SWOLF score, which measures your efficiency by combining your time and stroke count, but this data point went over my head.
The goggles, which only come in black and are waterproof up to 10 meters, look like normal goggles on one side and cyborg-y on the other. Looking at you close-up, someone could see an eye through one lens, but the side with the heads-up display is reflective. Despite one side sporting what looks like a small, rectangular box with two buttons on it, the goggles feel balanced on your face. The seals are tight — I never had any water drip in during my tests — and the goggles don’t fog up. They also come with five interchangeable nose bridges of various sizes, though the medium that came fitted on the goggles out of the box worked fine. I also didn’t have to adjust the straps much for a good fit.
I used the goggles twice, once for a leisurely 22-minute lap swim session and again for 28 minutes of interval training on another day. During that first session, moving around the heads-up display in the pool was a bit clunky. I was still getting used to the buttons; one toggles between options, and the other, the power button, selects. If you skip over the selection you want, you have to move to the end and start over. The “cursor” doesn’t move backwards. By my second swim session, I was cruising through the interface comfortably.
After powering on the goggles, you see two options: Swim (with what looks like a swim emoji from the ‘90s) and Settings. I’ll get back to Settings later, but for now, let’s dig into what you can do while swimming. After clicking on Swim, you choose a pool size, either 25 meters, 25 yards, 50 meters, or input a custom size in either meters or yards. The goggles’ computer uses that number to know when you’ve finished a length. Then you can select one of two modes: Lap Swim or Intervals.
Using Lap Swim, which FORM recommends for beginners, I’d pause and save each swim after I finished. For example, after I swam 500 meters (that’s 20 pool lengths in a 25-meter pool), I paused and saved that swim. I often lose count while swimming 500 meters, and I liked how the goggles kept track of my distance for me. During high school swim meets, someone at the edge of the pool would dunk a numbered placard underwater before a flip turn during 500-meter races — how I’ve missed that helpful reminder.
I swam breast stroke, fly, freestyle, and back during this session, and FORM detected them all correctly (Apple Watch can do this, too). However, when I tried to trick the goggles and switched to freestyle partway through a length after starting with breast stroke, it categorized that lap just under breast stroke. I can’t imagine a situation when a swimmer would switch strokes mid-way, but I wanted to see what would happen if I did. If you swim an individual medley, switching strokes each lap, FORM will pick that up just fine. I also tested the Drills mode, which is for when you’re practicing with a kickboard, a pull float, or doing a variety of strength training, like swimming with one arm or with your hands clenched in fists. However, I couldn’t remember which ones I did when I reviewed the drills in the app, which doesn’t detect drill type.
The other option, Intervals, is for structured workouts. After starting interval training, you don’t touch the goggles again — unless you want to pause for a bathroom break. I swam a variety of distances, with time and total workout distance displayed, although I wish I had selected “length counter” in the app beforehand for my bottom metric because I sometimes lost track of distance during each set. When I got to the wall after a set, the timer would take 3 to 4 seconds to stop and switch into Rest mode, so there is some lag time. The timer continued while I was resting, encouraging me to keep the breaks short. Sure, you could track your time with a pace clock on the surface, but the one at my public pool is small and difficult to read from far away. You also have to wait until you look up after a swim to see how you performed.
The app organized all the interval data in a grid by sets, pace per 100 meters, stroke rate, and stroke type. It’s clear I was getting tired about three-quarters of the way through as my 100-meter pace began to drop. (I’ll have to work on that.)
In the pool, you can change the display’s brightness and whether you see the heads-up display with your right or left eye in Settings. You can also do this in the app. If you switch the orientation, you have to flip the goggles over so that the lens with the heads-up display is on the correct side. On my first swim, which was around 1 p.m., when the sun was beating down on pool-goers quickly turning pink, it was difficult at times to see the display when my face was out of the water, even on the brightest level. During my second outdoor swim, at 7 a.m., the display clarity at that same brightness was perfect. Every now and then, I’d lose focus of the display and forget it was there, but if I thought about it, my eye would adjust and see those ticking numbers again.
As far as battery life, FORM says the battery lasts 16 hours. Four days since my first swim, the goggles are basically still fully charged, but I only had them on for about an hour. FORM comes with its own proprietary charger, so if you lose it, you’ll only have one option for a new one.
The app has a social element to connect with others on the platform and compare your swims. As soon as I logged in, a stranger followed me, and then I quickly set it to private. While some may enjoy comparing swims with randos, that’s not for me. I also noticed when syncing the app, I seemingly got a notification for each swim I saved, which means my phone would ping several times in a row. That was annoying, so I turned off the push notifications in the app.
Ultimately, FORM does all the things it advertises and does them well. But, these goggles are really for competitive pool swimmers. There’s no GPS, which would be a downside for open-water triathletes.
If you’re a casual swimmer who puts swim stats in the nice-to-know category, you don’t need these goggles. You’re better off with an Apple Watch (Series 4: $349) or a swimproof Fitbit (Versa: $199.95; Charge 3: $149.95). As for me, if someone got me the FORM goggles as a gift, I’d be a happy swimmer. But I don’t think I’d spend $199 on them on my own. Bring that price down to $120, and I’d be more inclined.
Still, FORM goggles shifted how I think about swimming. Before, I wouldn’t have cared about shedding my time. Now I’m contemplating ways to drop my stroke count or control my breath so I can snip 5 seconds off my pace per 100 meters.
Maybe even 10 seconds. Yea, I could do that.