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Form’s smart swimming goggles get refined for 2024

Smart Swim 2 is smaller, lighter and more useful than its predecessor.

Photo by Daniel Cooper / Engadget

In 2019, Form launched a pair of goggles with a built-in display showing real-time data when you swim. Given how many things the company got right the first time around, the word of the day for its successor, the Smart Swim 2, is refinement. But a handful of incremental improvements also means there's no scream-from-the-rooftops reason to upgrade.

Smart Swim is a pair of fancy swim goggles with a chunky box (the “tech pack”) attached to one eye cup and a crystal in the corresponding lens. With it, you can see your statistics like your heart rate, distance, split times and more on a waveguide display without ever having to break your cadence.

Plenty about Swim 2 is carried over from the first model, including the two-button user interface, display resolution (72 x 40) and many of the internals. The addition of the heart rate sensor (which the company says has been tweaked to work well in water) has shaved down the battery life down to 12 hours from 16. But I’m not sure that’s a real issue unless you’re planning on swimming the English Channel.

Instead, Form has nipped and tucked at the existing model, with the tech pack being 15 percent smaller than its predecessor. Comfort and fit have also been worked on, with longer, more adjustable straps and a broader range of swappable nose bridges. Oh, and there were a couple of features that Form built into the first-generation hardware that have, until now, remained dormant. More on that later.

History

Form founder Dan Eisenhardt was in on the ground floor of the wearables craze of the 2010s. His last company, Recon Instruments, was building head-mounted displays long before Google pushed Glass out of the door. After initially considering, and then abandoning plans to make a swimming-focused wearable, it launched a pair of smart goggles for skiing in partnership with Oakley before making Jet, a cycling-focused unit under its own name.

These early successes attracted the attention of Intel while it was looking for the next big thing in computing. It bought Recon, among other wearables companies, with the smart business strategy of… running them all into the ground before cutting its losses a few years later. Once Recon had been scuttled, Eisenhardt and his colleagues went back to the product they had originally founded Recon to pursue, a head-worn swimming display.

Form Smart Swim 2 side by side with its larger, older predecessor.
Form Smart Swim 2 side by side with its larger, older predecessor. (Photo by Daniel Cooper / Engadget)

In use

It’s not a complicated process to get started once you’ve downloaded the app and paired it with your goggles. Turn it on with a long press of the power button and cycle through the options menu with the other button. You can opt for a pool, open water or a swim spa — the latter available for specific partner gyms. If you’re in the pool, you can then select its length from a list of standard options and press start, with the headwear tracking your motion automatically.

If I’m honest, not a huge amount has changed from the first version in terms of operation and use. If you’d like more details, then you can head back and read my original review which will hold you in pretty good stead. The only differences, really, are that you get your heart rate on the display. And, if memory serves, the markers showing you when the headgear thinks you’re swimming and when you’re at rest are clearer and more regularly updated. But that’s it, really.

Now, remember when I referenced that the first-generation Form had some extra gear on board that was left dormant? SwimStraight is making its debut on the Swim 2 but will also come to the first-generation hardware — so long as you sign up for the premium app subscription. You see, there’s a magnetometer in the tech pack that can act as a compass, and will give you a live directional bearing as you swim. When activated, the bottom half of the display transforms into the compass view, showing you a relatively precise heading.

SwimStraight is designed for open water swimmers who would otherwise rely upon landmarks to chart their course. For instance, if you’re doing a lap in a lake or out at sea, you might be breaking your stroke once every few minutes to make sure you’re lined up with a buoy. But the company showed me GPS telemetry data showing that these intermittent corrections cause swimmers to veer off course a lot. Whereas, if there’s a live compass bearing in your eye at all times, you’ll be able to keep more or less to your intended path.

I’m not going to lie, this feature impressed me far more than it had any business doing, given the low-ish tech nature of the hardware. Thrash your head around and you might force a slight delay as the compass catches up to your orientation but otherwise it’s very quick.

HeadCoach, meanwhile, launched last fall on the first-generation goggles and is similarly held behind the Premium paywall. The system looks at various elements of your form, like the pitch and roll of your head, and how quickly you turn your head to the side to breathe. It then scores you out of 99 for each of these facets, with video lessons and suggestions to get better. You can then set these suggestions onto your goggles for the next time you go into the pool, so you can get a real sense of what you’re doing and how to improve matters.

Form’s Smart Swim 2 is available today across the world, priced at $249 in the US and $339 in Canada. Its predecessor now has a 1 appended to its name and will remain on sale for $179, offering a more affordable entry-point for wary would-be swimmers. Here’s the thing, I actually think that the Smart Swim 1 with Premium is probably a more compelling option for many people. That’s not a diss against the 2 so much as praise for how good the existing model already was. Look, if you’re a Serious Triathlete who cares about your split times and owns a Garmin the size of the Cullinan Diamond, get the 2. But if you’re a better swimmer than I am (and it wouldn’t be hard) but would like some real-time data in the water, get the 1.