Swimmo is a long-awaited crowd-funded training watch for swimmers. Touted as a smartwatch, Swimmo will monitor your swim, including your heart rate, and allow you to set yourself swim training targets. The watches come in three colourways: All black, all white and black with a white facia (featured).
The manufacturers say each watch weighs 55g but our scales said 60g – either way it is hardly noticeable on your wrist. The strap is made of thin rubber but feels fairly strong and I doubt would wear out quickly. There’s 12 holes along the strap allowing you to move the buckle into position for a very wide range of wrist widths from 150mm to 210mm across. You’ll want a pretty tight setting, not just to stop the watch moving around as you swim, but so the heart rate monitor has a chance of working properly.
The screen measures 35mm x 23mm although the display area is only 27mm x 22mm. For the majority this will be fine, but if eyesight is becoming a problem, you’ll have difficulty reading any of the data screens, especially with goggles on or water in your eyes. The OLED screen is bright, however, and the symbols and figures are sharp.
The main body of the watch is around 14mm thick, meaning the Swimmo sits fairly proud on your wrist. However, nice curved edges mean it is unlikely to snag on anything.
As an overall feel, we’d say the watch is comfortable to wear and has a distinct ‘sturdy’ feel about it.
The battery will last for around five days of normal use.
Swimmo is now available for general sale from their website for £169
The Swimmo watch will record
- Heart rate
All of this is packaged and marketed as much more, for example
- Swimming heart rate
- Resting heart rate
- Heart rate during “other activities”
- Pace and speed
- Lap times
Of course, your heart rate is your heart rate, no matter what you are doing and the other parameters are calculated.
Swimmo and Heart Rate Measurement
Swimmo measures your heart rate through the pulse in your wrist using an optical sensor. There are known limitations to all versions of such devices, and if you are particularly pale skinned or dark skinned, they may not work on you. This is because the light has to penetrate several layers of skin. In very pale people the light gets washed out, whereas in dark-skinned people the penetration is not deep enough. I’m fair skinned (ginger hair), but not very pale and the heart rate at rest and easy activity worked fine. However, during a heavy workload and hard swim set, the heart rate was definitely reading on the low side. To make sure, I tested the watch while running directly against a chest-strap Garmin HR monitor. When the chest-strap showed an HR of 160 the Swimmo reported a HR of just 135bpm. Given that Swimmo is marketed towards serious swimmers (200m max fly, anyone?) this is a big problem. Athletes seeking improvement need to know which heart rate zone they’ve been working in, so they can balance their training over a period.
At rest and low intensity, Swimmo measured the same as the chest-strap Garmin.
Controlling your Swimmo
The watch uses a tap screen and wrist movement for function – there are no buttons. You tap the screen (quite hard) to wake the watch up or to make a selection and twist your wrist up or down to scroll through the menus – called Rotate&Tap technology apparently.
The Swimmo App
As we said, Swimmo will measure your heart rate and, currently, when you change direction in the pool via an accelerometer. Knowing that pools are 25m or 50m, this lets Swimmo calculate many other parameters.
Your Swimmo watch is controlled almost entirely through the free companion mobile app for both Apple (iOS) and Android devices (iPhone 4S or later, Android phones with Bluetooth Smart/LE). If you have a Windows or Google Pixel phone, you’ll be limited to the functions on the watch alone.
Syncing with the watch is via Bluetooth connection. This seems fairly reliable, but again, we have a bit of a beef. You will see a “synching with Swimmo Watch” screen, but you get no indication of whether the connection has been made or how far through a data transfer you might be. Sometimes this can be quite lengthy and you’ll be tempted to stop and try again. However, we’d advise you to persist, and just wait for the green tick on your watch.
The app allows you to set your own targets on top of distance, pulse, calorie and pace tracking. Once synced, you can then view the results for each workout, a summary of your ‘achievements’, compare to people you ‘follow’ and set up connections to social media or control how and when the watch vibrates.
The Swimmo comes with a set of quick setup instructions. Basically, put the watch on and connect to the app. After that, at the time of writing, you are totally on your own. We searched the Swimmo website to no avail and then resorted to contacting Support who told us “A comprehensive manual will be available soon. We are in a process of creating it. “. I’d have thought a user manual was a requirement before launching. Instead, you’ll have customers like me very frustrated with the product.
The reason we need the manual is, quite simply, Swimmo doesn’t seem to work. I’ve worn the watch for a total of 18 swim sessions now and have not had a complete record of any of them, so I’m giving up.
At the start Swimmo would just switch off in the middle of a set. When you are training hard, you don’t want to have to be looking at the watch every so often just to make sure it is working, you just want to get on with ‘surviving’. For example, my first swim with the watch was 80 minutes long, but the watch only recorded 39 minutes and 37seconds. I had noticed the watch was ‘off’ and started it again. So a second file recorded 16 minutes and 10s. But the problem yo9u are then faced with is that the App doesn’t give a ‘real time’, so which 16 minutes were in the second batch? And what did I do in the missing 35 minutes.
On the second session I tried setting a distance target rather than a time target. This time Swimmo recorded 22 laps out of 55 swam.
After another five goes, initially thinking it was user-error (but no manual remember), I contacted Swimmo who advised me to contact the developers. They enabled my app to download a beta update which stopped the watch switching off.
The problem after that was it wouldn’t switch off at all. Swimmo support suggested that I video the problem and send it to them – how well would that go down walking around with a video camera in a public swimming pool?
Flashing back to the original software, the watch works again, but with the same old problems, even with the beta update of stopping mid swim. My last effort of 90 minutes recorded as one file of 130 laps, another of 65 laps and a final file of three hours and thirty-two minutes <sigh>.
There’s no way of deleting data in the app either. So my Achievements include a longest workout of 3h 32m, a fastest pace of 61 seconds for two laps (that would be a pb at long course or a disastrous TT at short course) and a highest pulse rate of 105bpm.