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8 Best Smartwatch for Swimming in Pools and Open Water 2020

Photo by mali maeder from Pexels

The best smartwatch for swimming shows the number of pool laps, fastest length, the duration, burned calories, pace, and heart rate measurements. It also comes with waterproofing, an always-on screen, and physical buttons for the disabled touch sensitivity.

Unlike regular fitness trackers, swim smartwatches need to be made with waterproofing and clear screens, visible underwater. Basic statistics they are known for include stroke type and stroke count.

Multidisciplinary swimmers such as triathletes might need to choose the best smartwatches for swimmers with extra features. Support for other sports such as cycling and running might also be needed for these users.

Accuracy in these tracking devices is also important. The following smartwatches for swimming have been proven for accurate data. Apple’s Watch 5 is the top choice for iPhone users. Android users can look towards the Samsung Galaxy watch for easy pairing. A few other watches tick the right boxes for swimmers as well.

White smart watch on arm

  1. Apple Watch 5

Apple Watch Series 5 is a solid device made for all types of fitness tracking needs. Its swimproof design makes it the most popular choice with high accuracy for those who like to get in the pool, dive, or explore open waters.

One of the functions of the watch which enjoys the most appreciation from swimmers is auto stroke detection. Every stroke and small effort in water is detected and recorded for personal statistics. WatchOS 6 is what makes the accuracy of stroke detection even better.

While the screen of the swim tracker is always-on, swimmers benefit from its automatic lock function. This function prevents accidental taps, an issue that is not uncommon in sports like swimming.

Using it is also a bit simpler than with other watches, due to its simplified interface. You need to scroll to either Pool Swim or Open Water Swim modes before starting the activity. The main difference between the 2 modes is that swimming in a pool is tied to counting laps. Open water swimming such as in rivers, lakes or the ocean doesn’t count on laps.

Since the screen is not active when in water, you need to use the digital crown for menu navigation. It may be used for functions such as setting a calorie goal or a time-based swimming goal.

The swim watch easily transitions into other sports. Active users can count on it to cover running or cycling performance. While not specifically made for a particular sport, it handles them with accurate data.

Compatible with many App Store third-party apps, the watch might be used for general health parameters tracking as well. 2 interesting features that might be used to stay healthy and active are its compass and its elevation tracking for hiking.

With its 18 hours battery life, the watch suffers in comparison to its direct rival, the Samsung Galaxy Watch. It’s not that the battery is short, but it needs charging almost every night. There’s a USB charger in the pack that ensures it’s ready to go but a charging dock might be a smart purchase for the watch given its practicality.

Basic characteristics

  • 40mm – 44mm case size
  • Automatic stroke detection
  • Always-on display
  • It can be operated from a button when in water
  1. Samsung Galaxy Watch

An elegant Android alternative is offered by the Samsung Galaxy Watch. It features a round shape and it may be a bit more similar to traditional watches in looks and with its rotating bezel. However, even many iPhone users are considering it mainly due to the long battery life.

Testing shows the battery on the Samsung Galaxy Watch lasts between 4 and 5 days. You can expect up to 96 hours of use from the complex watch, which places it above the Apple Watch 5 on battery life. Those away from home on swimming trips or those away on swimming competitions might find it to be the main reason to purchase.

With a 42mm case, the sports watch is about the same size as most of its alternatives. However, those with small wrists might be better off with 40mm alternatives such as the Apple Watch 5 to avoid scratching it on various surfaces.

The device comes with a 5ATM rating which translates into waterproofing of up to 50 meters. While it can’t handle scuba diving, it handles surface-level swimming well.

In terms of the data it works with, there are no major reasons for concern. It tracks pool length with a default 25m (which users can update), pace, and calories. You can set specific targets such as swimming for a certain interval. In general, it comes with a bit more on-screen customization than its alternatives.

Connected to smartphones and fitness apps, it shows interesting statistics such as the calories, the pace of swimming, and the average heart rate. With an included UK charger and USB-C cables, it might be a good starter pack for the average swimmer.

Basic characteristics

  • Available in 42 and 46mm versions
  • Compatible with Spotify
  • It includes a wireless charger
  • Lightweight – 49 and 63 grams
  1. Fitbit Versa 2

With 5ATM waterproofing, the Fitbit Versa 2 is giving its best to compete with Apple and Samsung alternatives. While it lacks the swimming details a professional swimmer might need, it works as a solution for the casual pool or open water lover.

The watch has its strengths compared to competitors, such as an excellent screen even underwater. It counts the number of laps swimmers go for in the pool. With a Bluetooth synchronization range of 6.1 meters, it easily transfers this data in real-time to the smartphone if turned to a tracking device for enthusiastic swimmers.

But its main selling point is the Amazon Alexa voice control compatibility. The function allows it to be used without hands, which can only be seen as a serious practicality advantage. But there’s more to its practicality than simple voice commands. For example, when used in triathlon training (swimming, cycling, and running), the watch can easily track all activities. You need to push the mode button once to transition to another activity.

One of its major drawbacks is that the multisport watch doesn’t include a GPS mode. It can be problematic in the open water swimming to swimmers who want to track their routes. Otherwise, the smartwatch is an interesting alternative with plenty of colours, straps, and bands to choose from.

Basic characteristics

  • Compatible with Fitbit pay
  • Stores and plays music (with swimming earbuds)
  • Water-resistant to 50m
  • Compatible with iPhones, Android phones, and Windows phones
  1. Garmin Swim 2

The Swolf Score is a feature Garmin 2 is known for in the swimming world. This feature offers a swimming efficiency score (based on pace data) which can be useful to fans of open water swimming.

It seems ready to be considered by enthusiast swimmers as it comes with a GPS chip. This chip is used to keep an eye on the swimming track in open waters, a function the Fitbit Versa 2 watch lacks.

Stroke count, stroke rate, and stroke distance are all functions the watch tracks accurately. But the GPS function is where its accuracy is the best. Garmin has a strong reputation in the geo-location software it develops and it’s normally the first swimming smartwatch enthusiast open water swimmers turn to.

Made for dedicated swimmers, it includes advanced functions to staying on pace. Instead of using a swimming instructor, it offers users indicators and advanced drills on how to stay on track on certain swimming routes, such as heart rate elevation-based indicators. You can even create your drills to input in the watch just to ensure you stay on pace.

It tracks sculling drills, kicking, and one-arm swimming. It stands out with these advanced features and for those truly into swimming, it offers a superior experience compared to its Apple and Samsung alternatives.

When it was first released (October 2019), Swim 2 was met with a bit of scepticism relating its battery life. Garmin promised users the battery will last 7 days on the smartwatch. This turned out to be true. Swimmers only need to charge it once per week, which is an area where the watch sits in a class of its own.

Basic characteristics

  • It measures swimming efficiency
  • Made with an energy-efficient Chroma display
  • Accurate open water GPS tracking
  • Available on slate grey and whitestone colours
  1. Garmin Forerunner 935

The Garmin Forerunner 935 detects stroke count, stroke type, length, and swimming distance. Kick and single-arm drills or swimming are also recognized by the Forerunner 935, similar to the Swim 2 smartwatch.

Advanced swimming features are found on the watch but many see it as the perfect tracking device for combined sports such as triathlon. With most features added under its running mode, it can be a tool for triathletes to use to improve their running performance, when their swimming performance is already solid.

The Swolf score Garmin is known for is also supported by the Forerunner 935. Swimming efficiency can be a subjective parameter and having the device can be a simple method of ensuring the activity is enjoyed at the right pace.

Undertraining and overtraining are costly swimming issues. Training is as important as recovery and the smartwatch prevents both extremes. Made for the dedicated swimmer and runner, it has high applicability in cadence, even superior to what Apple and Samsung smartwatches can offer.

The HRM-Swim heart rate monitor is a pulse estimation sensor added to the watch. Swimmers say it’s accurate and the best part is it doesn’t add to the weight of the watch. At 295 grams, the smartwatch is not too heavy to impede optimum swimming performance.

Basic characteristics

  • Available with interchangeable bands
  • It sends notifications
  • Supports custom watch faces
  • Compatible with power statistics in pedal power meters (for triathlon training)
  1. Fitbit Ionic

Made as a general fitness tracker, Fitbit Ionic is one of those devices with multisport use. It features an elegant design, which makes it a bit easy to wear with daily outfits. Most importantly, it does a reliable job of keeping an eye on swimming efforts.

While the device is not as feature-packed as the best smartwatches for swimmers, it still does a good job of keeping track of laps. You can set various pool lengths in meters for it to start counting lap number, total time, and average lap time.

The screen has also been appreciated in changing conditions. It features automatic brightness adjustments based on its surrounding ambient light, which makes it easy to read in water. Swiping gestures are also a bit better than on other swim smartwatches which may only support crown inputs while in water.

While the device is not the most accurate, its limited advanced feature is what most worry about. These features include kicking power and they aren’t covered by Ionic. But with a battery life of around 4 days, it might be an interesting choice if swimming is only part of a generally active lifestyle among other sports.

Basic characteristics

  • Included Adidas virtual coaching
  • Stores and plays 300+ songs
  • It uses both GPS and GLONASS to track pace
  1. Moov Now

Cheap smartwatches for swimming are very rare. In most cases, they aren’t very accurate either. But Moov Now is a bit different as it offers reliability at a very low price.

The smartwatch works by showing swimming data from individual laps. Within each lap, you can find the time it took from one side of the pool to another, the number of strokes, and breaks you took from swimming.

Without a built-in screen, it also represents one of the lightest performers in its class. It can be a solution for long swim workouts based on its low weight alone. Swimming style and speed aren’t affected as with other smartwatches with a weight considerably over the 300 grams mark.

However, the smartwatch has its drawbacks. For example, swimming sessions can only be started on the phone. It means the smartphone needs to activate it before heading into the pool. Without Wi-Fi connectivity, the smartphone also needs to be within the Bluetooth range of the tracker.

It may still offer practicality for some swimmers not interested in real-time swimming statistics or an AMOLED screen. For example, it doesn’t use a rechargeable battery as it uses a replaceable battery which lasts up to 6 months.

Replacing the battery is easy. The process is detailed in the user manual. Occasional swimmers note the battery might even last more than 6 months. The final replace date depends on the number of weekly swimming workouts.

Basic characteristics

  • Made with waterproofing and dust-proofing
  • Available in 3 colours
  • It features a real-time audio coach
  1. Fitbit Charge 3

With swim-proof construction, the smartwatch has water resistance to 50m. The device is already considerable progress compared to its previous versions. The Fitbit Charge 2 didn’t support swimming and many of its users consistently asked Fitbit for a more versatile version.

Other improvements excluding swim tracking over the second generation Fitbit include a larger screen, easier to tap, swipe, and read. The vibrating alerts of the watch are also stronger now.

Wearable in the pool and the shower, the smartwatch features a large touchscreen with a backlit display. The display automatically adjusts brightness depending on the light in the pool or its vicinity.

Outside swimming, the triathlon watch may also be used as a regular fitness smartwatch. It features an interesting Exhale function which Fitbit is known for. This function supports breathing breaks throughout the day, which might be handy to busy wearers, similarly to the Fitbit Versa smartwatch.

The battery life is also supportive of all types of uses. With up to 7 days of battery life, it can easily be worn on the wrist all the time. 5 lock faces ensure it can be easily used on any occasion.

In terms of drawbacks, the watch is limited in tracking cycling. Triathletes aren’t able to use it for cycling training, alongside swimming sessions. Compared to other smartwatches that even work with smart meters in pedals, it has room for improvement.

Basic characteristics

  • Compatible with Fitbit Premium workouts
  • It shows calls, texts, and other alerts
  • Ships with a soft silicone strap

Man swimming in a pool

Best Smartwatch For Swimming – Frequently Asked Questions

If you have further questions, feel free to find your answer below.

Swimming smartwatches vs fitness smartwatches – is there a difference?

The best waterproof fitness trackers are dedicated to water activities. They include special functions such as pace analysis and even recommendations for enhanced swimming efficiency. Fitness smartwatches are made for multiple sports. While they can be useful for swimming, many are not specialized in water sports.

Both have their place for different users. Those who love to stay active can simply choose a general fitness smartwatch such as the Apple Watch 5. On the other hand, dedicated swimmers or enthusiasts may need to choose a specialized alternative such as the Garmin Swim 2.

Dedicated swimmers can also use these specialized best fitness trackers for other sports, but without the depth in data tracking and analysis from water activities.

Is there a difference between waterproof and water-resistant smartwatches for swimming?

These 2 characteristics refer to the sealing a smartwatch is made for. Water-resistant smartwatches might survive accidental water contact, such as when washing the hands and splashing water on the device.

Waterproof smartwatches are made for full submersion without any damages to its components. Waterproofing in both traditional watches and smartwatches is measured in depth. Most of the products listed above have resistance to 50m.

Diver just below the surface

Can a swimming smartwatch work for diving?

Diving with a swimming smartwatch is not recommended. Since most devices are tested to 50m, they can’t handle the higher pressure of the depths. As a result, these smartwatches are only made for surface-level swimming.

Diving requires specialized gear that isn’t covered by the average smartwatch. Diving depth is considerably more demanding on the watches. 200 meters depth resistance is what’s normally needed in diving watches compared to simple swimming smartwatches.

What is the best smartwatch for swimming?

The Apple Watch 5 gets consistent praise for its ability to track swimming and other sports. The Garmin Swim 2 is the best smartwatch for swimming-only, especially with Garmin Connect statistics.

Since the average user is most interested in an active lifestyle with occasional swimming sessions, generalist products such as The Apple Watch 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch offer the best overall package.

Is there a cheap smartwatch for swimming?

As seen above, the Moov Now is a smartwatch for swimming under $100. For the price, it offers good reliability but users need to say goodbye to certain aspects such as touchscreens.

Cheap swimming watches usually lack advanced features for real-time analysis of pulse, pace, and swimming technique. But they can be used to count strokes, measured burned calories, or to time each pool lap.

White charger

Do I need a UK charger for my smartwatch?

Some smartwatches and activity trackers only come with USB-C cables for charging. Others such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch come with a wireless charger. This can be an important aspect since wireless chargers can be quite expensive.

Other additional purchases can come with watch bands or watch straps. Most swimming bands can be used at the swimming pool but they’re not the most elegant option to consider once outside the pool. Some watches come with replaceable bands while others don’t.

Swimmer with googles in the sea

Conclusion

In the quest of swimming excellence, many dreams of becoming the next Phelps of the pool or open waters. Smartwatches can’t improve swimming technique or performance on their own. But they can be used to track performance and to set swimming objectives.

Over the years, swimming has changed due to these trackers. Today, you can create and save your swimming route in open waters. With GPS watch navigation, you can share this route with friends or simply return to the swimming location following smartwatch guidance.

More accessible and made with technology which takes a look at health parameters, these smartwatches are also used to keep an eye on general health, such as cardiovascular health as most come with heart rate monitoring sensors. Did you already use a smartwatch for swimming? Has it improved your swimming performance? Feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.