There’s a fitness tracker for everything these days, whether you’re a hardcore athlete gunning for a PB or just a casual dog walker logging the distance you’ve covered. But while most trackers are designed to give a decent indication of the steps you’re taking, only a select few can record your activity in the pool.
It’s not just a case of a fitness tracker being waterproof – it also has to be smart enough to track your swimming and turn that into useful information. So, if you’re a keen swimmer and want a gadget that can log all your activity, both in and out of the water, our list of swim-friendly trackers will help you choose.
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Fitbit Flex 2
The Flex 2 was Fitbit’s first tracker for swimming and although you can now opt for the more feature-laden Fitbit Ionic smartwatch, if you want a Fitbit for the pool the Flex 2 is still well worth considering – not least because you get the same swim-tracking abilities for less than a third of the price of the Ionic.
Once you’ve enabled swim tracking in the app and set the pool length the Flex 2 will track your laps, pace, distance and time in the water. The better your swimming, the more accurate the data will be – if you’re stopping to rest regularly or constantly switching stroke mid-length, the Flex 2 can get thrown off its game somewhat.
This isn’t the most advanced swim tracker on the list, but it’s certainly one of the more affordable. Plus it gives access to Fitbit’s excellent ecosystem, which remains the best in the business for to everyday activity tracking. £69.99, buy on fitbit.com
The Misfit Ray is another light and comfortable tracker, which boasts a minimalist, cylindrical, aluminium design and anodised finish. It doesn’t track swimming by default – you need to purchase the Speedo upgrade for £7.99 in the Misfit app. Once that’s done the Ray will track your time, distance and laps in the pool.
The in-app purchase of the swim tracking does mean that non-swimmers aren’t having to pay for functionality they don’t need, but if it was standard, it might encourage users to try swimming in the first place. On the plus side, Misfit devices tend to be highly accurate when it comes to measuring distance, so you can be confident of the distance metric at the end of each training session.
One final thing worth noting is that even if you do pay for the Speedo swim tracking, the Ray is still cheaper than the Flex 2 – if only slightly £49.99 (£57.98 including swim tracking), buy on misfit.com
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You may not be as familiar with Moov as you are with brands like Fitbit or Garmin, but you should be. The Moov Now is an amazing piece of kit which can now be found for under £50, making it the cheapest device on this list by a significant margin.
The Moov Now will measure your time, distance, stroke count and the number of laps as other trackers do, but it also automatically detects the type of stroke you’re employing. The Moov’s USP, however, is its ability to analyse the data it collects to deliver advice on how to improve.
Given its functionality and very attractive price, this is an excellent-value tracker. It might not be the most unobtrusive wearable on the list, but that doesn’t matter much once you’re in the pool. From £49.99, welcome.moov.cc, buy on amazon.co.uk
TomTom Spark 3
The TomTom Spark 3 (also known as the Runner 3) is an excellent multi-sport GPS watch, with a multitude of modes and features that make it a superb tracker for runners in particular. Its swimming modes are not quite as full-featured as those for running and cycling, but it still does plenty to help you keep tabs on your progress in the pool.
Once you’ve set the length of the pool you’re in, it’ll track your laps, speed, duration, calories and strokes and give you a Swim Golf (SWOLF) score, which gives an idea of your efficiency in the water. It tracks your turns based on movement, essentially the burst of acceleration when you push away from the wall. You can set it to give you a buzz for each lap, so you know it’s been recorded accurately.
Although the Spark 3 does have a heart rate tracker, it won’t use it for swimming due to accuracy limitations in the water. Also, despite the built-in GPS, there is no open-water swimming mode on the Spark 3 as yet, or a triathlon mode to take advantage of its multi-sport tracking capabilities. If you’re a runner or cyclist who also uses the pool for training the Spark 3 is an excellent option, but dedicated swimmers or triathletes might want to keep looking. Spark 3 £119.99, Spark 3 Cardio + Music £220, buy on tomtom.com
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Garmin Vivoactive 3
Garmin’s first attempt at a GPS smartwatch might be a little light on smart features compared with the Apple Watch 3 and Fitbit Ionic, but it excels when it comes to sports tracking, including pool swims. During a swim the large touchscreen is disabled, but it shows your time and distance clearly. You can pause your workout with a long press on the device’s single button, and once you finish a session there’s an array of more detailed stats and graphs showing pace, stroke rate and your SWOLF score in the Garmin Connect app.
The Vivoactive 3 doesn’t support open-water swimming or recognise stroke type, and the optical heart rate tracker is disabled when in the water where it would struggle to take a reading anyway, but for all-round sporty types who value run and cycle tracking as much as swimming, it’s an excellent option. £279.99, buy on garmin.com, buy on amazon.co.uk
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Apple Watch Series 3
The Apple Watch has been able to track swimming since the Series 2, the first waterproof version, but it became a far more capable device for swimmers when watchOS 4 was released in the second half of 2017 to coincide with the arrival of the Series 3. The Watch now not only tracks distance, lengths and time, but also automatically recognises your stroke type (and tots up the distance for each stroke at the end of the swim), as well as recording sets and rests without you having to touch a button.
You can also use the Apple Watch 3 to track open-water swims, when it uses the device’s built-in GPS to provide a map of your route afterwards. During swims of any type the Apple Watch locks the screen. Once you unlock it by twizzling the digital crown on the side it will expel any water in the speaker – a neat trick that means the Watch can have a speaker while still being waterproof.
Opt for the 4G version of the Watch 3 and you’ll also be able to receive calls, texts and emails while swimming even if you leave your phone in a locker or on the beach. From £329 (without 4G) or £399 (with 4G), buy on apple.com
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Nokia Steel HR
Aside from a small circular screen on its face, this tracker is indistinguishable from a normal watch. And if the tiny screen is too digital for you you can get the more basic Nokia Steel, which does away with it entirely.
The Steel HR goes out of its way to make all kinds of activity tracking as easy for you as possible, with a 25-day battery life and automatic recognition of several sports including swimming. It doesn’t go into the same degree of detail as other trackers on this list – showing only time and calories burned – and you need to swim for ten minutes at least for it to cotton on to what you’re doing and start tracking it. It is, however, undoubtedly the best option for those who want a waterproof watch/tracker hybrid. £169.95, buy on health.nokia.com, check price on amazon.co.uk