Best swimming tracker 2020: waterproof fitness trackers for swimming in the pool and open water

From Apple to Polar, the best fitness bands and smartwatches for the pool or open water

The best fitness trackers for swimming

Taking to the water this summer and wondering how to find the best fitness tracker for swimming? You’re going to need a device that is more than just waterproof. Whether it’s for open water or in a pool, a wearable with proper swimming tracking will be able to feedback to you vital swim stats - automatically detecting the type of stroke, stroke rate (the number of strokes you swim per length), and split times, for instance.

According to David Tatler, Head Coach at London swim coaching firm DMT Swimming, having this sort of data available while in the water can not only aid swimmers track how many lengths they’re doing or calories they’ve burnt, but can help even more seasoned swimmers push beyond their limits.

“Seeing where you are slowing down, for instance, will force you to look at every aspect of your stroke and see where improvements are needed in your technique,” he explains.

How to choose the best swimming fitness tracker for you

If you're a keen athlete or triathlete serious about swimming, purchasing a good quality fitness wearable boasting some good tracking features is a no brainer. A constant supply of stats will help you keep a watchful eye on how well you’re performing day-to-day, where your strengths and weaknesses are, and how to improve your stroke.

Alternatively, if you’re not exactly a pro, you’re just starting out or you prefer to swim occasionally and aren’t so interested in closely monitoring detailed swim stats, you might want to go for more of an all-rounder. A multi-sport tracker would therefore be ideal as it will allow you to keep tabs on all kinds of fitness while not feeding back stats that aren’t so relevant to you. Most smartwatches and activity trackers do this anyway, but not all.

There’s also two main types of tracker to look out for, a full-sized smartwatch or a more slimline fitness band. This is all to do with preference and how comfortable you feel wearing a larger, heavier watch while in the water. Bands are usually lighter and smaller so less noticeable on the arm during your lengths, but these tend to have fewer sensors and therefore are lacking when it comes to detailed stats. On the upside, though, they are usually cheaper, so perhaps best for those more casual swimmers among us.

Garmin Swim 2

(Image credit: Garmin)

1. Garmin Swim 2: best overall fitness tracker for swimming

Blows all other trackers out of the water

Specifications
Display Size: 1.04"
Estimated Battery Life: 7 days
GPS: Yes
Water resistance: 50m
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+Super detailed summary stats+GPS for open water swimming
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks multisport features

Garmin is probably the market leader when it comes to smartwatches and is popular with more serious fitness fanatics and athletes thanks to its in-depth multisport tracking features, robust designs and reliability. The Swim 2 is no exception. With a built in heart rate monitor so that you can see your heart rate on your wrist, with no additional waterproof chest strap needed like you used to, this wearable is a piece of engineering genius. It will also deliver pacing alerts, telling you when to slow down or speed up with Critical Swim Speed, logging drills and everything you need to advance your swim. It’s a serious watch for serious swimmers. The only downside? It doesn’t track anything else. For that, it might be worth investing in the firm’s Fenix range.

Polar Grit X

(Image credit: Polar)

2. Polar Grit X: best premium fitness tracker for swimming

Pricey but impressive

Specifications
Display Size: 1.2"
Estimated Battery Life: 100 hours
GPS: Yes
Water resistance: 100mm
Reasons to buy
+Excellent detailed summaries+Great recovery stats and features+Ideal for outdoors swimming
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey if you’re only using it for swimming -A little bulky

This watch has a lot to offer. Aimed at anyone with a love for outdoors activities, the rugged Grit X can handle just about anything you throw at it, making it especially useful for open water or competitive swimmers.

At £379.99, it’s the pricest tracker on our list, but it’s also one of the most feature-rich. Not only does it track just about every sport you can think of, but when it comes to swimming, the Grit X automatically detects your heart rate, swimming style, distance, pace, strokes and rest times.

The watch also features SWOLF (the swimming efficiency metric) support. This is calculated by adding together your time and the amount of strokes it takes you to swim a pool length. Generally, the lower your SWOLF is for a certain distance and style, the more efficient you are. A great way of motivating you to improve.

Huawei Band Pro 4

(Image credit: Huawei)

3. Huawei Band Pro 4: best budget fitness tracker for swimming

Light, slim and excellent value for money

Specifications
Display Size: 0.95"
Estimated Battery Life: 5 days
GPS: No
Water resistance: 50m
Reasons to buy
+Cheap as chips at under £50+Hardly noticeable on the wrist
Reasons to avoid
-Tracking is not so detailed-Small display

With a slick AMOLED touchscreen display, the Huawei Band 4 Pro isn’t just nice to look at but it looks great in the water, too, being bright and clear enough so you can easily view your real-time data while you’re thrashing around in the water.

When it comes to tracking, you can customise training targets (such as distance, duration, calories burnt, reminder interval) or just start swimming and let it monitor what you’re doing automatically.

This is all quite surprising when you consider the Huawei BAnd 4 Pro’s RRP. At under £50, this device is a steal - and that would still be the case even if swimming was it’s only trackable activity. But infarct, this nifty device can monitor your stats during most major sports.

Apple Watch Series 5

(Image credit: Apple)

4. Apple Watch Series 5

Best for iOS users

Specifications
Display Size: 1.78”
Estimated Battery Life: 18 hours
GPS: Yes
Water resistance: 50m
Reasons to buy
+Beautiful displayWaterproof speaker+Swim tracking is the tip of the iceberg
Reasons to avoid
-Only works with iOS-Unnecessary feature set for serious swimmers

The Apple Watch Series 5 tracks all the basics – distance, lengths and time – but ups the ante with automatic stroke recognition, tailored progress reports and advice. It has a surprising number of features that make it a great swim tracker, such as automatic stroke, splits and sets recognition, an Open Water Swim mode that visualises your route on a map, and an active calories, distance and overall pace tracking function. It even has a self-locking mechanism that, once unlocked, expels any water from the speaker.

It is, however, quite a pricey purchase if you’re only going to use it for swim tracking, and of course it only works with iOS devices so it’s definitely not worth investing if you have an Android phone. That said, it’s one of the best smartwatches out there if you’re an iPhone owner, with an endless array of lifestyle features that will help make your life easier.

Fitbit Charge 4

(Image credit: Fitbit)

5. Fitbit Charge 4

Best midrange tracker with plenty of extras

Specifications
Display size: 1"
Estimated Battery Life: 7 days
GPS: Yes
Water resistance: 50m
Reasons to buy
+Comfortable and lightweight+Good value for money
Reasons to avoid
-No open water swim tracking-Fitbit app is limited

Another fitness band that comes up trumps for swim tracking is Fitbit’s Charge 4. With a mid-range price tag (£130) it’s pretty compact but still bursting with features. As you would expect from any Fitbit device, swimming isn’t the only activity tracking capability here, but those looking to take this device to the water won’t be disappointed in how well it performs.

Thanks to Fitbit’s relatively new SmartTrack tech, the Charge 4 is able to automatically recognise when you're swimming, meaning you don’t have to select the activity option from the menu before diving in; it’ll capture swim lengths, duration, distance and pace. The annoying thing, though, is that none of that data is viewable in real-time on the device itself, so you'll have to head to Fitbit's companion app later to get your data, and this app isn’t exactly the most intuitive out there.

Nevertheless, the Charge 4 to be pretty accurate in the water, proving comfortable and in the most part, enjoyable to use.

Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro

6. Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro

The good-looking all-rounder for everyday wear

Specifications
Best for: All-round fitness gadget
Depth: 40m
Battery Life: 3-4 days
Measures: Goals, time, distance, pace
Reasons to buy
+Great design+Works with Spotify
Reasons to avoid
- Needs Speedo app

If you’re looking for a great fitness tracker under £200, the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro might be right up your lane. It’s a vast improvement on its predecessor the Gear Fit2, not least because it’s now waterproof to around 40m, bringing it into the list of viable contenders for best swimming fitness tracker. 

It’s engineered to work with the Speedo app in Speedo Mode, which allows you to set the length of the pool and your goal for that session, and get specs like your pace and duration in return. It also looks great for everyday wear, both in and out of the pool, with its slick integrated screen. 

Fitbit Flex 2

7. Fitbit Flex 2

Great all-round tracking with swimming-specific highlights

Specifications
Best for: Casual swimmers
Depth: 50m
Battery Life: 3 days
Measures: Swim duration, pace, laps, distance, calories burned
Reasons to buy
+Great inexpensive fitness tracker+Same metrics as more expensive bands
Reasons to avoid
- Accuracy of results can be thrown off

The Fitbit Flex might not be the brand’s flagship band, but as their first tracker for swimming it’s still going strong, and deservedly so. It packs in the same swim tracking metrics as the three-times-the-price Ionic, namely pace, distance, laps and time spent in the water. 

Some found that stop-start swims could throw off the accuracy of the results reported back, so while it’s arguably best kept for quieter evenings at the pool, anything that pushes us to keep up the pace is a win in our book. And, with access to Fitbit’s superior all-round activity tracking, it’s still among the best in terms of software.