When Apple announced the Watch Series 2 last year, it wasn't all that surprising that it came packing a waterproof design. What was more of a turn up for the books was the decision to go one step further and offer dedicated tracking for swimming in the pool and out in the open water.
When we put its swim tracking skills to the test in our full review, we were pretty impressed with what Apple delivered. The data was accurate and the metrics were decent as well. One issue, however, was that post-swim, you could only import that data into Apple's Workout app.
Since then, things have changed and now there are third party Apple Watch apps for storing your swimming metrics and offering more in the way of analysing your data.
We decided to see what these swimming apps have to offer in the pool to find out whether there's a better tracking experience for swimmers that lies inside the Apple App Store.
Meet the apps
Jumping into the App Store and typing in 'swimming' in the search bar, we half expected to be awash with Watch Series 2-friendly apps that really take full advantage of the swim tracking features on Apple's smartwatch. Unfortunately that's not really the case.
There's actually only a few out there that are built to make the most of the fitness feature. The first is MySwimPro, the first app on the scene optimised for the Watch Series 2. The second is Swim.com. You will find other apps like SwimWatchPlus that lets you save workouts to Apple Health or SwimIO, Speedo's platform, which lets you import swim tracking data from the Watch.
As far as pricing is concerned, both apps are free, but MySwimPro does offer a premium option that costs $14.99 a month or $99.99 a year and unlocks more advanced analytics and all workouts.
Let's go swimming
We're going to start with MySwimPro, which was named one of Apple's apps of the year in 2016. Along with tracking swims, it offers a number of workouts for pool and open water swimming. For serious swimmers, you're going to need to pay up to tap into the hardcore workouts. You can also create custom workouts, which can be loaded onto the Apple Watch and followed when you're in the water.
The companion smartphone app is packed with everything you could probably want from a swimming app. There are training videos to improve technique and some interesting articles on the benefits of swimming. Even without paying out for the additional workouts, there's plenty here to play around with.
When it's time to get swimming, you can head to the Log session tab and you'll be able to pick from a saved workout, new workout, race tracking or open water tracking. It's pretty comprehensive in terms of creating specific sets and picking the stroke you want to track as well. There's also a good range of workouts in terms of what you want to work on whether it's improving distance swimming or picking up the pace.
We focused on building our own custom workouts because many of the ones that are accessible for free are still clearly built with serious swimmers in mind. Once you're workouts are loaded to the Apple Watch it takes a few seconds to load up and then once you've picked out the pool length, you're ready to go. During a swim you can swipe through the screens to view the data and use Force Touch to pause a workout, which is certainly handy. Another nice touch is the ability to use Siri to start tracking a workout. You certainly can't knock MySwimPro for taking full advantage of Apple's Watch features.
Now, we'd love to show you all of the lovely data that the app records, but unfortunately we didn't have a great deal of luck getting the app to play nice in the water. At times it started tracking but most of the time simply didn't pick up at all after numerous attempts. When it came to uploading data, we had a few emails to tell us that there was an issue with uploading the data. We're not entirely sure what the issue was here, but it's a shame because the app is all set up to do a really good job in the water.
Swim.com's time to shine
So it was over to Swim.com's app to see if it could convince us that there is a decent third party swimming app for the Apple Watch Series 2.
In terms of features, Swim.com's app tracks data from distance, lengths and pace. It also wants you to connect with other swimmers, find your nearest swimming spots and build your own workouts. The Watch app like the MySwimPro one is nice and easy to use. You can set goals, select pool size and start a workout from the main screen and then swipe through to see data from your most recent workouts.
During a swim so you can see workout duration, lap counts and heart rate data, although we wouldn't trust the latter especially when you have a read of our lowdown on swimming with heart rate monitoring wearables. You can also swipe through to see previous interval data and average strokes. The app also takes advantage of Force Touch to pause and resume workouts and it'll even show you when you're taking a rest to factor that into the session data. Again, we did have a couple of issues with the tracking, but nowhere near as bad on the MySwimPro app. When it worked it was pretty accurate as you can see from the screenshots below, where we've compared it to data taken from the Garmin Forerunner 935.
Data compared: Swim.com (left and centre) and Garmin Connect (right)
When it comes to review that data back inside of the companion app, it provides a nice breakdown of performance for individual lengths displaying elements like time and pace. Unfortunately there doesn't appear to be any recognition of your swimming stroke of choice, but it does push all of its data to the Apple Activity app to count towards you daily exercise goal after your workout. As far as actionable insights, it's still very much relying on the swimmer to make sense of the data as opposed to telling you what you're doing right and wrong or how to get better.
Watch Series 2 swimming apps: The verdict
We were fully expecting to be impressed by the swimming apps on offer for the Watch Series 2, but much like many of the running apps for the Apple Watch, they clearly still need some work, whether that's with the tracking in the water or simply presenting that data after your swim.
Are they better than Apple's own Workout app? Right now, we're not 100% convinced, but both MySwimPro and Swim.com on paper certainly should offer a whole lot more. If you can get them to work.
The hope is that the third-party swimming apps keep coming for the Watch Series 2 and potentially for the Watch Series 3 (when that turns up) because the hardware that Apple has opened up to app developers works well and there's still an opportunity for deliver a killer swimming app. With watchOS 4 and potentially a new Watch around the corner, hopefully we won't have to wait too long for it.