Deemed the first activity tracker designed by swimmers for swimmers, the team at XMetrics are trying to innovate where other swim activity trackers have struggled.
In the modern triathlon world of data driven training there is no reason why we shouldn't expect an adaptive, up to date swim device that can accurately capture our training data and share this with coaches and athletes. While many are always going to disagree to what extent data use may have for them personally, a bit of feedback has to be better than none - we just want the data to be pretty accurate!
In my experience I haven't used too much swim data as an athlete or as a coach. My athletes regularly upload their swim files (usually using Garmin 920xt), but seeing as I construct a lot of their training sets and see them regularly in the week I can gauge how their swim times and goals are tracking. Also the data received has some reliability issues and more often my athletes can give me a pretty accurate idea of the times they averaged in the swim.
The XMetric activity tracker has some unique features which along with its claimed data accuracy attempts to fill the gaps that other devices may have missed:
- Positioning - the design of the device is such that it attaches to your goggle straps and sits securely on the back of your head. This ergonomic design is pretty hydrodynamic as far as swim devices go, potentially a lot better positioned than a watch on the wrist that you need to press each repetition (XMetrics tracking is automatic).
- Real time audio - using the desktop application you can set real time audio feedback while you swim. In conjunction with the supplied waterproof earphones you can choose one metric to have audio feedback during your sessions (splits, time, stroke frequency, pacer), this might be a cool innovation if you have personal goals or swim alone frequently.
- Data - XMetrics boasts the most cutting edge technology, with biomechanical sensors and advanced algorithms providing you the most accurate data - for me this is where the deal needs to be sealed right? Why fork out lots of money for data that isn't correct. The automatic stroke detection is a nice feature to make sure you accurately record your whole session and the device automatically records your intervals for post session analysis without the need for pushing buttons continuously. XMetrics Link is its the data platform for analysis and monitoring for you and your coach.
- Specifications - There are 2 models, PRO $439.99 and FIT $299.99. The biggest difference is that the FIT doesn't have access to all the real time audio data metrics of the PRO and works more as standard activity tracker for fitness improvement and monitoring. The FIT might not be the option for the avid triathlete?
What I liked
The positioning of the device on the goggle straps at the back of the head is great. Easy to use and stays firmly in place while swimming and turning. Just leave the frame on your goggles the entire time and you can twist the unit out for data uploading, and any changes you need to make to the device. You can access the on/off, up/down buttons easily to switch whilst its on your head but I prefer to remove the unit to make sure its done correctly. The coloured led lights let you know that the device is activated and in the correct mode
The real time audio feature is a good selling point and works effectively enabling monitoring of your swim performance. If you swim alone a lot or are working on some specific improvements this feedback on your pace or distance per stroke may be useful. I didn't have a big need for it and usually left it on the split setting and get my 100m pace splits while I swam.
The accuracy of data is high, when pitted against the Garmin 920xt in the same sessions there was definite improvement. Whether this was due to the device and its accerlerometers I couldn't tell you 100%, but most of my previous pool sessions the Garmin 920xt reads a couple of hundred meters out. This could be due to my poor turning and the time faffing around changing swim equipment, but the auto recording of XMetrics is pretty handy.
What I didn't like
The physical setup and activation of the device is a bit clunky and 'techy'. You have to push the buttons pretty hard to activate the functions when you make changes on the device or switch it on/off and you don't want to miss it to realise after the session that nothing has recorded. This is slightly easier with the earphones in as you can hear the beeps when things are activated.
It's not yet usable for open water swimming, although I have been told by XMetrics that this feature is in the works, it would be super useful for triathletes.
The software is also a bit clunky and may be a bit in-depth turning the average user. Once up and running it was easy to upload and to read the data with some nice graphical features (as above). You can choose to share data via facebook or twitter or export the session into excel. It would be useful to sync with other training platforms. It would also be useful if the android application allowed you to upload data wirelessly.
You can only set the audio feedback to only one metric at a time for your swim eg: stroke frequency. A good development may be to be able to get additional metrics on a cycle without having to change it using the desktop or mobile application.
While the stroke detection feature is great, if you don't swim the entire length properly with the same stroke then it often records your stroke as medley. Not growing up as a swimmer I often do freestyle tumble turns before flipping onto my back to do backstroke and this messed with the stroke detection in my sets.
The Xmetric device has gone a long way to giving some great improvements to accurately capture swim data. Although the setup and use of the device is fairly simple for me, I think for the less tech savvy triathletes this maybe an issue and put them off.
The accuracy and level of data recording is great and it was awesome to just swim and review all the data after the session (audio feedback aside), but it would be nice if the data could be used across other platforms where all training data can be viewed.
The audio feedback was very useful when trying to keep pace during longer intervals or to focus on my diminishing distance per stroke or stroke frequency data as I fatigued. It definitely can give you some good insights to ways to make improvement if you have the knowledge of guidance from a coach which might be the biggest hurdle for the average user.
I think this device, although well intended for various uses really is aimed at serious swimmers or triathletes, maybe even coaches of squads. There is still some development in the ease of use which could bring it to the wider market. XMetrics have put some good thought and development into an improved swim activity tracker and I'd watch out for future development of the product.