FINIS Swimsense Review (and Comparison with the Swimovate) [UPDATED]

A week ago, I was excited to receive my new FINIS Swimsense watch in the mail. Originally, I was excited about the Swimovate watch, which would record my swim workouts and give me some ability to remember the intervals that I swam and how they performed.
However, in using the Swimovate, I was disappointed in a few things and delighted about others:
1. The watch doesn’t need any calibration to my stroke thankfully. Some of the older models required you to swim certain strokes with it to calibrate it.
2. The watch loses count of laps on occasion. This is very annoying when it somehow doesn’t register a turn at a wall.
3. The watch cannot be used for distance per stroke training and doesn’t like it when you swim under 6 (one arm) strokes; it sometimes thinks you never got to the end of a lap.
4. The watch’s user interface is a bit convoluted and for some reason difficult to navigate the menu system. I have often made mistakes trying to get into the menu to see a previous workout. I have also sometimes erased its memory by accident.
5. All in all, I usually just use the watch to get a sense for my laps when I workout so that I know approximately how many sets and laps I’ve swam.
6. The newer Swimovate allows you to save workouts on your PC. This is great. However, I’m on a Mac so I can’t comment on whether the new version of the watch has improved on its interface because that’s about when I heard about the Swimsense and decided to order that.
7. Annoyingly, you have to actively tell the watch that you’ve finished a workout and then it will save it. If you let the watch time out and go back to clock mode, it will NOT save a workout. So you have to press the Swim button and hold it for 2 seconds in order for it to come out of Swim mode and save your workout. I hate this – there have been a few times where I got out of the pool and forgot to hold the Swim button for 2 seconds in order to end the workout and it did not save it.
Upon playing with the Swimsense, I’ve found it to be a much better product than the Swimovate. Some comments:
1. Even though both the Swimsense and Swimovate both have 4 buttons, the Swimsense’s menu navigation is much more intuitive than the Swimovate.
2. Like the Swimovate, it is annoying when you have to actively tell the Swimsense that the workout is over. Exitting out will NOT save a workout. But in the case of the Swimsense, you have to Stop and then Reset to save the workout. In both cases, I think this is really bad. The Garmin 305 GPS watch, for example, saves the workout no matter what you do; if you turn the watch off, it just saves everything that you did and assumes that was a workout. This is a much better interface behavior than defaulting to not saving.
3. The upload of data is via an Adobe AIR application, which works both on the Mac and PC, to the FINIS Swimsense website. Originally, you could only upload for free but then it would delete your workout after a few minutes. In order to save workouts, you have to pay $9.99/month. Then it would save your uploads forever (or at least until you stopped paying). After some feedback, this has changed now to giving everyone the ability to save every workout. I think FINIS is smart to have made this change.
4. The graph analysis of the workouts is excellent. If you swim a set with multiple laps, you can see the data for the entire set, PLUS you see the data for each individual lap as well, with time and distance. Other graphs you get are Stroke Count breakdown for the entire workout, Pace in time for each interval, Stroke Count Over Time for each interval, SWOLF Score, Stroke Rate and Distance/Stroke.
Each interval is color coded for the type of stroke: free, breast, fly, back and mixed. When you mouseover the graph, there is additional data that pops up on the data points.
5. Some weirdness appears when the time is shown with a decimal point, but I think it should be a colon, ie. so 1.40 is not really 1 and 4/10 of a minute, which is really 1 minute and 24 seconds, but rather 1 minute and 40 seconds. I’ve mentioned this to the FINIS people and they are looking into it.
6. A calendar interface is also presented there so you can go back and view a workout on a given day. Very nicely done here.
7. So far, the Swimsense has NEVER lost a lap like the Swimovate. It’s ability to determine when I turn at a wall has not failed yet.
8. Also, unlike the Swimovate, the Swimsense doesn’t lose a lap when I go under 6 strokes for distance per stroke training. It records it correctly. However, it is not recognizing my stroke correctly since I was swimming free but it thinks I swam breast. This may be that my stroke rate was so slow that it got confused. I’ve also mentioned this to the FINIS people.
9. They also display the stroke rate on the site which is really cool. However, we TI swimmers use a tempo trainer which shows our tempo per arm; the data display is for a single arm’s stroke, which is the arm on which the Swimsense is sitting on. Thus, you have to divide that stroke rate by 2 to get a tempo trainer rate for a single arm.
All in all, I am very impressed with the FINIS Swimsense. I would highly recommend this product over that of the Swimovate. It’s more expensive but it seems to be of better technology and the analysis tools on the website are superb. It is a welcome addition to my collection of high tech training tools!