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Weekly Mailbag–August 21st, 2010

clip_image002Here’s this week’s edition of the weekly mailbag.  This is a weekly series where I feature a handful of the e-mailed questions I received from the previous week or so.  I try and pick a wide variety of questions. Some are technical in nature, some sport related, and sometimes all sorts of other randomness – as you’ll see below.

This week’s mailbag covers the following topics:

1) Choosing iPhone or Garmin as running buddy?
2) Why no Polar Product Reviews?
3) Want Android support for ANT+?  Read on…
4) Random note of the week: Looking for web designer

Question #1: Choosing iPhone or Garmin as running buddy?
From Ankur-

“I have a basic question for you. I am seeing all sorts of great apps on my iPhone. I have a heart monitoring watch that I got for $40 which is great. So now my question — is it still worth buying the Garmin? (I am passionate about running and biking but not super duper passionate).

The Garmin seems pretty expensive – is it worth it? Feels like an app + heart rate monitor watch can do what it does and is much cheaper?”

Phone based technology is quickly going from being an outlier to be a mainstay in sports technology.  A year ago folks would have looked at you funny…yet now it’s completely normal.  Making the situation even better is that there are now ANT+ adapters out on the market that allow you to gather HR data (and other ANT+ data) and feed it into your favorite running iPhone/iPod app.

One option would be to consider picking up the Wahoo Fitness adapter and then using it with your iPhone.  The adapters are shipping this week and work pretty well, here’s a write-up I did on them a bit back.  There’s also a bunch of other companies nearing release as well, in addition to DigiFit, which has dongles out now – though the app is fairly expensive.
 
And, if you’re still thinking a dedicated watch may be the way to go then check out this post from earlier this week to walk through your best bets based on your athlete profile.

That said, if you’re comfortable with the iPhone and an adapter, then it’s really a great combination that gives you tons of flexibility in choosing the software application (there are some 30+ companies developing apps for the Wahoo Fitness ANT+ iPhone adapter) while also keeping your initial costs low.

Question #2: Why no Polar Product Reviews?
From Slalley-

“I read your review of the new Timex watch.  I like your review style.  Have you ever done a review regarding Polar products?”

It’s actually kinda funny.  My very first sports watch was a Polar HR monitor + food pod.  I even got the bike kit and all.  In fact, I even wrote up a little mini-review for some friends at the time (nothing by today’s ‘In Depth Review’ standards.  But, I ended up returning it less than a month later.  What’s even funnier is that The Girl (an Educator) actually has a full high school class where the students use Polar’s all year long to better understand and track physical fitness daily, and she can run circles around you with Polar devices and knowledge.  Yet…after doing a bunch of research I found that for what I wanted – which was flexibility and GPS capabilities – the Polar just didn’t have an option in the game. 

While today they do have a GPS-enabled sports device, I still feel that as a company they are lagging behind the curve.  There’s no doubt that they are one of the leaders (if not THE leader) in heart rate monitors…but once you get beyond heart rate monitoring, their offerings pretty much fall apart.  I’d love for them to revive themselves a bit, and there’s been some hints at that with the CS500 bike computer they introduced recently, as well as some rumors swirling around them and upcoming bike devices and Interbike – that if true, might at least set them back on the road to competitiveness.

But as it stands today, they have far too many offerings in the market which confuse consumers, yet the offerings they do have don’t really match in any simple way to what the large target segments of the athletic world actually want.

Question #3: ANT+ Support on Android Phones
From me…to you!

As you may remember from back in July – various athletes competing in the Tour de France this year utilized standard HTC Legend Android phones which have ANT+ chips in them to relay live information from their ANT+ sensors to the phone and then to the whole wide Internets for us to track in real time.  I profiled that whole setup back then.

The phones used while publically available actually had a special firmware (software) update that enabled the ANT+ chip that’s already in them, as by default, that chip is disabled.  There’s been some interest from some folks around trying to get the firmware enabled so developers can take advantage of it on the Android platform.

In discussions with the various peeps involved in the project – they’re trying to gauge what interest there is in such capabilities on the Android platform (there’s already a ton of work being done on the iPhone platform).

So…this is your big chance!

If you have an Android phone, or if having ANT+ built right into the phone is of use/value/significance to you – please drop a note in the comments below, or an e-mail to me.  The folks making such decisions are really interested in hearing feedback from ya’ll – so go at it!

Random note of the week… In case you haven’t picked up on my little trickery by now, I also use the Weekly Mailbag posts to mention all sorts of other randomness that didn’t quite fit in my posts the rest of the week.  Sorta like that plastic grocery bag of semi-unpacked stuff you take through the TSA screening checkpoint in addition to your actual normal carry-on items.  Anyway…

I’m been hoping/planning on redesigning the bulk of the site for the last few months, but life has mostly gotten in the way of that.  As a result, I’m looking to hire a web design person/firm to complete the template portions.  If you or your web design firm is looking for your next exciting project and want to help make this little site chug a bit better, drop me a note and include a few example sites of your work.  The site runs on Blogger today, and thus templates would need to be designed with that in mind.  While I like the idea of WordPress, I just don’t have the day to day time to manage it for the traffic volume (upwards of 200K+ page views a month) and content I have.  At this point I prefer to spend my time on writing good posts, rather than fixing web code.  I know, I lose some geek points there…  Anyway, e-mail on the sidebar.

Recent Mailbags:

Weekly Mailbag – August 17th, 2010

- Travelling with Gels
- Displaying Live ANT+ Data to a computer 
- Which Garmin’s I use for races

Weekly Mailbag – August 7th, 2010

- Clip-on aerobars
- Coolest kids tri race report…evah!
- Crashing with a carbon bike, and replacement

You can find all past mailbags here.

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62 Comments

  1. Hi,

    I am the owner of a Android Nexus One, not sure if there is a Ant+ chip in this model but this surely something I am interested in.

    Reply
  2. I will be in the market for a new phone soon. And I won’t go the iPhone route because I don’t want AT&T. So if there was an Android phone with ANT+ and a solid app or two, I’d be buying. Otherwise, looks like it’s an Edge 500 for the holidays!

    Reply
  3. mo

    I trie a couple of the currently available iPhone based gps apps (runkeeper, strands, forgot the name of the other one) and found that 1) they weren’t that accurate and 2) they really used up a lot of battery . I doubt you could get 10 hours of tracking… The wahoo fitness sounds better. Also, if you’re a triathlete, you couldn’t use it on the swim. Just my two cents fwiw.

    Reply
  4. runfatboyrun

    Just to pick up on Question 1.

    ” Making the situation even better is that there are not ANT+ adapters out on the market that allow you to gather HR data (and other ANT+ data) and feed it into your favorite running iPhone/iPod app”

    Not sure if that “not” in the sentence is meant to be there?

    It might be worth holding back say 2 more weeks, just to see what the iPod refresh gives – It is possible that Apple could introduce some more compatability for the Nano, Touch.

    Along those lines, reading link to engadget.com

    - Basically Apple’s changed the T&C, which now allows 3rd party app developers, to use 1st party hardware developers’ hardware that can work with iPods, iPhones. I’d read that that more app developers can use the same 3rd party hardware (dongle) etc. Maybe Apple will wait for BT4 – but it’s worth having a gander at the September iPod refresh ? One hint is that the demos from the OS 3.0 announcement/keynote never went live – and thats 15 months ago, & we’re now on 4.0. Maybe they’ve had some time to work on this? We’ll see, but it would be super if they could, whether for September, of the 4.1 iPad, iPod, iPhone convergence in November. It’s mighty strange to think that Nike+ hasn’t really taken in HRM, nor RK etc – it seems that moving the iPods to a more sporty use could fit the iPods current status in the iDevice lineup. (Apple adding an A-GPS to the nano is possible).
    Either way, I’d imagine Wahoo, Digifit and others are going to be busy.

    Reply
  5. I’m definitely interested in ANT+ for the Droid. I’m planning to upgrade my phone within the next month or so, so any phones that offer this kind of capability would definitely be on my radar to buy.

    Reply
  6. I’d be interested. I have a first generation iphone, and when I upgrade ANT+ support might sway my decision. It would be particularly cool if it could download data off of an ANT+ device like the 310XT, instead of just having realtime support. That way you could upload data without a laptop, even if you weren’t running with the device (I’m not going to be running with my phone). Support for things like the scale would be cool as well.

    Reply
  7. Android Fanboy

    I can’t wait to start seeing Android phones with ANT+ capabilities. I got the T-mobile G1 as soon as it was released, and even though the phone is now starting to show it’s age, I’m still very happy with it.

    Since My Tracks has been open sourced, an ANT+ Android phone could easily turned into the perfect bike computer. I’ve used My Tracks on my current phone and I’m impressed that I can get a pretty decent GPS reception even with the phone in my pocket.

    We’ve gotten a taste of some of the possibilities an ANT+ Android phone could bring with the HTC-Columbia demo at the Tour de France, but that is only the beginning.

    You wouldn’t need a computer to upload your workouts, your workouts could be edited and uploaded from almost anywhere with just one click on your phone.

    You could also share information about yourself with other members of the group that you are riding with. I go out riding with a friend who is a stronger rider than myself, and he often rides out in front. I always thought it would be great if he could see *my* heart rate on his computer, so he would know when he’s pushing the pace a bit too much without me just falling off the back or yelling at him to slow down.

    Using Google maps, planning and following a route would be a piece of cake. I used to have a GPS for my car, but I’ve found the Navigator that comes with Android to be more than a worthy replacement.

    But the most exciting thing that I think could come from an ANT+ android phone is creating and improving cycling maps for everyone. If someone (say Google) simply collects data of where bikes actually go, it would be pretty easily to build a map of up roads that are good and bad for cycling.

    A fully loaded Garmin Edge 705 goes for $500-$600, and has a lot of redundant functionality to my phone. It does have a screen that you can read in the sunlight, and that is the one area that I worry a phone bike computer could come up short.

    I’ve been holding off getting an Edge 705 and a new phone, hoping a ANT+ android phone will soon be an option. I hope I don’t have to wait too much longer.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    Hi Ray,

    I don’t have an Android phone … yet. This is something that I’m looking at in the next 12 months or so. ANT+ support would defiantly tip me to one phone or another.

    -Sam

    Reply
  9. I would definitely love to get an ANT+ device for my Nexus One. It could be as simple as a blackbox that reads ANT+ and uses bluetooth to communicate with the phone. I can just throw the thing in my bag and be happy with it. Then it does not just works with the Nexus One, but the iPhone, standard Sony Ericson, Nokia (non)Symbian phones provided there is an app for that platform.

    Reply
  10. Anonymous

    Partly due to your review I have bought an FR60 with foot pod that I use on my runs. I am considering bying a HTC Wildfire android phone to track my runs with GPS using the endomondo app.
    It would be great to be able to use the Garmin HRM and foot pod with this phone.

    Reply
  11. Dan

    I will be jumping into the smartphone market sometime in the near future, and the ability to access an ANT+ chip will be a major factor in the decision.

    Reply
  12. Hey. I have a HTC Hero and I’ve love that option!

    Reply
  13. Hey. I have a HTC Hero and I’ve love that option!

    Reply
  14. tms

    Don’t have an Android-based phone at this point, but integrating an ANT+ receiver would definitely tip the scales heavily in the favour of anyone who added it.

    Frankly any portable device that can access an ANT+ sensor network and allows me to run my own software to process it would be a huge benefit – having that in a phone is just a bonus ;) Lots of ANT+ head units are out there, but most of them have kludgy interfaces and don’t take full advantage of the data that they can capture!

    Reply
  15. Anonymous

    Add another to your list. I am a Droid Incredible user. As some others have said, I am not sure if it would even be possible, but I would love to have the ant+ option available on my phone.

    Reply
  16. md3

    Hello, I have a HTC Desire and I would really love to have ANT+ Support for that!!!

    Reply
  17. Ben

    Hi Ray, love the blog!
    I don’t own a Smartphone at the moment, but would be in the market in the next 12 months. ANT+ features could well be a deciding factor between brands/models. Relevant apps would be the second factor after that.
    So, put it to your contacts this way- it could be what makes a whole lot of nerdy running/cycling smartphone users choose their phone. That’s nerdpower for you :D

    Keep up the awesome work!!!

    Reply
  18. Hey Ray! I’d love to see the ANT+ chip enabled on any of the devices. I’m on the HTC Hero, but moving to the Evo in Dec (if something better isn’t out).

    Reply
  19. Abrax5

    I say “Yay! for ANT+ activation in smartphones”. Big “+1″ from my side, even “+10″ if I had the choice.

    Reply
  20. I tried finding some info on which HTC models have the TexasInstruments chip which include the ANT+ support.

    Since the Legend has it and enabling it for TdF was a simple fimware update for the team phones, I would presume that atleast the Desire has it also.

    I currently have a G1, but I’m in the marked for a new phone pretty soon, and I’m acctually just waiting to see which phone has this capability, since I’m currently using a Nokia N79 Active edition with HR monitor, for my training needs.

    Reply
  21. Ant+ is such a great and easy to work with standard, that I think if it were thrown into Android devices you would see a ton of new apps that blow away current watches.

    All you need to know to write Android apps is Java and there’s a billion developers that know Java already.

    Reply
  22. Hi DC and fans,

    I’m the developer of iMobileIntervals (link to imobiletntervals.com), an iphone/ipod touch app that as of last Friday supports ANT+ display and data logging to TrainingPeaks and our own server for analysis, using the WahooFitness sensor key. i also have (well, my wife) an HTC Droid Incredible, and I’m very excited about bringing my app to Android. I wonder if this firmware could be part of the upcoming OTA for Android 2.2? That would be wicked!

    Reply
  23. Joe

    Our whole family has myTouch 3G Fender LE phones. We’ve held off on getting any cycling computers in the hope that we’ll gain the ability to use ANT+ revolution counters, heart rate monitors etc. with our phones and an app like My Tracks or a commercial competitor. Failing that, ANT+ compatibility will be a major factor in our choice of our next phone(s).

    Reply
  24. I’d also be very, very keen to see Ant+ coming to the droid. Much more of a fan of the Android OS and way of doing things over iPhone.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  25. Anonymous

    Add another who’d be interested with ANT+ on phones.

    Reply
  26. Kaves

    I’d definitely be interested in the droid upgrade. Ideally I wouldn’t have to buy the Edge 500.

    Also, on the web design front check out link to bydefault.tv the guy does amazing work.

    Reply
  27. Ant+ yes please

    Reply
  28. Anonymous

    Ant+ yes please

    Reply
  29. I would love to see ANT+ on the android. I’ve been holding off on getting a new phone waiting for this to come out.

    Reply
  30. I also have a Nexus android phone and plan to stay on the Android platform for my next phone too. I think Ant+ or something would be really useful to communicate with heart rate monitor strap, foot pod, etc. I would also like a watch that could display the info because phones are a bit clunky to wear around the wrist.

    Reply
  31. ANT+ on Android OS please!

    Reply
  32. I have the Droid X and it would be awesome if it worked with ANT+ devices.

    Reply
  33. Eli

    I own a Garmin 705 band iPhone 3g now. The iPhone I plan to replace in December and having Ant+ support would very much sway me to the phone.

    I don’t think I’d really use the phone to replace my 705 though as battery life and ruggedness of the phone is probably way less. What I’d really like is the ability to create a course on the phone with its much better mapping tools (say google maps with a bike route, or download something from mapmyride or garmin connect) and then be able to send it to my 705.

    Reply
  34. Ray,

    as per my email, ant+ in a phone that you already carry would be killer.

    flexible, open firmware that supports it (especially the 8 channel chip) would be exceptional.

    basically Golden Embed in the device you already carry.

    thanks!

    g

    Reply
  35. Hi! I would love to see ANT+ in my cellphone. Like you self have stated, Garmin Edge has a hard time keeping up with cellphones. I’m all for a do-it-all device!

    Reply
  36. Hi,

    as soon as a smartphone with Android will support ANT+ i will buy that.
    If in the next 2 month nothing happens, i will try to implement ANT+ support in Android. I have a lot of experience on building operating systems and also on programming embedded devices.
    My actual problem is lack of time which hinder me to start right now

    Reply
  37. I would be very interested in ANT+ support on Android. I would consider buying a phone or upgrading to a phone that has support. I currently own a Motorola Droid 1 which I do not know whether or not it supports ANT+, but I would definitely purchase an Android app that would allow it to work with my existing ANT accessories: HRM, Cadence/Speed, and PowerTap Hub.

    Reply
  38. Firstly,
    Great post and thanks for doing the deep investigation in this area. I can’t believe HTC are even questioning if they should release this firmware update.
    Why wouldn’t they?
    Seriously think about you have a unique value prop here – integrated training device. No need to buy Garmin or polar – just by HTC. I can save $500 straight away … that would contra the price of the phone so why wouldn’t I buy it?

    Look I am a developer with two patents in the area of multi sensory activation of content and I have just started development on iPhone but why would I – it needs a case / dongle to work with Ant+ …

    HTC you have it inbuilt and won’t activate? Can you simply tell me why? Please release firmware, you will sell more phones period……..

    Thanks again for the great blog.

    Reply
  39. Right I am so amazed HTC have not just enabled this from day one I have set up a petition to try and count interested parties.

    Please sign the petition and spread the word.

    link to ipetitions.com

    Reply
  40. Tim

    definitely, Definitely, DEFINITELY, want and would use ANT+ on an HTC phone. I have an EVO now, doubt it has an ANT+ chip in it, but it sure is big enough. Anything that can cut down on the number of gadgets that I take with me on rides and runs is a plus. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it.

    Reply
  41. Anonymous

    Hi,

    +1 for Ant+ on HTC. I have an HTC Desire and the only minus at the moment is no Ant+.

    I’d be in the marker for an HTC device for my wife as well if it had Ant+.

    as fyi, i am using My Tracks and it works great.

    thanks for your great techie-tri related articles.

    Reply
  42. Apparently the Motorola Droid 1 has a TI Wilink 6 chip while the Droid2 and DroidX have Wilink 7 chip. This means that the entire family of Motorola Droids also can theoretically support ANT+, so here is a vote for the ANT+ support to be enabled for them as well!

    Reply
  43. Anonymous

    Droid Incredible. Want ANT+!

    Reply
  44. I would absolutely love to see ANT+ support in my Nexus One. It would also make me choose an particular phone, everything else being equal, once I need to upgrade this. As is, I don’t own an ANT+ device but would definitely buy one if I could use My Tracks with one.

    Reply
  45. There’s either wrong information floating around about this or secret information about HTC’s handsets.

    I’m all over the subject of an ANT+ Android. But right now, there are no Android HTC models running the needed chipset. I think some of the confusion stems from the fact HTC has Windows Mobile devices with the WiLink 6.0 chip. Only those devices can have ANT+ connectivity with a firmware change. Also confusing was HTC’s decision to use Legends with entirely different processors in their TdF project. HTC is in deep with Qualcomm, but hopefully TI chips can be sneaked into future models.

    Motorloa Droid and Droid X use WiLink 6 and 7, respectively. The Droid X with WiLink 7.0 chip is just waiting for an ANT+ friendly app; no special firmware needed. True for any WiLink 7.0 chip-containing phone.

    I can’t get the Droid X here in Sweden:-(

    Reply
  46. Hi Djh-

    I’m not sure if your HTC Legend comments are accurate. I have pretty detailed e-mails from the ANT+ and HTC teams noting that the units used for TdF were off the shelf with the WiLink 6 (1271), but with updated firmware.

    Here was my exact snippet regarding this from the team:

    My question:
    “Regarding the HTC Legend – is there a specific model/edition which has the ANT+ support in it? And can a normal person buy that specific model and use MyTracks to do this today?”

    Answer from ANT+:
    “This is enabled on a standard HTC Legend. However, the HTC Legends in the store do not have this capability. It would require a small firmware upgrade from HTC to make the Legend ANT+ capable and that is not publicly available yet.”

    That said, I’ll loop back around again next week at Interbike and get more details – as well as at the ANT+ Symposium in two weeks.

    Reply
  47. I emailed you more on this.

    I got the same info as you did regarding the Legends. It appears the teams were misinformed as to the availability of the handsets/technology supplied to them by HTC. It happens.

    Most HTC handsets, including Legend, use Qualcomm processors. The Legends in the TdF used TI WiLink processors and are not available in any market. HTC uses TI WiLink 6.0 chips in selected Windows Mobile devices.

    Excellent blog!

    Reply
  48. I am the owner of a Android HTC Tattoo, do not think there is a Ant+ chip in this model but this is surely something I am interested in.

    Reply
  49. Anonymous

    YESS ! Ant+ on Droid would be fantastic. I’m researching training gadgets right now and would gladly pay up to 100usd for any adapter for my Samsung Galaxy that would enable this. Keep on pushing :)

    Reply
  50. Sorry to prod, but any update on this? I’ve been holding off on buying a new phone until Ant+ becomes available/enabled on any Android platform phone. I would *love* to use a new phone as a cockpit computer and data collector instead of my Edge 305

    Reply
  51. Dropped AT&T, and my iPhone, for Sprint and an HTC Hero. Would love an ANT+ App.
    However, still using my iPhone as an iPod, b/c it sooo kicks the ass of the Hero in every regard.

    Reply
  52. I have a Droid X and think this would be ANT+ on it would be useful, via a dongle?

    Reply
  53. Word direct from Dynastream is that the firmware to enable ANT+ on WiLink 6 & 7 is downloadable from the app.

    So a MyTracks clone could be made to do ANT+ quite easily.

    In fact, MyTracks is *the* strategy for getting this out into the world.

    Reply
  54. Very interested in the Droid platform. Currently an EVO user, and I’d like to avoid building out another mobile tech infrastructure when the EVO has so much computing power available to it.

    Reply
  55. nn

    I already have a Nexus One and use MyTracks. I’d love to use ANT+ on it. Hell, I even offered to write some code to support this if only it was enabled.

    Reply
  56. Andy Skal

    I am a Nexus One owner and while I don’t think it has the hardware, if it does I would love to have it unlocked. In any case, ant+ support will be a requirement for my next smartphone purchase – HTC this is your chance to lead the way for the athletic market!

    Reply
  57. Really hope more manufacturers (like HTC) will support ANT+ in their Android phones. Both on hardware AND firmware level… For now will watch for SE Xperia Arc ;)

    Reply
  58. Will

    I’m in the market for a new phone and having ant+ on a phone would definitely be something I’d be interested in. Is this something that is going to be unlocked soon via firmware update on some of the Droid models with the right chipsets?

    Reply
  59. Anonymous

    Motorola Droid Pro user here, please add me to those waiting for Android ANT+

    Reply
  60. Hey Guys-

    Check out this post I put together for a bit more information on phones currently in the market:

    link to slowtwitch.com

    Thanks!

    Reply
  61. I have a droidx and am EXTREMELY interested in using ant+ technology for my cycling. I know the droidx has it built into the chip but is disabled. I would even gladly pay for this feature to be unlocked, even though its already in the phone.

    Reply
  62. Hi All-

    For the latest on ANT+ phones, see this post:

    link to dcrainmaker.com

    Thanks!

    Reply

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