A look at tonight’s hard brick workout with the Garmin Fit app and new Live Tracking service

Earlier this week, Garmin introduced a new bit of functionality to their existing Garmin Fit iPhone/Android app.  This is the app that uses their Garmin Fit iPhone adapter to access ANT+ data.  It came out last fall, and for the most part I thought it was a waste of money.  It wasn’t compatible with any other apps, and the app itself did far less than most other free apps.  The app itself is free, and doesn’t require the ANT+ adapter for super-basic functionality.

The newly introduced Live Tracking service allows a user to invite others via e-mail or Twitter to watch live as they broadcast not only their location information, but workout details such as speed and ANT+ information (like heart rate and cadence).

But, would this new Live Tracking service change my opinion of the app?  Well, I figured tonight’s workout was a perfect place to try it out.  I had a 80 minute fairly difficult indoor trainer ride, followed by a 25 minute tempo run.  All in, nearly two hours on a weeknight.

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I started off getting the app configured, and since I wanted to stream sensor data it would require use of the Garmin Fit iPhone adapter.  Since I already went in-depth on the app itself previously, I’m just going to focus on the key LiveTrack streaming pieces.  Adding the sensors is pretty quick and straight forward.  Though, the ability to see pairing ID’s for all devices would make life easier – especially in a race situation with potentially multiple devices (if you forgot to pair ahead of time).

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I did find it interesting that crank length was listed within the power meter settings.  This appears to be a nod to use with Garmin Vector down the road.  Since there’s no other ANT+ power meter that I’m aware of that uses or cares about that specification at the head unit point.

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With the sensors added, I went ahead and configured the Live Tracking aspects.  I set it up to e-mail myself (and my coach), as well as to Tweet out the link at the start of the activity (as opposed to sending it ahead of time).  You can also use Facebook.  Finally, I was able to name the session anything I wanted.  I simply called it ‘Indoor Trainer’.

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With that, it’s more or less business as normal in that you go ahead and start the activity.  You’ll notice a new section has been added showing that you’ll be enabling LiveTrack.  Also, because I was indoors, I set the GPS to be off.  Though, interestingly, it still reported my GPS location.  I wouldn’t expect it to do that.

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Once you’ve gone ahead and started the activity, all of the data pages are largely the same.

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Since this update also added power meter support, you’ll see that as well now:

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The numbers pretty much matched the Edge 800 I had at all times, as expected. 

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But, let’s get back to the LiveTrack piece.  When I started the activity, it was automatically tweeted out – which some of you noticed.

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When you clicked the above link, it would take you to this bare bones page:

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Any by bare bones, I mean – mostly not working.  Over the course of the 80 minute bike ride, I got exactly three updates, excluding the final update that I finished.  Carrier pigeons move faster that the update service did.  Given my phone was within range of WiFi, and everything else on the interwebs was working fine for the phone, I’m not sure why it was failing so badly [Update: The LiveTrack team reached out to me and let me know that the current app logic goes into a ‘low-update’ mode while in indoor mode, in order to reduce battery. I think that if anywhere this behaviour should be the opposite. Data is likely WiFi, and one could even plug in phone. Though, I never saw battery as an issue indoors].  You can see here where the app itself is at the 80 minute marker, meanwhile the site is still chillin’ back at 36 minutes.  Stopping/opening/closing didn’t seem to help.  But in a race situation, you’d never know otherwise – it would just be silently failing for all your friends and family.

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Also, the ‘Started at…” is useful, but of more use would be a line below it that says “Last updated at…”.  The graphs weren’t terribly useful in this case, though later on in the running section they were better:

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In general, this didn’t work at all while indoors on the bike.  The app itself did however correctly record data the entire time, and once completed it successfully updated the full detail to Garmin Connect.  So the app itself was working as expected, but the LiveTrack piece wasn’t.

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Onto the run!

The run would be outdoors, so I stashed my phone inside a iPhone running case.  I happened to have the Wahoo Fitness one, so that worked well.

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Like before, I setup the sensors (heart rate and cadence), but this time enabled the GPS and then set it to running mode.  After those were good to go, I was ready to run.

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As I started the run, the app tracked data locally, which I could see while looking at the phone on my arm.

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But the cool part was that this time it DID work for all of you!  A bunch of you told me via Twitter that the app was indeed sending updates out about every 60 seconds, which is definitely ‘good enough’ for most race applications.  And a huge improvement of no data at all.

Below is what you would have seen if viewing the page while I was running.  There does seem to be a few odd drops in the ANT+ data, like the cadence and heart rate dropping out (which doesn’t show in the final Garmin Connect file from the app or the file from FR910XT).  And the pace chart is completely useless with a range of 2hrs and 30minutes per mile.  Slugs probably move faster than that.  How about a refined pace range?

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You can switch the view to satellite instead of map:

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I would rate this service as barely beta level, but conceptually the right direction . You can clearly see the ANT+ data down at the bottom, and the map itself is accurate.  It appears that even though it was updating every 60 seconds, it was backfilling the data in between those points.  Otherwise areas where I made sharp turns (such as across the bridge along the river) would have been odd angles.  So that’s good news (since services such as the GTU10 and the Spot Tracker don’t backfill in between data points).

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However, this is a paid service ($1.99 a month) – and as such, I think it needs a bit more detail.  I’d like to see laps/splits shown (just like Garmin Connect) [Update: I’ve been told by the LiveTrack team that this is shown if you however over the mile marker, but indoors it wasn’t working for me due to the spotty data].  And, there needs to be better stability of the data.  Data dropouts to the LiveTrack service seem odd and don’t match up to what other devices on my person show.  And a closer look at the FR910XT heart rate data vs the app HR data show clear differences, mostly what appear to be recording rate issues.  And finally, the issue of the indoor trainer implies a complete failure to function.  On the bright side, the final run distances were pretty darn close, 3.89 miles (FR910XT vs 3.93 miles (phone).

As an interesting side note on battery, you can see the battery drain over the course of the two hours (displayed at the top of the screenshots).  The phone was on the entire time (display brilliantly on), with the dongle plugged in.  You can go check mail/surf the internet, etc, and the app will continue recording/transmitting.  I was impressed with the battery life, it was better than I expected.

As noted above, I think this is a good start, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it yet.  Given cost of the dongle is $45, and the app another $2 a month, it’s still not performing as well as other services.  For example, RunKeeper has had non-sensor data LiveTracking forever, as well as Endomondo, and many others.  And all those apps are far more flexible in data pages than the Garmin FIT app.  Finally, if you buy an ANT+ adapter, the Garmin FIT adapter only works with the Garmin FIT app, whereas the more common Wahoo ANT+ adapter works with a 100+ apps.  Though, it is more expensive at about $80.

Of course, I’d much prefer to see the ANT+ data integrated into the GTU-10 instead.  I dream of the day ANT+ tracking is offered there, with it’s extremely long battery (up to 30 days), and waterproof gum-package size, it continues to be awesome for endurance tracking.

I’d love to hear feedback from others on how the app is working for them with LiveTracking.  I’ve got some interesting runs scheduled over the next week that I’ll be sharing…we’ll see how they shake out!

Thanks for reading!

27 Comments

  1. Hello ray very interesting post as usal,
    I am looking for a life tracking tool which works outside the us meaning i live in colombia and do a lot of long runs or bike by my own, and it is somhow not the safest place and my wife gets concerned , so whcih tool do you recomend for me here mainly just tracking device where someone at the pc at home can see where i am ant+ would be good but not a must what is about the garmin 10 you meantioned..

    Reply
    • James replied

      For some reason the livetrack wont send emails or facebook messages on an android. any ideas?

      Reply
  2. Have the exact same problem.. I use Endomondo.. My wife can see where I am at all times by logging on to their website. Works like a charm.

    Reply
  3. Like Marc said, this could be kind of nice for friends/family/significant others who might be concerned about our whereabouts on long runs and rides. It could also be useful for coaches/sag vehicles for group rides and runs. And of course it would be nice for races, but I doubt the USAT refs would like us running around with our phones on our arms. Running races, however, you could get away with it, though it might be annoying.

    Reply
  4. 1. I've long hoped that smart phones (which should have all the necessary components - GPS, ability to interface with ANT+ or bluetooth sensors, etc.) could replace a separate dedicated device on my wrist. In previous experiments, though, I've found GPS fitness apps (e.g. CardioRunner) to provide much, much worse GPS data than my Garmin Forerunners. Looking at the details, it seemed that, even with settings tweaking, the GPS data just wasn't being taken frequently enough, presumably to preserve battery power. Do you believe that's no longer the case? Your run #s didn't seem too far off.
    2. Is there any ANT+ solution for Android yet? Or is what you've described here really only available for iPhone?
    3. Thanks as always!

    Reply
  5. Good morning Ray - interesting post. I look forward to seeing how this app further develops.

    Reply
  6. And what about Android?

    Reply
  7. Ray,
    Do you know if Garmin has plans to update this app to allow uploading of data from the 910xt to Garmin connect throught the dongle? It would be so much more convenient to upload through an Iphone or Ipad then have to boot up my laptop to use the USB stick.
    Thanks,
    Jeremy

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    I would guess that the indoor problem is a software bug because the GPS was turned off... I wouldn't be surprised if there's some software filter to reduce the data transfer when there's not much movement.

    +1 for Endomondo. I used to use that quite a bit, but I've subsequently moved completely to Garmin Connect when I got my 910XT. The live tracking is not that important to me.

    Reply
  9. Thanks coach-z
    I wil try this endomondo out ...

    Reply
  10. Bryan, some of the Sony range (Xperia) are ANT+ chipped out of the box. I think you will find some reviews that Ray has done previously. Usual exemplary standard of course.
    I use MotionX GPS off Iphone and I have almost zero data quality issues. Occasionally in high density building areas but really no worse than a dedicated device.

    Reply
  11. Jfernoux

    Hi Ray,
    you (and Garmin) should take a look at Runtastic pro app for iPhone. A pretty amazing app that follows you live (I mean really live), allows you to take and share pictures during your session (the tracking just switches off during the pic sending), tells you with a very nice voice your current status (distance, heart rate, time) and turns off the iPod when the app is speaking to you ! No need of an Internet connection if you don't want to share pictures but only be followed on the website by your wife who wants to check you're always moving and not having a beer in a bar...I don't have the exact cost in mind but it's around 5€.
    Best regards. Jérôme

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    pratoni, there is an android version of this as well.

    Reply
  13. Greg

    Thanks for the article. I've just bought a Garmin Edge 810. I use it with the Garmin Connect app on my iPhone4S. When starting LiveTrack on the app, it tells me it has started (both on the app and on the 810) but it usually hasn't sent the email. It might send it 1 in 20 times. Once when it has worked for me, it didn't send any HR data. I'm hoping for a fix from Garmin. I updated the Garmin Edge 810 to v2.50, but it didn't fix this.

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      I would note this either in the Garmin Forums or the Edge 810 post. Only because it's for a seperate app as this app (the Garmin Fit app is separate). Might get a bit more attention there from Garmin folk.

      Reply
  14. Allan

    Has anyone successfully gotten the Android version of Garmin Fit working with the ANT Radio Service on Google Play?

    If so, do you have any pointers for me? My device is using a Garmin ANT+ Stick, and is working properly with the accompanying ANT USB Service and demo apps. It's only Garmin Fit that isn't recognizing that there are ANT devices present.

    If not, can the Garmin Developers fix this? This appears to be the officially-sanctioned Android ANT+ library from the ANT Alliance -- so if the Garmin Fit app touts support for ANT devices, it should support this configuration.

    Reply
    • Robert replied

      Hi the same is happening to me now in November 2014.
      This application is abandoned but still on Google play.
      Wasted my money on this application.
      It seems the application is not ready to work with the official ANT+ drivers, but yes with Sony propieatry ones. Come on Garmin !!!!
      I needed this to sync with Garmin Connect !!!

      Edomondo or Google My tracks will do the job (but will not sync).

      Reply
    • DC Rainmaker replied

      I'm not entirely sure why anyone would use this app at this point.

      The Wahoo Fitness app is free, can connect to your ANT+ devices, and can upload to Garmin Connect.

      Reply
    • Robert replied

      Thank you very much DC Rainmaker.
      Your very detailed reviews were very helpful to help me to choose between Fenix 2 and Ambit 3. It was the trap to keep all the stuff inside the same brand.
      I wrongly thought that Wahoo Fitness app only worked with BT sensors !!
      It looks awesome, I will try my sensors. Thanks again !!!

      Reply
    • Allan replied

      For what it's worth, I can find no evidence that Wahoo Fitness supports ANT+ on Android, except maybe with the bridge functionality on a RFLKT+ (which I don't have, so I can't test).

      When I scan for devices, my Garmin footpod, tempe, and speed/cadence devices don't appear -- I only see my Kinetic inRide, which is a Bluetooth sensor. This is on my brand new Galaxy Note 4, so it should be the latest/greatest in terms of protocol support.

      Strangely enough, not even my 4iiii Viiiiiva comes up in Wahoo Fitness -- that should appear as a Bluetooth HR strap even if ANT+ isn't supported. I was hoping I could use this as an ANT+ bridge.

      What DOES work now on my new Note 4 (finally!) is ANT+ on the original Garmin Fit app. Of course, now I have a Fenix 2 and a bunch of other toys, so I don't really care about using it any more. Go figure...

      Reply
    • DC Rainmaker replied

      On the 4iiii's Viiiiva piece, Wahoo is actually specifically blocking the 4iiii unit. There's some stuff coming from 4iiii's that should get around that.

      Reply
    • Robert replied

      Thank You Allan
      Yes I realise that on Wahoo Fitness Android app there is no support for any ANT+ Garmin sensors.
      I will stop to use Andorid for ant+ sensors since the only app that can do the trick for me is Garmin Fit and it does not works on my Phone !!! Endomondo is not complete since it does not work with foopods.

      Reply
  15. I would like an application / device cases where it was possible to perform the download of data without the need for a computer / notebook

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No such device exists today. There are some devices that allow uploading from them (for example, in cycling the Edge 510/810). Others that can do it with 3rd party help (for example the Wahoo Fitness iPhone adapter with the Garmin Forerunner series).

      But no device today on the market allows complete computer-free experience. For example, all of those devices require a computer for firmware updates (to fix bugs).

      Reply
  16. Paco

    How do you use Live Tracking yesterday in Malt swimming??? I understood that this works with a mobile phone. did you bring a safe bag or so with you and your phone inside?

    Thanks for all
    Paco

    Reply
  17. Paul

    Just downloaded an hour ago the Garmin Fit application for a Sony Experia and while there are options for finding Heart Rate and Speed/Cadence sensors there is nothing for power meters. Any idea what is going on ?

    Reply

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