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Quick Tidbit: Garmin Adds Dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart HR Broadcasting to Fenix 6

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Slipped into yesterday’s most recent Garmin Fenix 6 series public beta is a new feature that slightly revamps heart rate re-broadcasting. This is where you can broadcast the heart rate from your optical HR sensor, on the back of your watch, to 3rd party apps. Up until this point, Garmin has only supported ANT+ broadcasting (and has done so forever), with the exception of the new Virtual Run profile they added earlier this year to a handful of watches. That Virtual Run profile also broadcasted over Bluetooth Smart, but was a bit overkill if all you wanted was heart rate for Zwift or TrainerRoad on an iPad.

Now though, when you enable optical HR broadcasting, it’ll do both.

I’m just going to super-duper quickly run through this. Mostly because I’ve already gotten entirely distracted by one sparkly object post in the last 24 hours, and now this sparkly feature beta has distracted me too. All taking me away from my actual goals this week of the Peloton & Stages Bike Reviews.

Quick Guide:

Now, in order for this to work you’ll need to be on the latest Garmin Fenix 6 series public beta, which was released yesterday (again, for beta). It’s also available for MARQ here too. I don’t see a FR945 variant of that, I’ll poke and ask if this is planned there. This is the same beta cycle that’s added the sleep tracking a few weeks ago, and some other widget updates. You can download the beta here.

Next, with that all updated, you’ll need to use the ‘Broadcast Heart Rate’ option. The other ‘Broadcast while in an activity’, doesn’t seem to work. So for that main option, that’s located under Settings > Sensors > Wrist Heart Rate > Broadcast Heart Rate:

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Once you initialize that, you’ll get a slightly revamped screen. Previously there was no start button, nor did it tell you what device was connected. Now both are shown. However, before you press ‘Start’, it’ll say ‘Off:

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And then once you press ‘Start’, it’ll show the Bluetooth icon and exactly which device it’s currently connected to via Bluetooth Smart (there remains unlimited ANT+ connections). So, let’s say on my iPhone I open up TrainerRoad. Here I can see the Fenix 6 Pro, and then I can see my heart rate in the app:

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But what’s *really* cool is they’re allowing two concurrent Bluetooth connections (and unlimited ANT+ connections). I was able to validate this two different ways. First was on Zwift. In this case I had TrainerRoad running on my iPhone connected via Bluetooth Smart to the Fenix 6, while then pulling up Apple TV and connecting to the Fenix 6 and seeing HR there:

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I then tried this on the Peloton bike. What’s cool there is that it supports both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors, so you can actually see both sides of the connection. The numerical one is the ANT+ side (29080), and then the name one is the Bluetooth side (Fenix 6 Pro):

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Now..going for broke, could I get three concurrent BLE connections?

Nope.

I tried. I tried having Zwift, TrainerRoad, and Peloton all connected at once, and it didn’t work. The Peloton bike actually booted the Zwift session out (see how it says ‘No Signal’). What’s funny about this is I was standing right next to the Apple TV with Zwift, while the Peloton bike was 20 meters away through numerous walls in another part of the cave. Peloton be like: I eat you for lunch Zwifty!

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Now somewhat oddly, the ‘Always Broadcast HR in Workout’ mode doesn’t work. I tried. It still only broadcasts ANT+. This is notable because if you use Zwift or TrainerRoad or anything that will sync back to Garmin Connect, that doesn’t contribute to training load. So it’s 100% likely that you’d want to both broadcast over Bluetooth Smart while recording the session on your watch so you got ‘credit’ in training load/recovery.

[Update – the next day: Garmin reached out to say that this not working is a bug. It should work. They said a workaround in the meantime is to simply add the ‘Broadcast HR’ option as a quick-access control menu. Then, start your workout like normal, then just long-hold to access the controls menu and toggle on the broadcast. When initiated that way it’ll do dual ANT+/Bluetooth.]

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You can see here that once I go via that, the Bluetooth option is no longer present on Peloton, just the ANT+ (29080) connection:

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And the connection stopped updating on TrainerRoad too (see how it shows 84bpm on my wrist, but 91bpm on the watch). I presume there’s some disconnect logic that takes longer before TrainerRoad drops the connection entirely:

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Still, it’s a good second step (assuming first was the Virtual Run profile).

Wrap Up:

While some of this sounds geeky, the reality is that it’s not. It’s every day usage for people that don’t want to wear, deal with, or buy a heart rate strap. And Garmin is closer than anyone else now in making that incredibly simple for both ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart, which covers basically anything you’ll need equipment/app wise.

Still, there are two gaps.

The first is the minor one – it doesn’t seem to work in ‘Workout’ mode. I presume that’s a much easier fix, but then again, it might not be. It might be tied to using Bluetooth in a different mode there to connect to sensors. I don’t know, maybe I’ll ask Garmin.

But the second gap is bigger: Devices.

Right now the Virtual Run profile only ever made it to the FR245, FR945, and Fenix 6. I want to see this dual ANT+/BLE broadcasting mode as the baseline for any device that has the hardware chipsets to support it, just like Garmin did for ANT+ broadcasting years ago on even the least expensive Vivo wearables. Hopefully this gets to that point. Obviously there may be limitations on chipsets why an older Fenix 5 series device might not have the right stuff inside to pull this off, but certainly anything like a Vivoactive 4, Venu, or FR45 should.

Here’s to hoping!

With that, thanks for reading!

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73 Comments

  1. Pablo

    Hi Ray, Do you think that Garmin will enable the broadcasting of running pace through bluetooth?

  2. Tizzledk

    Well, well Garmin seems to be enabling more features on a regular basis it seems now, despite Covid-19. Impressive…oh and thanks for the update!!

  3. Paul E

    Wish they’d send this on down to the Fenix 5 line. Hardware limitation?

    • Hard to say. My guess is yes. If you roll back far enough, the Fenix 5 Plus was built atop the Fenix 5. Very little hardware change there in certain chipsets (obviously, substantial in others).

      Some of the older chipsets can’t handle dual Bluetooth communications, which would probably be a hard-stop for Garmin here. Technically they could do like Timex and do singular Bluetooth connectivity, but that’s a nightmare for the users and support with a smartwatch, because it means you’d have to disable the BT connection on your phone to connect to something else. Usually ends up as a failboat.

    • ekutter

      My guess is the source code forked long ago, so it could be a major undertaking to incorporate all the recent changes back into the Fenix 5 code base. There would be all sorts of dependencies that could make this a nightmare. Then full testing would be a ton of work as well. Apple has kind of spoiled us to expecting new features to work in older devices. I’m actually impressed they are adding so many features into devices 9 to 18 months after release.

    • inSyt

      But for devices that have virtual run, a lot of the work has being done already?

  4. seth katzenstein

    Hey Ray,
    Regarding recording an activity like Zwift or TR for the purpose of training load- in order to get the benefits on the watch (i.e., measuring training load), I assume I need to record, save, upload, and then delete from the web/apps (like Training Peaks) in order to get the benefit, correct?

    • In a nutshell, yes.

      Technically you actually don’t have to delete the duplicates from TR/Zwift if you don’t want to (since they don’t contribute to load), but they would cause duplicates for other distance/time type metrics.

    • Pat

      I feel like there have been 3 posts on this topic, and it must be much harder than we all think, but why hasn’t Garmin made a ‘Virtual Bike’ activity? Count all the stats, broadcast HR, and have one activity across all platforms. ‘Virtual Run’ is great, but is just running and was 6 months ago.

    • Yeah, this seems to be the feature gift that keeps on giving.

      That said, I’m actually not sure that ‘Virtual Bike’ makes much sense, in the context compared to this. Once this is baked (including the Workout piece), I think this is actually a better solution than Virtual Bike.

      In the Virtual Run profile, the watch has more useful data to give – specifically your running pace and cadence (plus HR). But in indoor cycling, that’s going to be via direct connection to the trainer (trainer to app). So in that case the Garmin watch really only contributes HR.

      So I think the more general ‘every sport’ mode actually makes sense here.

    • inSyt

      But if your sensors are linked to another platform (Zwift/Rouvy) via bluetooth, then you are unable to link them to your watch as well? And if you record the activity on another platform and upload to Garmin Connect, your Firstbeat calculations will not be adjusted for the activity?

    • In theory yes, but in practice no – because there’s no trainers/power meters on the market that don’t support dual ANT+/BLE, so you’d just connect the sensor (trainer) via ANT+ to your Garmin. And there’s not been a smart trainer in the last 5-6 years that didn’t support ANT+ except for about a year’s worth of 1st gen Kinetic Smart trainers that I think almost nobody bough.

    • Oh, and those didn’t support the proper BLE spec anyway – so people would have been SOL with a Garmin no matter which way you paired it.

    • inSyt

      Ah yes, newbie mistake, I forgot about ant+. So used to only thinking about wifi and bluetooth for short distance wireless connections.

    • Pat

      Perfect, thanks. I realized the same thing later on, that in trainer cycling with an app, the watch is doing a different job than just running on a basic treadmill. So it seems like the update that’s been added about ‘Always Broadcast HR in Workout’ [Bike Indoor] is the fix here. I feel like I’ve closed the loop between my Garmin watch and Zwift now!

    • Alberto

      I use Golden Cheetah to “combine” activities, and have the Zwift GPS track and the HR data from my watch, but the Zwift fake GPS data is corrupted somehow and altough it looks great on TrainingPeaks, on Garmin connect I looks like I am Iron Man flying from two arbitrary points like 2.000 kilometers apart.

  5. yale

    So if this gets added to older devices, does this mean my Garmin 935 will (maybe later) now broadcast to Zwift, eliminating the need for me use use a heart rate strap?

    Silly other question – I just got a Garmin 810 for display purposes only (cause its tough to turn my wrist to see my 935 while in aero). Will the 935 not broadcast to the Garmin 810 because the 810 has the older bluetooth, or am i doing something wrong?

    • Technically your FR935 can already broadcast to Zwift, just via ANT+. Unfortunately, I’d doubt we’ll see the FR935 get this update for Bluetooth Smart. Just not Garmin’s style.

      For broadcasting to the Edge 810, no problems there. You can enable this same feature under settings > sensors > wrist HR, and then use it all via ANT+ instead.

    • Dave Lusty

      I know what I said earlier….but just so Garmin know I’m being fair here, I have a 935 and don’t expect this as that had F5 hardware which didn’t have “modern” Bluetooth chipsets and so I get why it wouldn’t support this. I don’t expect every feature to be back ported, I would like the easy no cost stuff to be ported. Change a font? Yep (looking at the Fenix 3 skinny hard to read font here!). Change the widgets, obviously (although, apparently not…). Enable a Bluetooth feature on a watch without that hardware, making support a nightmare as you said? I get why they won’t, and that’s OK.

      I know you’ve written whole posts on why we give market leaders a hard time. It’ll be glacial but I’m sure they’ll get the message if it’s clear and often 🙂

    • ekutter

      You think changing a font is easy? LOL. They’d have to revisit every bit of UI to make sure things aren’t broken. Wider text might just get cut off, but you may also lose whole digits depending on how their clipping code works. Any code changes are pretty much guaranteed to have unexpected consequences, no mater how “minor”.

    • Dave Lusty

      You’re missing my point. They changed the font anyway so that work was done and tested, they just chose not to implement it on the F3 making it much harder to read than every other device.

  6. Joshua Tootell

    I just realized fully today that the load gained from my 520+ doesn’t show on GC. So a hard ride means nothing. I could mirror so I have the info available, but then maps and navigation aren’t available. Know if Garmin plans on fixing that? I thought the True Up feature took care off that.

    I do know that my VO2 estimate from the 520+ syncs to the F6, and I think recovery hours does too.

    I am | | this close to just using GC for all training info as I don’t find TP to be helpful for me, Strava doesn’t do much for me, and GC does just about everything I actually would want. Being free, that’s pretty handy.

  7. Tim

    Hi Ray,

    Is everything you mentioned above on the upgrades also apply to the Tactix Delta Sapphire? I was given the choice as a gift between that one and the Garmin Fenix 6X Sapphire. I think the Tactix looks a little better.
    Which would you choose if given the choice?

    I’ll definitely be using it for triathlons.

    Thank you for your time, consideration, and any other valuable input you can offer.

    Tim

  8. Duncan

    Any options for rebroadcasting power data?

    Would be great if the watch could connect to my Kickr via ANT, rebroadcast on bluetooth and then I could have iPhone/iPad have separate connections for reading power (Zwift) and controlling power (TrainerRoad, Xert)

  9. Steve

    This is good news… but now I understand why Garmin does not fix the lattest buggy 9.70 firmware for the 735XT that has made the watch almost useless… they are working in other things for newest watches and don’t care about the hundreds of complains of loyal customers for years. The replacement for the 735XT watch will NOT be from Garmin, that’s for sure !

  10. dazza

    Why would you export bad data.. garmin hr is known to be rubbish.. bt chest strap required ..

  11. Andrew M

    Actually, the first gap is bigger than you might think. The OHR sensor polls less frequently (and is less accurate, especially at higher HR’s) in Watch mode than in Activity mode.

    Not sure if it is an easier fix to enable multiple BT connections in Activity mode, or to increase polling frequency in Watch mode (at least while broadcasting).

    • Good news!

      The issue where it wasn’t broadcasting BLE while combined with ‘Broadcast During An Activity’ automatically, is a bug and will be fixed.

      They said a quick workaround for now is to start a workout like normal, but then add the ‘Broadcast HR’ option to your Quick-access controls menu. That way it’s two button presses away. That’ll work currently to dual-broadcast while in a workout.

    • Andrew M

      Thanks for updating this. That is good news.

    • Volker

      Seems that fw 9.98beta with a fix for that is available

  12. Eric B

    I just wish they would finally enable virtual run to have a start button to record on the watch. Oh and virtual cycle would be nice also.

    • inSyt

      Yes to virtual cycling. Not sure why they have a virtual run but not a virtual cycle activity? Virtual cycling is way more popular than virtual running.

    • Dan945

      Definitely yes to virtual cycling. I travel a lot to random hotels which have gyms with exercise bikes, so it would be great to connect to zwift using a virtual cycle mode. I have a powercal heart strap but it stops and starts with zwift.

    • The challenge though is virtually none of those hotel gym bikes broadcast your power/cadence over ANT+ or BLE.

      That said, using a PowerCal would be an interesting scenario – also odd that Zwift is dropping there. I assume it must be oddly broadcasting 0w drops?

    • Dan945

      I am not looking for super accuracy, just something that allows me to watch / participate in something whilst being stationary. There is a Blue Peter solution of attaching a wahoo cadence meter on the crank of the pedal. You could then approximate speed and power from that, making some assumptions. It would not be accurate but it would enable you to make relative comparisons (from previous days) and let you move around zwift. There’s well documented formula on the web for estimating power from rpm.

    • Dan945

      The PowerCal is very erratic. When cycling, I stop and start in Zwift. I wonder if I have a dud belt, but don’t know how to check that. I did get 1 edge case where I was taking off the belt and was suddenly cycling at 700 watts. That was funny. 🙂

  13. Martin Chmiel

    They have also added MTB Dynamics such as Grit and Flow; only Fenix 6 beta for now. Looking forward to seeing this on the FR945

  14. Thanks for the post. This was always my wish with ATV connected Zwifting.
    Looking forward to seeing FR935 with that feature.

  15. Pavel Vishnyakov

    Hi Ray,
    Considering lots of complaints about wrist HR data – is this an indoor-only feature or do you also see uses in outdoor scenarios (cycling with a cycling computer / phone app being the one) ?

    • For outdoor cycling use I don’t tend to see great wrist-based optical HR results, at least with variable road cycling. Sometimes in something like aero position on a tri bike I tend to see better results, but that’s also likely because your position is more stable and the weight (flex) is off the wrists.

      So yeah, I see this most applicable to indoor cycling.

    • Dennis

      Ray,
      Wrist sock??
      I do not like the chest strap HR monitors. they bother me.

      When riding outdoors and using one of my optical HR watches (Garmin Venu , VR3 or my 935) i use my homemade version of a “Wrist Sock”. It seems to block the extraneous light from interfering with the optical HR sensor. I think it makes the Optical HR readings more accurate than without the wrist sock.
      I Cut the top elastic portion (about 4″) of an old sock and wear it on my wrist over my Venu or 935.
      Of course it may look a little weird on the bike (Catrike 700 Trike in my case) …but then so do i.
      Keep up the great reviews and stay healthy
      Thank you

    • Dennis

      Ray,
      wrist sock= Forgot to mention that when riding outdoors using the wrist-sock covering my Venu or 935 broadcasts HR info to my Garmin edge 820 computer.
      Thanks.

  16. Neil Jones

    Does this only work with the optical HR, or will it rebroadcast the readings from a chest strap if you’re wearing one? I always use a strap, but it would be great to have dual Bluetooth from that as my treadmill has a very annoying tendency to steal the BT connection from Zwift on my iPad when I’m running, and the only way to get it back is stop, power off the treadmill, wait a couple of mins, restart Zwift, reconnect HRM to Zwift, turn treadmill back on and hope it doesn’t immediately grab the connection again…

  17. Dushko Kantardjiev

    Hey Ray,
    Excellent post, thx. Beside HR, have you checked whether HRV is also being broadcast, on both ANT+ AND BT channels concurrently?
    Cheers

  18. Mark R.

    Now all they need to do is make wrist based HR monitoring reliable.
    If it’s just broadcasting junk then they might as well not bother.

    I tried with multiple Garmin 935’s over time with what can only be described as ‘abysmal’ results. (and Yes I tried tight, really tight, snug and loose wearing of the watch strap. Loose was easily the worst but the phoney HR spikes were universal across watchband tightness scenarios. If I had 5c for every athlete I coach telling me they hit 190bpm on a session and then checking it to see they ‘hit’ 190bpm for 2 seconds and then immediately went back down to 150bpm then I’d be a rich man.

    Nearly every wrist HR monitor based run there’s a spike or multiple spikes or just plain wring numbers somewhere for some spurious reason which makes a mockery of either your HR calculated TSS and/or your Max HR for the session being 190bpm for an easy recovery jog.

    Still using my plastic fronted Garmin chest strap which rarely gets the data wrong. I just swap the elastic back to it once a year.

    Is it just me and my athletes or is this really common?

    • Yeah, wrong usage is tough – but setting that aside…

      I think for the most part I see pretty good/similiar results with indoor cycling (even races). The wrist movements and pressures are just so minimal that results tend to be pretty good.

      Inversely, outdoor riding tends to be tough. I would note that it’s challenging to compare a FR935 to a FR945 or Fenix 6 sensor. They are significantly different (usually towards the better).

    • Mark R.

      OK.
      Going to dual or triple record the next indoor cycling session. Old Garmin plastic chest strap vs 935 light based watch wrist strap…. I’ll also put a call out to borrow a 945 unit. If I get two wrist units is the right protocol to wear one on each wrist?

      I might even have to download the patented DCR analyser tool to compare the results 🙂
      DCR citizen science in action.

    • Yup, one device per wrist, and not over the wrist bone. Snug, but not crazy tight.

      Looking forward to it!

  19. Matthias

    What is it worth broadcasting an improper sensor value to other devices?

  20. Pat

    HI, stupid question but…. I can not for the life of me figure out which beta actually works for my Fenix 6X. It is not the pro, I actually tried using that file and it does not change the watch. Can anyone enlighten me? Thanks.

  21. Michael

    Please let us know when you hear about it being brought to ‘older’ devices like the FR245. I hope they add it when the fix the issue with the FR245 consuming so much battery since the last software update.

  22. Logan

    Well all these cool beta software features are cool. I will be more interested in them when they actually release the real firmware update.

  23. Dennis

    Any rumors on garmin instinct 2 or fenix 6 sport

  24. Brandon

    On a unrelated note how are things going with the Miopod? I really thinking of adding it to go with my Vivoactive 4 to get some of those firstbeat training bits. That or a garmin 645 refurbished for about $200 on amazon. Not sure I like bouncing back and forth between two watches though. One daily driver, one training watch.

    Thanks in advance for your help and thank you in general for all work you do with this site. It’s my go to resource for fitness tech.

    • It’s fine. Data is good, app finally has export feature.

      It’s all fine. Nothing wrong with it. I just need to write it up.

      To me the challenge is I can’t really figure out why I’d spend more for this versus the Polar OH1, except for the fact that it’s nearly impossible to flip this over, versus the OH1 can rarely accidentally flip over.

    • Brandon

      Good to know the app is finally coming around. That was my biggest concern. That and it seems that no one on the planet has used this thing first hand (at least there doesn’t seem to be any reviews showing it being used). Being I mostly care about the Firstbeat tools do you feel they are implemented well? Especially compared to how Garmin does it?

      Ive already tried out a Sunnto 5 and a Vantage M as my training watches and while one only does in the moment scoring no long term load viewing (Sunnto with EPOC, PTE and Live Strava Relative Effort) the other (Vantage M) looks at long term strain but doesn’t measure anything strain wise in the moment.

  25. Richard Yeoman

    Geez I hope this makes it to the 945 soon.

  26. Amico

    Ray, I see Fenix 6 and 5+ getting all those updates especially recently while 945 not much, and some new features are to be delayed by many months. Is this a sign that this line of products to be discontinued or 955 is on the way? What are your thoughts on Fenix line vs. 945 feature wise going forward?

    • In this case actually, the FR945 led the way. It first got the Virtual Running profile well before the Fenix 6 did.

      One thing to keep in mind is that while the two product lines share much code, the reality is they are led by different people/groups with different product timelines. Meaning, they’ve all got specific release things they’re trying to hit.

      Typically speaking the two groups kinda work in a tick-tock (not TicTok) like fashion. One leads with a new feature, the other follows with it. Earlier this year it was Virtual Running for the FR945 first, then the Fenix 6 got it. Then more recently it’s the sleep beta and BLE-dual broadcast on the Fenix 6 (albeit in the same beta). Last year it was PacePro first on Foreurnner, then over to Fenix.

      The FR945 is barely over a year old, it’s still the top-dog Forerunner, so i would expect it to continue to get feature updates going forward. I also wouldn’t expect a replacement anytime soon.

  27. Alberto

    But… It is not the same chipset necessary to connect to Bluetooth sensors?

    If that is the case, it should be a problem of just changing the BLE profiles supported, or I am wrong about it?

  28. i record zwift for strava and garmin connect for training analytics so when the virtual run came out i paired all sensors. to the fenix 6 and then broadcast to the ipad for zwift. it just kept dropping out. if i paired the zwift runn to the ipad and the hrm to the ipad i got a great zwift workout but constantly calibrating the treadmill to match zwift running distance.

  29. Mitja Kuralt

    Hay

    Did you try it connect with Elite HRV or HRV4Training app on iphone. In Elite HRV recognize it and connect but do not want to take reading….
    Do you have any sugastions?

    Have a nice day

  30. Sinisa

    Hello,
    this is an exellent news, and great beta update. But I still have problems with ohr on my F6X pro. During activity (hiking) my max heart rate on watch is 120 bpm (on fenix 5 with chest strap is 160 bpm). The same is in some other activities.
    thanks