On September 17th, Apple released iOS 8, “the biggest iOS release ever”. For months now, Fitdigits has been hard at work to deliver an app that is optimized for iOS 8 and the new Apple HealthKit.
During development we ran into a roadblock with ANT+ sensor support, a platform that less than 2% of all Fitdigits users are currently using and which continues to decrease daily.
The good news for ANT+ users is Apple has limited iOS 8 to newer iPads, the iPhone 4S, 5, 5S and the new 6 series. Of those, only the 4S supports both the 30-pin connector (which the ANT+ transceiver plugs into) and will also support iOS 8. However, running iOS 8 on an iPhone 4S makes everything very sluggish and many would not recommend the upgrade. Even Apple has recognized the issue and is allowing users to re-install iOS 7 even after upgrading to iOS 8.
If you don’t intend on upgrading to iOS 8, or have an iPhone 4, you don’t have to worry. iOS 7 or below, will work just fine.
For those of you brave enough to upgrade to iOS 8 who still are using ANT+, Fitdigits will no longer be a useable option, and for this you have our sincere apologies. Currently less than 2% of our users (and dropping quickly due to hardware upgrades) are still using ANT+, and between the effort to maintain technology and the rapidly declining usage, we have made the tough decision.
ANT+ is one of the initial platforms Fitdigits used to connect with heart rate monitors and other sensors, using an ANT+ Adapter plugged in to the 30-pin adapter on the bottom of an iPhone to receive real time stats. ANT+ was the best technology available at the time, and Fitdigits was excited to use this technology to allow users to track heart rate right on their iPhone.
Introduction of Bluetooth Low Energy
However, technology moves fast. What was viewed as innovative and groundbreaking just a few short years ago can quickly become an outdated fossil of the past. This was the case for ANT+ in October of 2011, when the iPhone 4s was released.
The iPhone 4s featured Bluetooth Low Energy technology built right into the device, allowing for easy pairing of Bluetooth Low Energy health and fitness sensors such as the Polar H7. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is a far superior platform to ANT+, for three main reasons:
- ANT+ has a range of only 8-12 feet from your iPhone, while BLE has a range of over 100 ft
- BLE does not require an adapter plugged into the bottom of your iPhone
- A more consistent and reliable signal, with less dropouts and variability
So naturally, with Bluetooth Low Energy now standard in all new phones, developers left the ANT+ platform behind and focused on developing sensors that use BLE. This was amplified when the iPhone 5 was released in September of 2012 with the new lightning port, making the 30-pin ANT+ Adapter more or less obsolete and ANT+ connection burdensome.
The writing was on the wall for ANT+ on the iPhone.
The End of ANT+ on iPhones
Fast forward 2 years to iOS 8 and the iPhone 6. During our initial testing of the iOS 8 beta, we found that ANT+ connection was no longer working at all. As each beta version of the new operating system was released we hoped something would be altered to make our handling of ANT+ still functional, but no such change ever came.
After some digging by our development team, it was determined that it would take a considerable amount of time to get ANT+ working in Fitdigits on iOS 8 devices, so it was time to look at our user base and determine what we should do next.
Since iOS 8 is only available for iPhone 4s and above, and the iPhone 5 has the lightning port, we determined that only iPhone 4s users that use ANT+ would be impacted. All told, less then 2% of all users, and less than 3% of all workouts recorded by Fitdigits users each month have an ANT+ sensor active. That number continues to fall, even on iOS 7.
With this in mind, we have decided to no longer offer ANT+ sensor compatibility in the upcoming iOS 8 versions of Fitdigits. This decision comes with a heavy heart, as our ANT+ users constitute some of our oldest and most dedicated customers. We value these users and all they have done to support Fitdigits throughout the years, but it is time to move on from ANT+ and look to the future.
Upgrade to Bluetooth Low Energy
Fitdigits is compatible with a variety of other BLE sensors.