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Question

Has anybody had any success getting ANT+ only equipment to talk to Android apps?

I'm only talking about a situation in which the Android phone specifically has ANT+ capabilities; obviously if there's no ANT+ radio it would be idiotic to expect it to happen.

This might be the wrong SE to ask a question like this, since it's not so much about cycling per se but about data-exchange-protocol interoperability... I just figured that somewhere out there, someone else will have encountered the issue.

The background below lays out the main details.

Background

So I recently bought a set of wheels with a CycleOps PowerTap Elite+ hub, as a (relatively) cheap alternative to buying pedal- or crank-based power meter. My current bike has "near-vintage" Dura-Ace 7700 throughout - including pedals and cranks - and I didn't really want to switch anything out.

I knew that the hub was ANT+-only (no BLE), but I have an ANT+ dongle (for my PC, for Zwift) and my phone purports to have an ANT+ Radio Service and an ANT+ plugin manager. An ANT+ testing app claims that the phone has all the appropriate ANT+ functionality (HAL; Radio; USB; Plugins).

My phone detects the ANT+ ID of a bunch of Wahoo, Garmin, and other devices (e.g., speed and cadence sensors), but they are all dual ANT/BLE and they always connect using BLE.

When Zwift starts on my phone there's a little ANT+ icon next to the Bluetooth icon, and both are pulsating.

Same for the PC, except that on the PC Zwift usually connects to speed and cadence meters - and my KickR - using ANT+ rather than BT.

When I first put the wheels on, I tried to pair them with the Wahoo android app, but the app didn't find them. Nor did Zwift, on either phone or PC - despite the pulsating ANT+ icon.

My Garmin Edge 500 found the wheels no problem, but I hate the lack of screen real-estate on Garmins - I have terrible eyesight and pretty awful on-bike coordination, so trying to switch screens by button-pressing is a recipe for an ironic death... give me a 6.5" screen and swipe-changes and I'm less likely to die.

Plus uploading to Strava from an Edge 500 is a GPITA (Gigantic Pain In The ... Aorta), whereas from Zwift or Wahoo it.just.happens. The lack of screen and awkward functionality rules out, e.g., getting a cheap used Edge 510.

I would really like for my phone to be able to 'see' my PowerTap hub, without getting the hub upgraded to ANT/BLE - assuming that's still possible. It used to be possible, and might still be; I've seen one ebay ad for the 'Powercap' (which fits all G3 & GS Hubs including Pro and Elite model hubs that have been upgraded to the G3 style cap - that has stopped me from pulling the trigger until I work out what this 'upgrade' to the cap entails; the cap's just a threaded bit of plastic).

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    I realize this doesn't directly answer your question, but there are a number of ANT+/Bluetooth bridge devices. They're about the size of the electronics pod on a heart-rate chest band, and there's one that is in fact embedded in a chest-band pod. You might have better luck with that approach.
    – Adam Rice
    Feb 20 at 1:48
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    How old are the batteries in that PowerTap hub? If they're old, you could be getting a weak signal. That Garmin 500 was specifically designed to pick up ANT+ and only ANT+ signals, so it might be able to sync to a lower-power signal than the others. Feb 20 at 1:57
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    And I hear you about the Garmin 500 screen size. I had an old Garmin 700 that started going bad on me and it would all too often fail to record the ride at all. I tried replacing it with a 500, and found the screen way too small for me to see. So I rode with both - even doing a lot of races that way. I could see the screen of the 700 - especially the HR and 5-min NP you're-about-to-blow-yourself-up "redlines", and the 500 would record the ride. Feb 20 at 2:02
  • If you turn off Bluetooth on the phone, does it still work with the dual capability devices? That’s one way to test the ANT function
    – Andrew
    Feb 20 at 17:13
  • To your specific question, yes, there are people who have gotten Power Tap ANT+ power meters to talk to Android phones. That said, the Elite+ is pretty old and one of the reasons why PT went to the G3 cap design was to improve transmission reliability. Here's a test: reduce the distance between the ANT+ dongle and the hub, perhaps with a 6 ft. USB cable, and put the dongle on the floor near the hub. If Zwift picks it up, you'll need to boost the transmission.
    – R. Chung
    Feb 20 at 18:13
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Several suggestions in the comments helped steer me in the right direction.

The suggestion from Andrew about switching off Bluetooth on the phone and seeing if the phone still 'saw' ANT+ IDs was the clincher (I already knew that it saw nothing, but Andrew's comment made me ask WHY).

It turned out that the ANT+ Radio service on the phone required an additional permission.

This Reddit thread concerns a different phone (a OnePlus 5; I have a Samsung), but it was exactly the right solution.

ANT+ Radio must be given an additional permission to use ANT hardware.

This must be a relatively new thing, because back when I had a OnePlus One, there wasn't any hardware permission required (the only ANT+ device I had back then was a cadence sensor).

When I granted that additional permission, the hub was detected by the Wahoo Android app.

I just went for a brief ride to make sure that the app was receiving power numbers: it was. The hub is detected and data is being sent to the Wahoo app.

Problem solved - thanks to all.

Strava data

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  • Are you using the PowerTap hub for your cadence? If cadence matters at all to you, (and it should, IMO), don't do that. Go buy a dedicated cadence sensor for your crankset. PowerTab hubs are absolutely horrible at measuring cadence - and there will be times you want to have accurate cadence readings. Feb 21 at 16:50
  • I have a couple of cadence options (a Garmin ANT+ one, and a Wahoo BTLE that came with my KickR). The cadence for the test ride comes from the ANT+ one, and seems far too smooth - like it's being averaged over 30sec or something - and I'm almost certain I've never, ever pedalled at 130rpm.
    – GT.
    Feb 21 at 22:38

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