What is ANT+ and how is it different from Bluetooth?

ANT+ dongle

Over the past few years, plenty of wireless technologies have been on the rise. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 2.4 GHz adapters, and more. One other wireless solution that has been ignored for a long time and is currently on the rise is ANT+.

But what is Ant+ exactly, and how does it differ from other wireless solutions like Bluetooth?

That is precisely what we are going to be talking about here. So, without any further ado, let us get right into it!

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What is ANT+? 

ANT+ is a wireless solution commonly used to monitor sensor data either in real-time or in certain intervals.

You can use it to monitor things such as a car tire’s pressure or, you guessed it, anything that has to do with sports tracking (Heart-rate, step tracking, etc.). 

What is ANT+

 

So, in that sense, ANT+ is very similar to Bluetooth. All it does is it allows one device to connect and exchange data with other sensors/trackers wirelessly. 

But if that’s the case, why create and use anything else than Bluetooth when it gets the job done just fine? 

ANT+ VS BLE/Smart – What’s the Difference? 

One of the core differences between ANT+, contrary to Bluetooth, is that ANT+ trackers can communicate with multiple devices at once. Connecting/pairing one ANT+ device with another ANT+ tracker does not render that tracker invisible to other devices in the area.

Bluetooth devices, on the other hand, are often rendered invisible when paired. So, in simpler terms, they work in a 1 to 1 connection.

Think about your phone as a quick example. You can pair both a Bluetooth smartwatch and Bluetooth headphones with it with no problem. But after that, both that smartwatch and the headphones become invisible to other devices. 

Ant+ vs BLE

An important distinction is that one Bluetooth device should connect to a few Bluetooth accessories at once.

It’s the accessories themselves that can’t be discovered or connected to other devices simultaneously. 

It’s also worth noting that Bluetooth multi-pairing is not the same with ANT+. For example, headphones that support multi-pairing can seamlessly connect from one phone to another – but you still have to disconnect from one phone to connect to the other. 

Why ANT+ is Slowly Becoming More and More Common

Over the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that more and more devices are now using it over Bluetooth. Especially fitness tracking devices such as bikes and smartwatches.

That’s mostly because you can use ANT+ to connect with multiple devices.

There’s no reason to worry about what other devices may be connected to that accessory, tracking them down, and then disconnecting from that connected device to use your accessory with another one. 

In that sense, ANT+ can be much easier to use with fewer things to worry about. 

Other than that, let us not forget that you can also take advantage of ANT+ by using one accessory with two devices at once. And this can be a big game-changer in certain situations.

For example, maybe you are tracking your heart-rate and other biometrics with a phone, but you also have a trainer who needs access to that information at the same time. That’s only possible with ANT+!

That is why more sports equipment and trackers like Zwift Bikes or Garmin devices rely on ANT+ nowadays. 

fully charge Garmin smartwatch

But that’s not to say that ANT is perfect. In fact, it obviously is less secure while it’s also slower in terms of transfer speed. 

Both of these downsides are nothing to worry about when it comes to fitness trackers. However, it can be a big deal-breaker if we are talking about smartphones, computers, smartwatches, speakers/headphones, or anything like that. 

So, while ANT+ will no doubt become even more popular for fitness tracking, Bluetooth is not going anywhere either.

Both are necessary for different kinds of usage and have different pros and cons, so they should be used for different applications. 

Best Fitness Products that Use ANT+

It’s no secret that Bluetooth is basically everywhere. Computers, smartphones, tablets, watches, fitness trackers, you name it. Pretty much everything nowadays is using Bluetooth, even cars. 

But what about ANT+? Here are some of the best picks!

1. Bike Computers

Bike computers, otherwise known as cyclometers, cyclocomputers, or cycling computers, commonly use ANT+ to transfer information. 

You can take advantage of such devices to track the distance covered on your bicycle, speed, calories, location, and other things like that. 

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The reason why so many Bike Computers are using ANT+ is that ANT+ Bike Computers can read several types of sensor input by other accessories and display them on the screen. We are talking about things like: 

  • Heart-rate sensors
  • Cadence trackers
  • Bike lights
  • Bike Radars
  • Weight sensors
  • And anything else like that

You can often see what kinds of sensors a Bike Computer can read on its manual, box, or website. 

Ant+ vs BLE

Besides that, Bike Computers don’t transfer a lot of data and don’t contain any important pieces of information – which is mostly what Bluetooth does better.

So, there are plenty of reasons to use ANT+ and not a whole lot to go with Bluetooth in such cases. 

Just keep in mind that not all Bike Computers are the same. Make sure to check what sensors your pick can support before buying it.

And, obviously, it’s not all about sensors. The built-in features are just as important – but that’s a topic for another time. 

2. Heart Rate Monitors

Heart-rate monitoring is a pretty basic feature that you can find even at the cheapest of smartwatches and fitness trackers.

But there actually plenty of reasons to consider an expensive stand-alone heart-rate monitor with ANT+ connectivity instead of a cheap fitness tracker. 

Let’s start by mentioning that you can connect ANT+ heart-rate trackers to any other ANT+ devices that can read heart-rate monitoring devices. That includes the Bike Computers that we mentioned above as well. 

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Most smartwatches and fitness trackers with Bluetooth, on the other hand, can only be connected to a smartwatch by using the appropriate app. And that’s only as far as connectivity is concerned. 

Let us not forget about battery life as well. While smartwatches typically won’t last more than a couple of days with heart-rate monitoring enabled, something like Garmin’s solution (which we’ve linked above) can last up to 3.5 years with a single battery swap. 

And that’s without mentioning anything about tracking accuracy since that’s a rather controversial topic that needs a lot of testing. 

The fact remains that if you want a serious fitness monitoring toolkit, going with ANT+-compatible devices is a much more flexible approach compared to Bluetooth solutions.

The only downside is that it’s also more pricey and harder to get used to at first. 

3. Smartphones

Yes. You read that right. There are plenty of smartphones that actually use not just Bluetooth but also ANT+!

Or at least they used to as fewer and fewer phones come out with ANT+ hardware nowadays. Before long, we believe that ANT+ will be a thing of the past for smartphones – even if it’s almost a one-way road for sensors. 

And it kind of makes sense. Cause while you can use plenty of apps out there to connect your phone with ANT+ sensors/devices, most athletes would prefer using a dedicated device instead. 

For example, you could probably mount your phone on a bike and use a workout app for tracking distance and speed.

Then ANT+ can be used for connecting to a heart-rate sensor or a more accurate speed tracker, perhaps.

Or maybe you could theoretically use the phone as a head-up display that shows information from various sensors with the right app. 

But the thing is that there are already plenty of other tools for such jobs that can work flawlessly together without the complications you can encounter in smartphones.

Still, having the option to use ANT+ sensors with a smartphone is pretty neat, to say the least. 

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Plenty of popular smartphones come equipped with ANT+ – including the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 series. If you are unsure whether your phone comes equipped with the necessary hardware, feel free to use something like ANTtester to find out. 

Just keep in mind that ANT capable phones and Built-in ANT are not the same things.

‘Built-in’ means that your phone supports ANT+ out of the box. ‘ANT capable,’ on the other hand, means that you need a USB dongle and OTG capability to use ANT+ sensors. 

Unfortunately, iPhones do not come with ANT+ – but you may be able to use an adapter with a dongle and third-party apps. This is by no means an ideal solution.

But it can be pretty fun if you like experimenting. 

FAQ FAQ frequently asked questions

How do I Use My Apple Watch With Peloton or any ANT+ Receivers? 

Apple devices do not come with built-in ANT+. And while this means that you can’t use your Apple Watch with Peloton or other ANT+ receivers natively, there actually is a trick to get around it. 

One of the most popular ones is North Pole Engineering’s solution, heartbeatz connect. All you have to do is: 

  1. Get the heartbeatz adapter.
  2. Install the heartbeatz app on your iPhone
  3. Pair your Apple Watch or iPhone with the app
  4. And now you should have heart-rate tracking on your Peloton bike (Or any other ANT+-enabled device that takes heart-rate monitoring input)

Connect Apple Watch with Peloton

The adapter itself should automatically connect to nearby ANT+ devices. And the way it works is pretty simple.

All that heartbeatz does is connect to your Apple Watch or iPhone with Bluetooth, as any other Bluetooth device would, and then uses its ANT+ hardware to communicate with other ANT+ devices. In simple terms, it’s nothing more than a translator. 

It’s worth keeping in mind that it’s not flawless, and there have been complaints about it not working, though.

So, maybe do your own research before buying to ensure that the adapter works fine with the ANT+ device you have. 

Is ANT+ the Same as Bluetooth? 

The only similarity that these two wireless protocols share is that, well, they are wireless. Other than that, there are little to no similarities.

As we mentioned above, Bluetooth devices work in a 1 to 1 connection, while ANT+ equipped devices can connect to multiple receivers. 

For example, you can connect one ANT+ heart-rate monitoring sensor to multiple devices. But you can’t connect a Bluetooth smartwatch to multiple devices. 

An important distinction to make here is that most hosts (smartphones) can usually connect to multiple clients (headphones, smartwatches, etc.). It only doesn’t work the only way around as it does on ANT+. 

Can I use ANT+ With iPad? 

You can use iPad devices with ANT+ sensors but only through a bridge.

This is what we mentioned above with the mini-guide on connecting an Apple Watch to a Peloton bike, and the same thing applies here with iPads. 

That’s because Apple devices do not come equipped with ANT+. So, in such cases, you are often better off with using Bluetooth accessories anyways since Bluetooth to ANT+ bridges doesn’t always work as intended – if at all. 

Does Bluetooth Interfere with ANT+? 

Yes and no. Both are 2.4 GHz bands, so, there is a chance that you may come across some interference. But under normal circumstances, that shouldn’t be an issue. A little bit of interference shouldn’t make a difference in day to day usage. 

The only exception is 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, in which case, you can change the wireless channel to get a more stable connection. But that’s a topic for another day. 

How do I Use ANT+ on Android? 

If your phone has built-in ANT+, download any necessary plugins and apps that you may need for your sensor, and it should work.

If the phone doesn’t have built-in ANT+ but OTG support and ANT support, you may be able to use a USB dongle in combination with a USB adapter. 

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To learn if your phone has built-in ANT+ or if it’s ANT capable, you can install a free app such as ANT tester

Which Garmin Watches Have ANT+?

  • D2 Air
  • Descent Mk2
  • Descent Mk2i
  • Venu Sq and Sq Music
  • Forerunner 35,  45 Plus, 50, 620, 630, 645/Music, 735XT, 745, 910XT, 945, 220, 230 235, 245, 245 Music, 310XT, 45S, and 45
  • Fenix 6, 6 Pro, 6S Pro, 6X Pro Solar, 6 Solar, and 6S Solar
  • Instinct Solar
  • Quatix 6
  • Tactix Delta
  • Approach S62
  • Swim 2
  • Vivomove 3 and Vivoactive 3 Music LTE
  • Vivoactive 4
  • Vivosport
  • Vivosmart HR and HR+
  • Vivofit 3
  • Venu
  • Marq Series
  • Instinct
  • Quatix 5 Sapphire
  • Fenix 5X and 5S Plus
  • tactic Charlie
  • D2 Charlie
  • Fenix 3 HR
  • Tactix Bravo
  • Epix

And maybe a few more that we may have missed. Garmin has long been fond of ANT+. 

Wrapping Up

That’s basically all there is to know about ANT+ and BLE. Long story short, Bluetooth works (mostly) in a 1 to 1 connection between host and client, while ANT+ can connect to multiple hosts. 

But Bluetooth also offers more range and faster data transfer rate – two significant reasons why it may be more popular than ANT+. 

If you have any questions to ask, anything to add, or something to correct, feel free to let us and everyone else know about it in the comments section down below!

Last update on 2021-10-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Ever since my early teenage days, I have long been passionate about all-things-tech and long-distance running. After graduating from high school and finishing my military duties, I immediately started working as a writer in 2016, and to this day, I still share my passion with everyone online.

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