Power meters are used by users who do serious riding on road bikes and MTBs. This section summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of using a power meter, and whether a power meter is necessary for beginners.
Table of contents
What the Cycle Computer Has that the iPhone Doesn’t
First, let’s take a look at the features that the cycle computer has that the iPhone does not. The cycle computer will be compared to the Garmin Edge 530, a popular standard for high performance GPS cycle computers.
|Function||Garmin Edge 530||iPhone 12|
|Location||GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS||GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou|
|Communication Functions||Bluetooth, ANT+||Wifi, Bluetooth|
|Speed||Location, Sensor||Location, Sensor|
|Heart Rate||External Sensor||External Sensor|
|Power Meter||External Sensor||External Sensor|
|Use time||up to 20 hours||17 hours with video playback|
In this way, we can see that there is not much difference between the Garmin Edge 530 and the iPhone.
In particular, the Garmin Edge 530 is better than the Garmin Edge 530 in terms of location performance, especially since the iPhone 12 now acquires location data from multiple location satellites other than GPS: GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, and BeiDou.
The other major difference is the communication function, where the iPhone has Wifi but does not support ANT+, while the Garmin Edge 530 does not support Wifi but does support ANT+.
The easiest way to turn your iPhone into a cycle computer is to just “add an app”.
As long as you have the app, you can get all the distance-related values.
The iPhone has an excellent location sensor, so if you can get the location information, you can use the following functions without any external sensor, just by using the app.
Speed (current, average, maximum, etc.)
- distance (total distance, lap distance, etc.)
- get driving route
- current location and navigation
So, if you just want a basic GPS cycle computer, you can install the app on your iPhone and use it as a cycle computer without any additional cost.
Apps that turns your iPhone into a cycle computer
All the apps are basically the same in terms of usability as a cycle computer, but when you consider the total ease of use and free range of data tracking and fitness data management, Wahoo Fitness is the best for free use.
The iPhone’s navigation function is superior.
Many modern cycle computers come with a navigation function, and the more expensive models can be used as stand-alone, high-performance navigation systems.
However, as far as navigation performance is concerned, the iPhone’s map application and Google Maps provide more information, such as route search and real-time information, because they can communicate with each other. Another advantage of the iPhone’s navigation function is that it is always updated with the latest maps.
Especially when using other means of transportation than bicycles, such as cycling, it is much more convenient to use the iPhone to navigate public transportation such as trains.
How to make it more powerful as a cycle computer
Add sensors to get a variety of data
Even with a high performance cycle computer like the Garmin Edges 530, you will need an external sensor to obtain the following values.
- Heart rate
The latest products support both Bluetooth and ANT+, so if your sensor supports Bluetooth, you can use the sensor for your cycle computer as an external sensor for your iPhone.
In addition, the Apple Watch, a smartwatch designed exclusively for the iPhone, can be used as a heart rate sensor in some applications, so you can use the Apple Watch to get your heart rate in real time for heart rate training.
Problems and solutions when using an iPhone as a cycle computer
The battery doesn’t last.
In addition to being a cycle computer, the iPhone has other things going on in the background, such as communication and processing apps. Also, the iPhone has a 5.4 inch display, even on the 12 mini, as opposed to a cycle computer which is considered a large screen even at 3 inches.
Of all the phones, the display is the one that consumes the most battery, so for a cycle computer that is supposed to be used with the screen on while riding, the battery consumption is too high.
As a countermeasure, use a mobile battery or use a case with a built-in battery. If you use it on a road bike, I recommend a built-in battery that fits on the handlebars. It depends on the product, but generally, a battery with twice the capacity of the iPhone’s built-in battery will last for several hours of riding.
Cannot be attached to handlebars
In the case of a cycle computer, it is an accessory that is supposed to be used on a bicycle, so it comes with a mounter to attach it to the handlebars as standard, but in the case of the iPhone, such an accessory is not available as a genuine product.
However, if you have a third party phone holder, you can attach it to the handlebars of your road bike, so prepare a phone holder.
When choosing a phone holder, pay attention to the following points.
- Does it fit the size of your iPhone?
- Does it fit the diameter of the handlebars of the road bike (bicycle) on which it will be mounted?
- Is the material (metal) unbreakable?
Do I need a waterproof case?
It depends on which iPhone model you are using, but the latest iPhone 12 has an IP68 rating, which is the highest dustproof rating (6) and the highest waterproof rating (8), so there is no problem using it naked.
However, if you attach it to the steering wheel, there is a risk of dropping it due to vibration, so it is better to put it in a case to protect it from shocks just in case.