[Update – March 15th, Strava has reversed course and re-enabled Apple Health sync. Full details here.]
It’s been a couple of years since Strava has managed to irk the Web, however over the previous couple of days, they’ve unleashed a torrent of upset Apple customers. Should you’re an Android person, then this submit in all probability received’t imply a lot to you. As an alternative, you possibly can go have a look at outdated journey posts right here for leisure. However for Apple customers who’ve (for years) used Strava’s skill to take third social gathering exercises (e.g. Zwift, Garmin, TrainerRoad, and many others…) synced to Strava, and insert them into Apple Well being – that functionality was abruptly killed off late final week. And with that, killing off many individuals’s skill to ‘full their rings’ on Apple Well being, particularly Apple Watch customers that primarily used different gadgets for sport/health for his or her exercises. This has additionally damaged medical health insurance health factors packages that make the most of Apple Well being as a repository for knowledge, by which customers usually use Strava to populate that knowledge.
Word that this doesn’t affect people who file a exercise instantly inside the Strava app, or from their Apple Watch itself. These stay useful and replace Apple Well being. Additional, Strava’s change was made by a backend server toggle, as such, it wasn’t tied to any particular Strava app replace in your telephone. So it impacted everybody, immediately.
However this variation broke extra than simply ring-counting diehards, but in addition many different third social gathering apps that leverage Apple Well being as a repository and change level for well being/health knowledge (which, was kinda the purpose of Apple Well being).
To again up barely, and clarify what persons are upset about, that you must begin with the belief and premise that Strava stopped being about ‘Segments’ years in the past. Certain, these are necessary to a gaggle of individuals (as are different options like routes and evaluation). However for the overwhelming majority of individuals (together with myself), Strava really represents two issues at its core lately:
A) Social sharing platform for health folks/actions
B) The singular platform that *each* well being/health firm integrates with
There’s not a single sport/health machine I’m conscious of that doesn’t combine with Strava. Thus, it’s turn out to be the defacto interchange for sport/health knowledge over the previous couple of years. And whereas Strava undoubtedly touts that usually, I don’t suppose they’ve absolutely grasped the downstream ramifications of that. Both in coverage or technically. Certain, they’ve a third social gathering API that’s utilized by “tens of 1000’s” of builders, however that API has rate-throttling limits that make it difficult (and outright unimaginable) for a lot of builders to develop. Strava usually appears to deal with their unbelievable adoption achievement with an air of disdain for the undercurrent of the very knowledge sources and platforms which have made it profitable.
And Thursday’s transfer is an efficient instance of that. With out warning, they broke lots of people. My inbox (of every type) has been flooded with messages. As have quite a few Reddit threads, and Zwift boards, in addition to threads throughout numerous associate app/machine firm’s personal web sites/boards.
So let’s discuss what broke, by first explaining the easy path that some folks use Strava for lately. Like many individuals on Strava, they’re really recording their exercise on one other machine (e.g. Garmin, Polar, Wahoo, COROS, and many others…). So the workflow is as follows:
1) Document on a Garmin/Zwift/and many others, syncs exercise to Strava
2) Strava then pushes a replica of that exercise to Apple Well being
3) Different apps can use Apple Well being knowledge, together with Apple’s personal each day exercise ‘Rings’
Within the case of Thursday, Strava determined with out discover to easily kill off ‘Step 2’ above. This meant that instantly, folks’s exercises weren’t getting pushed to Apple Well being. And since Strava has 100 million customers, even simply 1% of individuals impacted is 1,000,000 folks.
However it’s extra than simply rings. There are literally a whole lot of different apps/platforms that rely on knowledge in Apple Well being (or put it to use). For instance, I lately printed how Whoop has began leveraging it to enhance accuracy, and different platforms that do coaching load use it too, as a way of monitoring exercise standing. Additional, in my particular case, I exploit this performance in instances the place a platform (like Casio or Samsung) doesn’t enable correct export of exercise recordsdata (however they do accurately replace Strava).
When Strava broke this, they merely up to date a help web page indicating that individuals ought to use their gadgets/app personal direct connection:
However that will get to a transparent lack of know-how on Strava’s half about how this know-how really works. See, the explanation folks aren’t utilizing these direct connections is as a result of they suck. See, let’s take Garmin. Of their case, positive, they push an exercise/exercise to Apple Well being. However they don’t do it correctly. As an alternative, they nullify all of the exercise coronary heart price knowledge and don’t accurately write ‘Lively Energy’, which implies customers don’t get credit score for rings or some medical health insurance packages. Sure, that is dumb of Garmin (and at one level Garmin really did ship full HR knowledge, no less than a yr in the past, as I’ve received screenshots displaying coronary heart price knowledge from January 2021). However these inconsistencies are additionally kinda par for the course for a lot of firms. Wahoo, and Suunto? They really do it accurately. Woot!
And you then get apps like Zwift, which Strava once more mentioned “simply allow the direct connection from Zwift”. Besides once more, that exhibits a scarcity of technical understanding of how this works. Sure, you possibly can have Zwift push your exercise to Apple Well being – however *ONLY* when you really execute the exercise in your iPhone. No, not an iPad, or Apple TV, or PC, or anything – because it received’t push each energy and coronary heart price (that are wanted). It must be in your particular iPhone. That’s as a result of Apple Well being (and thus Well being Package), *ONLY* exists on an iPhone, and is just in your iPhone. Certain, there are people who Zwift with their iPhones, however I’m guessing most of them are doing it in a pinch. The companion app doesn’t rely right here. Which once more, Zwift ought to repair and have the companion app correctly push it to our telephones, as they eliminated that characteristic for non-grandfathered customers a couple of months in the past – and even then that also required Apple Watch utilization throughout Zwift.
And finally, I may do that for nearly each app in Strava’s checklist. Over and time and again. However the web and Twitter has already carried out that for me.
So, why does Strava say they did it? I requested, and after some backwards and forwards, right here’s their official assertion on it:
“This replace prevents duplicates of your actions being despatched to your Strava account from each Garmin and HealthKit. Now, your entire buddies can provide you kudos in your single exercise add with out being cut up between two duplicate uploads.
As a result of your Garmin writes on to Apple HealthKit (similar to it syncs your actions to Strava), one of the best ways to get your knowledge into HealthKit is straight out of your Garmin.”
So from their perspective, they have been attempting to scale back folks getting duplicate actions. This is able to happen when somebody toggled the enablement in Strava, not realizing the implications. Or, maybe they enabled this selection in Strava years in the past, after which additionally received round to extra lately also-enabling it in a third social gathering app, not understanding why duplicates occurred. And sure, I agree, that’s undoubtedly a sound downside for some customers.
However Strava has made it a “throw out the child with the bathwater” downside. The corporate has taken their pre-2020 stance that claims “Nah, we received’t do any precise improvement or UI work to repair this”. That’s the identical “it’s onerous” stance they took once they killed off sensor help 2.5 years in the past.
The factor – it’s simply not that onerous.
When a person toggles that possibility in Strava, in a matter of a trivial lookup in Apple Well being, Strava can see if in style apps like Garmin Join, Zwift, and others, are writing to Apple Well being. It’s a easy HealthKit enumeration name. They’ll even see if there are latest exercise knowledge from these knowledge sources. At which level they might pop-up a message that claims “Yo, you is likely to be about to create duplicates, are you positive?”.
And that’s it. They’re carried out. That’s all they needed to do.
And in the event that they needed to spend greater than three seconds on the trouble, they might even use a few of that developer magic to go a step additional and proactively look in Apple Well being previous to writing exercise every time for duplicates of the very same time/length/supply (since they know that too). In spite of everything, they have already got de-dup logic on Strava’s platform. They know find out how to de-dup if that’s a priority. Will it repair each single occasion of de-dup? In fact not. However will it deal with the overwhelming majority? Completely.
Undoubtedly, Strava feels this isn’t their downside. Of their reply, they see the answer as each different firm fixing their integration with Apple Well being. And positive, that’s a sound technical stance to take. However it’s not a sound client stance to take. First off, what firm breaks a characteristic that’s been round for years with 0 minutes’ discover? And second, Strava’s answer is so that you can spend much less time with their platform.
I imply, that’s actually what they’re saying. The one response/answer is so that you can arrange sync to Apple Well being that negates the necessity for Strava within the center. I can’t think about any firm saying “Look, how about you don’t use our companies?”. As an alternative, persons are going to different third social gathering platforms like RunGap for sync, or to direct Apple Well being analytics/sync apps like HealthFit. However this merely provides these entrenched within the Apple rings system fewer causes to make the most of Strava. It’s not going anybody’s ultimate straw, but it surely’s pointless straws.
And perhaps Strava has carried out the enterprise serviette math right here. Although, I kinda doubt it. My conversations with them appear to obviously indicate they don’t perceive the technical ramifications of why their workarounds don’t really work. By no means thoughts that’s not a consumer-friendly observe in any case. And given Strava’s said purpose/shift during the last two years of being “for the athlete”, this transfer definitely doesn’t help that. And whereas the corporate has made large strides over that point interval in including new options, it’s inconsiderate adjustments like this that burn these bridges down.
Hopefully, Strava reverses course right here. They demonstrated that disabling this characteristic was a easy backend toggle (and never an app replace). So enabling it’s equally a easy backend toggle. After which they might take correct subsequent steps for a special de-duplicate answer if that’s really inflicting them the help hardship they indicate. In any other case, Strava has merely taken their very own inside downside and made it their prospects’ downside. And that’s by no means marketing strategy.
With that, thanks for studying.