LightBlue Explorer for iOS has been downloaded by over 600,000 people over the years and is trusted by industrial experts and enthusiasts alike. What began as a project to simplify BLE development internally blossomed into an app that has helped debug and develop Bluetooth devices around the world.
Some background on Android BLE
There are currently more than two billion monthly active Android devices around the world, and although not all of them support Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), it speaks volume to the importance of ensuring that BLE products support and work well with Android devices on the market that do support BLE.
Throughout the years, we’ve had the opportunity to work on multiple Android projects with our client base and the common theme seems to be that BLE development on Android isn’t straightforward. Sure enough, a cursory Google search reveals that BLE development on Android isn’t exactly a smooth-sailing journey for most developers, with the most common issues being inconsistent latency and MTU across devices from different manufacturers, the lack of native support for serially queued BLE operations and inconsistent scanning behavior across different Android OS versions (the most notable being on Android M, access to location has to be granted in order for BLE scanning to return any results at all). With that said, we’ve come to the conclusion that developers would benefit from a debug or development tool on the Android platform that has been robustly tested against a multitude of devices.
Our vision for LightBlue® Explorer on Android
A very common scenario we see with our customers is that they have an Android app that performs BLE operations, but it doesn’t do so reliably, if at all. Our main motivation behind LightBlue® Explorer for Android is for it to be the gold standard for an Android BLE development app.
Essentially, the app will have a clean, basic UI and the most barebones BLE functionalities—to be able to read, write and be notified about characteristic changes. That way, when testing an Android app that you wrote against a BLE device and something doesn’t work, there’s a way to determine if the issue arises from the Android application code, the Android Bluetooth stack, or the BLE device’s firmware code—if the BLE device works fine with LightBlue Explorer, then it’s an issue with the Android app being developed, otherwise it’s likely the firmware or a bug in the Android Bluetooth stack.
Excited? We are, too! The initial release of LightBlue® Explorer for Android will contain the following features, with more to come in the future.
- Ability to scan for surrounding BLE devices and display their advertised name and signal strength (in dBm) in real time.
- Ability to connect to advertising BLE devices and discover services and characteristics associated with them.
- Ability to read from and write to characteristics that are advertised as readable and writable respectively.
- Ability to subscribe to indications/notifications for characteristics that are advertised as being able to be subscribed to.
- Browse through a log of significant BLE events and share them in plain text format via text message, email or any social networking platform of your choice.
We hope you enjoy LightBlue Explorer on Android as much as we enjoyed building it.
Happy developing or Fitbit-hunting!
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The Android robot is reproduced or modified from work created and shared by Google and used according to terms described in the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License.