Amazon Halo: Accessory or Standalone Wearable?

The Amazon Halo seems like another attempt at Amazon trying to get outside the home. Before the Halo it was the Amazon Echo Loop. Unlike Apple and Google, Amazon consistently struggles to be with their customers at all times. A wearable is a great way to get into the market, but like the Echo Loop, it is not the best at what it tries to do.

However, everything so far that Amazon is telling me about my heartbeat, tone, and body mass index seems relatively accurate. Additionally, the Halo is fun to play with once in a while.

Photo: Amazon

Tone

By itself, the Amazon Halo is a very interesting concept. I enjoy playing with tone to see how I felt that day or during a specific moment. But in general, I usually find myself asking, ‘why?’ The Amazon Halo’s tone feature is more akin to a mood ring for your throat. There are times where I will look back and think, “ah that’s interesting. I didn’t think I sounded that way.”

But half the time, the people I’m with don’t notice it either. For example, I work in customer service and I answer phones a lot. It’s not my favorite thing to do, but I try to be polite and no one ever said I’m rude. In fact, I usually get praises for my customer service.

Amazon doesn’t praise me, though. They know when I’m happy, annoyed, or frustrated. I’m not going to say that’s scary, but it is weird to think about and it raises the biggest question for me about Amazon Halo. Why do I need to know this? Is it a bit disingenuous to not mean every ‘have a great day!’ or ‘thank you for calling!’

Yes, but that’s what it means to be human. The Halo’s biggest failure when it comes to tone is that it’s not human. It can’t detect the difference between my genuine disgust of another human being and my annoyance at needing to work, or even my exhaustion when I’m talking to someone. To Amazon, all of these are the same thing because of my ‘tone.’ They aren’t able to see my face and they don’t mean the same thing.

By itself there is no issue with knowing you were disingenuous nor is there anything wrong with how tone works. It is very accurate most of the time and aside from these small human quirks, there’s not much else to argue about. My biggest gripe with Tone is how frequently it checks my tone.

For the days I have it on, it doesn’t check it as often as I thought it would be based on the advertising. Instead, it records periodically. This is of course to save battery and not always have a microphone on you. But there are two settings for recording: Less Tone and More Tone. But I couldn’t really tell the difference aside from my battery life.

One could always bypass the need for these settings by recording specific conversations or by using live tone, though.

The Tone feature is very accurate from what I’ve seen. After I drafted this, I decided to run it through the Tone’s feature of recording a specific conversation

It was able to tell I was focused which makes sense since I am reading from a script.

But beyond that, Tone is amazing to show off to people who were skeptical of the feature. Both my brother and girlfriend hated the idea of Amazon listening to you, but after they saw the live feature, they wanted to try themselves.

It’s neat, but even then, everyone forgot about it pretty quickly.

I personally saw the novelty of it wear off pretty fast and I kept the band muted most of the time because it was both a drain on the battery. I really only show it off when I use the live tone feature.

Body Scan

Body Scan is the second biggest feature the Halo advertises. I didn’t mind taking pictures of myself to send them to Jeff Bezos. In fact, I was laughing the whole time, but it does require you to put faith in Amazon’s security and promises about what they do with these images.

I’m 180lbs, 5’10” and I haven’t worked out in about 6 months, so I expected my Body Mass Index (BMI) to be higher than it was previously, and it was. My previous measurements I took in May put me at 18–19% BMI. Currently Amazon says that my BMI is 20.2%. So, it’s not a huge difference, but taking a look into the BMI slider, I would say that I am closer to 22%.

Indeed, the most interesting fact about these pictures is that I learned I should be doing more leg and glute exercises.

I wasn’t expecting it to be completely accurate, but it’s nice to have at least an estimate as calculating BMI is hard without the proper equipment. That said, it should be warned that putting too much weight in what pictures say is not the best thing in the world, so I would hesitate on holding it to be the most accurate reading.

Even Amazon cautions this stating in the app, “BMI is based on your height and weight, but doesn’t distinguish between fat and muscle.” However, it does recommend everyone to scan their body every two weeks, so it will be interesting to see how the data changes overtime.

Sleep Tracking

Sleep Tracking for me, is one of the more interesting things the Halo does. I don’t find myself looking at the Apple Health sleep section often, but I do look at the Amazon Halo one. It may be because there is less to look at, but in general a quick examination of the Halo Sleep data gives a lot of information at a glance. I can easily see when I fell into a light sleep, deep sleep, REM, and finally how much time I spent awake.

Additionally, a giant circle saying ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is just simple. It gives most of the information I need about my sleep.

My biggest issue with the Halo’s sleep function is the body temperature. It shows me a graph with my baseline, but it doesn’t tell me what my baseline is. Instead, it will say my body temperature was +0.8 or -0.1 degrees compared to my baseline. Which is cool, but what’s my baseline? It’s a minor factor, but I feel it would be nice to be included even if it was an estimate.

The whole point of the baseline is for you to monitor your trends in your sleeping environment. Again, it’s neat, but I do not believe that this is important overall. Amazon themselves says “your nightly skin temperature can vary for many reasons.” This means, if you are trying to track something in particular, it would be good to see, but for day-to-day usage, it’s just a nice bonus.

Activity Tracking and the Lab

With that said, the Halo activity tracking is great. I enjoy seeing how much of my activity was moderate and intense and so forth. Amazon claims that the band can detect the intensity of the exercise and I’ve yet to see that proven wrong. My intense activity is seemingly always recorded accurately.

By default, it shows the weekly activity instead of the daily activity and it aims for everyone to get 150 ‘activity’ points per day which can come from a combination of activities. Further, the app penalizes you for being sedentary which reduces your overall activity points.

The Lab is also a very interesting concept and it works well with the activity tracking. The Lab is also perhaps the best thing about the Amazon Halo app. For people struggling to get into exercising or health in general the Lab is very useful. It gives you advice and videos from a variety of sources such as WebMD, Headspace, Orangetheory, etc. to learn and practice specific exercises that help with getting good habits in place.

I don’t find myself using the workouts as there are other apps such as JEFIT to give me exercise ideas, but for someone who is unsure of where to start the variety of resources the Lab gives are tremendous. From working out, nutrition, sleep, and tone, there is something for everyone in the Lab.

I found myself going through the Tone section of the Lab often. It’s fun to learn about, but I’m not entirely for how long it will remain interesting. Much of the advice is simple and the advice could be found elsewhere without the monthly subscription. With that as well, it just brings me to the biggest question I have with the Amazon Halo, ‘why?’

Conclusions

Most everything Amazon put into the Amazon Halo can be found elsewhere. The two biggest features of the Halo were both the BMI estimator and Tone. Both of which are not at all interesting enough to charge a band twice a day.

The BMI estimator allows you to upload multiple scans, so you can track your progress, but honestly, I do not think people need to use it. After the first body scan, you can use the estimator. There’s nothing stopping someone from using the BMI slider and a full body mirror in order to estimate their own BMI. It is the same with tone, most people understand what they sound like and they even have the added benefit of understanding why they soun a specific way.

Don’t get me wrong, if you want to play around with the features and get estimations, it is fun, but I don’t think the Halo is worth the $99.99 price tag Amazon put on it. Since I got the band in early access, I don’t think I overpaid with my $64.99, but for everyday use I feel one would be better suited for a Fitbit, Apple Watch, or another smart watch

Overall, I feel the Amazon Halo is a good-looking accessory, but not much else at this stage since other wearables do the same.

Aspiring writer. Currently a jack of all trades, but master of none. I write about true crime and tech reviews typically.

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