Amazon is breaking into the fitness tracking market with a wearable fitness band and health-tracking service called Halo. The company will be up against the Apple Watch and FitBit, the leaders in the wearable fitness industry, but they appear to be shaking things up in a big way.
The most noticeable difference? Amazon’s Halo doesn’t have a screen. It’s also overflowing with advanced and never-seen-before features such as a three-dimensional rendering of their body with an estimated body fat percentage and a feature which tracks a user’s tone of voice to distinguish their mood. The Halo band will cost $99.99 and the service costs $3.99 per month. The service is necessary for some of the band’s more advanced features.
I’ll give you a breakdown of product and service but, first, it’s important to note that isn’t FDA approved like many other wearables. This is because, Amazon tells The Verge, The Amazon Halo isn’t a medical device.
Like I mentioned already, the Halo band is screenless. This is because, rather than being able to distract you, the Halo band is there to promote (and track) health and wellness while encouraging long term lifestyle changes. But this does mean you’ll have to use your phone to check certain features, like your step count.
It’s designed to be sleek and barely noticeable, with two microphones (which you can switch off at any time), an LED light and a sensor on the underside of the strap. The sensors include an accelerometer, a temperature sensor and a heart-rate monitor. It should be comfy enough to wear in bed, too, so you can track your sleep effectively. They’ll connect to your phone via Bluetooth where you can keep track of every feature.
The bands themselves will be available in either fabric ($19.99) or sports ($15.99) and will be waterproof for swimming and showering, so you really can leave it on 24/7. Plus, the battery life will last a week.
The bands will be available in three main colours – Onyx (black), Mineral (light blue) and Rose Gold (pink) and will come in a variety of sizes, with a keen focus on making sure some are small enough for people with slender wrists, which is where other wearables often fall short.
Now for the fun part…
Along with the basic features like sleep and activity tracking, the Amazon Halo has some remarkable features that have the potential to push it to the top of the fitness wearable game.
A Points-Based System
Unlike the Apple Watch’s ring system (which encourages users to close rings by achieving certain goals like steps, minutes exercising and sleep. The baseline goal is 150 points and the more intense the exercise the more points you rack up.
Crucially, users can lose points for being too sedentary, which is a distinguishing feature for the Halo compared to other devices which focus solely on positive motivation. According to Dr. Maulik Majmudar, a cardiologist and principal medical officer with Amazon Halo, “This approach is more aligned with scientific guidelines”.
Labs is the challenge feature of the Halo app, which encourages workouts and healthy habits. Amazon collaborated with Headspace, Harvard Health Publishing, the Mayo Clinic, the American Heart Association and others to make Labs as scientifically accurate and efficient as possible. Each ‘Lab’ will last around four weeks and can be anything from yoga and meditation to eating habits. You’ll need a Halo subscription for $3.99 a month to access Labs.
This feature has been cited as the game-changer; the feature that will make the Amazon Halo stand out from all of its competitors.
The Tone feature is focused on mental health and wellbeing. It uses the microphones in the device to interpret your tone of voice (hence the name) and understand your emotions or mood. So Halo will know when you’re happy and relaxed or angry and anxious, which are really valuable metrics.
You can use this feature to create a voice profile and track your tone in the background throughout the day. But, as Forbes states, the fact you can use this feature to track how you sound in real-time is ridiculously useful – especially if you’re “practising a presentation or preparing a wedding speech”.
The microphone can be turned off at any time, has no connection to Alexa and does not store data on the cloud, which is a Godsend in terms of privacy (especially given the recently amended Alexa flaw that allowed hackers to exploit the voice feature). The biggest downside to Tone – for now! – is that it’s only compatible with US-English speakers and works best for native English speakers. So, not the most inclusive, but I presume that’s something they’re working on.
Another astounding feature of the device is ‘Body,’ which is used to track health without focusing on weight and BMI, which Amazon believes aren’t the most practical measures of health.
Halo measures Body Fat Percentage (so the percentage of fat your body holds compared to muscle, water, bones and all that other good stuff). It does this by using your smartphone camera to create a 3D scan of your body and using machine learning to analyze your Body Fat Percentage. Amazon says this is much more accurate than scales using bioelectrical impedance.
Once you’ve got your scan, Amazon deletes the scan data from its servers. You can also use a scale to see how you’d look with more or less fat… But I’d definitely take that with a pinch of salt.
Without the $3.99 subscription, Halo will still be able to track basic functions like sleep and steps. But most of the features mentioned above are available only with the subscription. This subscription model again makes it stand out from its competitors, but not necessarily in a good way. The Verge points out that “Companies like Fitbit and Withings offer some of the same features you can get out of the Halo system, including sleep tracking and suggestions for improving your fitness,” adding, “they also have more full-featured bands with displays and other functionality.
“And of course there’s the Apple Watch, which will have deeper and better integrations with the iPhone than will ever be possible for the Halo band”. Although Amazon state the Halo app should work just fine on both Android and iOS.
Honestly, this is a hugely exciting development for the fitness-tech-wearable space and I’d be tempted to buy it myself – especially as someone who does contact sport and can’t risk a clunky, scratchy Apple Watch or FitBit.
At $99.99 it’s hardly a bank-breaker for the features it offers, and $3.99 might be seen as supplementary to your gym membership (especially if you’re the type to spend $1 a week on those bioelectrical impedance scales I mentioned earlier). Better still, Amazon is offering invite-only early access program today with an introductory price of $64.99 that includes six months of the service for free for customers in the US.