Amazon Halo has nothing to do with online shopping, groceries or even Alexa. Rather, it's an all-encompassing health and fitness service that uses a smartphone and screen-less activity band to tell you about your body.
The Amazon Halo band, which costs $99.99, is reminiscent of a Fitbit band but lacks a clock or digital display. Instead you view your basic activity metrics on the Amazon Halo companion app. And when you join the Halo service, which costs $3.99 per month, your band and smartphone will provide insights on sleep, body fat and your tone of voice.
Amazon has shied from the fitness tracking market, only doling out Alexa support to certain fitness trackers like the Wyze Band and Fitbit Versa 3. Now, however, it's armed with an entire wellness brand of its own.
But Amazon isn't entering the saturated fitness tracking business alone. It's teaming up with services like Headspace, Orangetheory, P.volve and Aaptiv, as well as medical authorities like the American Heart Association and Mayo Clinic to expand Halo's abilities.
There's quite a lot to Amazon Halo, so here's a breakdown of everything there is to know before it goes live, including how it works, what it tells you about your body and how it'll approach user privacy.
Amazon Halo cheat sheet: Key features
- Activity tracking: The Amazon Halo tracks your movement and heart rate throughout the day. However, the band does not have a display, so you'll have to use the app to launch workouts and view your workout metrics.
- Sleep analysis: When worn to bed, the Amazon Halo will analyze how well (or poorly) you sleep based on your skin temperature, heart rate and movements. You'll receive a sleep score each morning, too.
- 3D body scans: Amazon Halo has thrown its weight behind body fat percentage being a key indicator of health. The Halo app is capable of capturing 3D scans of your body and, using AI, will determine your body fat percent. T
- Tone analysis: Ever wondered how you sound to others? The mics on the Amazon Halo band listens to your voice, and the app will let you know when it senses trends or changes in your communication.
Amazon Halo release date, early access and price
The Amazon Halo band costs $64.99 right now and is available through Amazon Early Access. This means you can fill out a request for a Halo Band, and Amazon will reach out to you if you're selected to receive one.
When the Early Access period is over, the band will cost $99.99 at full price. No matter when you get the Halo band, you'll receive a complimentary 6-month membership to mobile the Halo service, which you'll need if you want a full catalog of health metrics and body insights.
The membership costs $3.99 per month after the 6-month trial is over.
Amazon Halo band design
The Amazon Halo fitness band looks like a fabric-swathed Fitbit Charge 4 that lost its screen, or like an extra long Apple Watch nylon sport loop band. It ships in three colors: Black/Onyx, Blush/Rose Gold and Winter/Silver (essentially black, pink and grey.) The straps are interchangeable, though.
Its sensors are housed in an arced, stainless steel unit beneath the fabric. One side of the water-resistant sensor unit features and LED indicator light, two microphones and a single button. Of all the fitness trackers we've seen, the Halo is one of the simplest; it's almost a throwback to early Fitbits and wearables that lacked displays.
Amazon Halo activity tracking
Without the app, the Halo band's accelerometer and heart rate sensor are capable of automatically collecting basic fitness data from walks and runs. For other activities you'll need to launch workouts via the Halo app.
When you exercise at a given intensity for a given duration, Halo will reward you with activity points. Your goal is earn 150 activity points each weeks, with the risk of losing points for extended periods of time without movement.
Amazon Halo body insights and fat scanning
In case you didn't feel your smartphone knew enough about you, the Halo app will use your handset's cameras to render 3D scans of your body and determine your body fat percentage.
While you usually need to go to a doctor (or use one of the best smart scales) to figure out your body fat percentage, Amazon has figured out a way to measure it using AI. With the Body feature, all you'll need to do is take a picture of your body, and Halo will scan it to offer a fat percentage reading.
On Amazon's Day One Blog, Dr. Maulik Majmudar, a cardiologist and Principal Medical Officer for Amazon Halo, writes that "Body fat percentage (BFP) is a better overall indicator of health and longevity than weight or BMI alone," and that the techniques used by smart scales to measure BMI are largely inaccurate.
Amazon says its Halo body fat percentage measurements are as accurate as you'd get from a doctor. We'd like to test out that claim to see how it holds up.
We'd also like to pay mind to the immediate concerns of the Body tool, which offers a little slider for showing you what your body would look like with more or less body fat. These meticulous scans could cause harm to a user with body dysmorphia or related body-image insecurities.
In response to these concerns, Amazon told The Verge that the Halo app will suggest you don't scan yourself more than every two weeks, and provide health warnings about too-low body fat. Amazon also clarified that only users 18 or older can use the Halo band's body scan feature.
Amazon Halo sleep tracking
When you wear the Halo band to bed, the app can provide sleep analysis that, on paper, rivals Fitbit's sleep tracking software. Amazon says Halo sleep tracking can identify different stages of sleep and assign a sleep score based on the quality of your shuteye.
Even more, it tracks your body temperature using a sensor similar to the one we just saw announced for the Fitbit Sense. Amazon Halo will chart your temperature, along with movement and heart rate, to help you keep tabs on what factors might be impacting your zzzs.
Amazon Halo tone analysis
One of the quirkiest (creepiest) features of Amazon Halo has to do with your voice, but there's no relation to Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant. Halo's software uses the built-in mics on the band to analyze your tone, and let you know when it senses trends or changes.
Of course, you can turn the microphones off, but Amazon says its voice analysis tone feature can inform social and emotional well-being. Like Body, Tone uses AI to gauge the energy (or lack thereof) in a user's voice to help them understand how they sound to others.
Amazon Halo privacy concerns
Wherever there are body scans, always-on microphones and a tech giant in the same service, there's bound to be security concerns. Amazon knows this, and has already outlined what privacy will look like for future Halo users.
Halo health data is encrypted in transit and in the cloud, and sensitive data, like body scan images, are deleted once processed. Meanwhile, voice analysis is processed entirely on the user's smartphone and deleted after. Nothing is recorded for playback — users can't even listen to their own speech samples.
All Amazon Halo data can be managed and deleted in the Halo app. Your Halo account is also separate from your Amazon Prime one, so anyone you share your Prime account with won't be able to access your private health information.
Amazon Halo outlook
Halo combines the basics of health tracking combined with exclusive features like voice analysis and body scans to make for a fitness tracker unlike anything on the market right now. Sure, there are smart mirrors that conduct full body scans, but I'm not sure we've seen similar software implemented in smartphones.
I'm also not sure how to feel about the inevitable consequences of body scans. I know what Amazon is going for, and I know people who would be interested in informing their fitness journeys with body fat percentage data, but I also know people whose body dysmorphia or eating disorders could be triggered by this technology. I kind of wish the slider feature showing "what ifs" didn't exist.
Of course, we'll need to test the Amazon Halo band and Amazon Halo app for ourselves to see whether they deliver everything advertised, from accurate metrics and insights, to substantial body scan precautions and an inherent sense of data privacy.