Amazon Halo View review: the Fitbit clone no one asked for

The Amazon Halo Look at looks like a Fitbit and acts like a Fitbit, and if that’s all it did, that would’ve been fine. But despite all looks, this is normally not really a Fitbit. To stand from the crowd aside, Amazon added a few exceptional features to its Halo system with some admittedly amazing technology. Nevertheless, of a straightforward instead, budget fitness tracker, Amazon made a confusing gadget that does not quite understand what it’s expected to end up being.

The Halo Watch is Amazon’s second foray into fitness trackers actually. The initial was last year’s Halo Band, a screenless bracelet reminiscent of the Whoop tracker. With the Watch, a color OLED touchscreen was added therefore you can verify your stats at a view, and microphones were eliminated. While the microphone’s been nixed, you get the standard accelerometer and optical heart rate monitor, on top of a blood oxygen (SpO2) sensor. Like with additional fundamental trackers, you received’t find anything elegant here, so don’t expect detailed activity tracking, an always-on display, or contactless payments. Battery existence is definitely an estimated seven days, which is about what I got with multiple daily syncs and roughly three hours of recorded exercise.

With this tracker, what you see is what you get. There’s no Amazon branding anywhere on the Halo View, and from a distance, you could easily mistake it for a Fitbit or one of Xiaomi’s Mi Bands. During the week I tested the View, I lost count of how many times people pointed to my wrist and asked, “Oh, which Fitbit is that?” On the plus part, it’s incredibly light-weight and comfy enough for rest monitoring. Nevertheless, while it made it multiple showers, I wouldn’t contact it specifically long lasting. While washing my house, the band captured on a hanger, and the secure popped off. The swappable music group system is certainly protected for everyday lifestyle, but a solid pull is certainly more than enough to split it off your arm.

Good Stuff

Takes a beginner-friendly approach
Movement Health feature is unique
Bad Stuff
Body fat and firmness feature are ironically tone-deaf
App design is clunky
Activity metrics are bad for measuring long-term progress

On the wrist, you can’t do much beyond the basics. Of training course, you can find the best period, and there are a few basic view looks to select from. You can swipe through to check your daily stats, begin a workout, set alarms and timers, and tweak device settings. That’s about it. Notifications are also limited. While you can get alerts for texts and reminders to move, you received’t obtain any for calls or drive notices from apps.

Because the hardware is so simple, most of Amazon’s special sauce is in the Halo companion app. On top of standard features like tracking rest and activity, you can monitor body fat also, overall tone, and motion wellness. This is normally where stuff begin to proceed off the rails. I’m not sure why Amazon determined to open this can of worms, but the body fat and shade features feel like they were plucked out of my nightmares.

Scientific validation aside, the body fat scan tool is definitely the creepiest thing I’ve ever tested as a wearables reviewer. It removed about seven years of therapy in a second

The body fat scan involves you taking four pictures from an unflattering angle in your skivvies. That’s after that transformed into a 3D model of your body that you can rotate. It’ll also spit out your approximated body fat percentage and present where you fall in the range of various other people complementing your demographics. Also, there’s a slider that enables you visualize what you might appear like at higher and lower body fat percentages varying from 13 percent to 50 percent. Amazon promises this feature is normally clinically authenticated to become twice as accurate as at-home intelligent scales and outperformed DXA, the clinical yellow metal standard. The study Amazon sent me, while impressive, does state in tiny print up top that the study had not been peer-reviewed and that the copyright holder is usually both the author and funder. This is usually par for the course for gadgets that claim to have scientific backing but should be taken with a sizable grain of salt.

Screenshot of Amazon Halo app’s Tone feature

The Firmness feature is unsettling.

Scientific validation aside, the body fat scan tool is the creepiest thing I’ve ever tested as a wearables reviewer. It erased about seven years of therapy in a second. It said I had a body fat percentage of 36 percent, which was “too high” compared to other women in my age group. That’s comparable to what I get on other bioelectric impedance devices but counter-top to everything my doctor told me at my last physical. (I got a clean bill of health, my bloodwork was great, and I was informed I didn’t want to get rid of pounds.)

Of training course, I trust my doctor more than any fitness music group, but it’s simple to see how this feature could demoralize anyone only getting started or trigger even more serious conditions like body dysmorphia. Amazon will include educational context about body fat, BMI, and how body fat changes over weeks gradually. But for many people, body fats is certainly an emotional metric, and it’s simpler to obsess over a 3D model of you with a six-pack than examine the health literature.

There’s privacy Then. When you try the scan for the first time, Amazon prompts you into choosing in or out of cloud backups. It says that images are processed in the Amazon cloud and then deleted by default so long as you opt out of backups. You can also delete images and measurements from your phone manually from the settings menu. While I appreciate Amazon being upfront about privacy, I still felt uneasy. Bottom line: even if no one ever sees these images, I don’t feel the “benefits” of the feature outweigh how crappy it made me feel.

The Fitbit Charge 5 on top of the Amazon Halo View
The Fitbit Charge 5 (top) doesn’t look all that different from the Halo View.

It’d be one thing if there was just one creepy feature. But there’s also Tone – a feature that analyzes your voice so you can “see how others hear you.” This was included with the original Halo Band, which monitored your speech on-device and faced a fair share of criticism when that launched. The View no longer has microphones, so you actively have to choose to use the feature on your phone. During setup, you’ll be asked to read several passages in a neutral tone. Once that’s all done, you can proceed to let Amazon tone police your conversations.

It was deeply unsettling to watch the AI tell me in real-time that I sounded “sad,” “discouraged,” and “shy” – which was accurate given how uncomfortable I felt. During a conversation with a friend, the algorithm marked me as sounding positive. I was not. The vast majority was my friend ranting and raving about how much she hated this feature while I nodded my head. Another thing – Amazon says the feature should only analyze my voice, but at times, it seemed to track my friend’s tone and not mine. That could’ve been the background noise, latency, or poor signal, but it was disconcerting, to say the least.

But for many people, body fat is an emotional metric, and it’s easier to obsess over a 3D model of you with a six-pack than read the health literature

After I was done testing, my friend asked me, “Who would actually want this?” The only scenario I could come up with was practicing for a presentation or speech. Otherwise, I can’t imagine why anyone would whip out their phone to get tone policed. Not only would you have to get consent from everyone present, but you could get the same feedback from recording a video of yourself or just asking the people closest to you.

The Amazon Halo View on a person’s wrist
You can do the most basic tasks from your wrist, but not much more.

It’s easy to dunk on Amazon for being unnecessarily weird with Halo, but there are some things it does well. The highlight is the Movement health feature. You use your phone to record about five minutes of basic exercises like lunges and squats. After, you’ll see a breakdown of how stable or mobile your trunk, hips, lower body, and shoulders are. Depending on your results, you’ll get recommendations for exercises to strengthen those areas. It reminds me of Apple’s Walking Steadiness feature, which alerts you when your mobility (or lack thereof) puts you at risk of a major fall and exercises to improve stability. However, Amazon’s version is more actionable and proactive.

It was deeply unsettling to watch the AI tell me in real-time that I sounded “sad,” “discouraged,” and “shy”

Amazon also gets credit for cramming educational content into every nook and cranny of the app. I may not be fond of some of these features, but at least there were explainer articles and videos to help me understand them. But again, Amazon could’ve done a better job organizing this content. The app itself feels cluttered, and I often felt like I was getting sucked into a rabbit hole while trying to find one feature or explainer.

I also appreciated that Halo focuses on how many minutes of moderate activity you get each week instead of an arbitrary step count or calorie burn goal. Like Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes metric, depending on your activity levels and heart rate, you get a certain amount of points that add up to 150. (That’s a commonly used baseline from the American Heart Association and other health institutions.) It’s a more holistic approach that allows for greater flexibility, especially for beginners.

Photo of the Halo View’s sensors and band
The sensor array is simple, and you can see why the strap might pop off if you tug too hard.

While I understand Amazon beginner-friendly wanting to be, I’m a little baffled at how bare-bones workout tracking is. This is the only tracker in recent memory that doesn’t track distance or pace for running and walking. There’s no GPS data literally, not via a tethered connection to your phone even. Instead, you’re limited to calories and steps burned – two useless metrics for measuring progress. You do see your heart rate averages, as well as minutes spent in light, moderate, or extreme activity. This is if you’re trying to be more active alright, but it’s not at all helpful if you’re training for an event or want to see how far you’ve come.

There’s Halo Fitness Then, Amazon’s library of instructor-led workout videos. In a nutshell, it’s the store brand version of Apple Fitness Plus. It gets the working job done, and it’ll appeal to people turned off by peppy or chatty trainers insufferably. In early 2022, you should be able to see your metrics on screen as well. I tried a strength and core workout – they were fine. However, I wish Amazon did a much better job organizing the workouts. It doesn’t mean anything when you tag a core workout as “All levels” but describe it as “athletic.” The result was me thinking I’d picked a difficult workout moderately. Instead, I ended up falling on my face when trying a more advanced plank variation. Another strength workout was done at the speed of light, with any time to check my form barely, switch dumbbells, or rest between sets.

Screenshot of the sleep tracking screen in the Halo app
Sleep tracking is adequate.

Sleep tracking is satisfactory also. Amazon isn’t reinventing the wheel here, but you get a daily sleep score, a graph that tracks your sleep stages, and other metrics like body temperature. Accuracy is hard to measure outside a clinical setting, but my Halo data largely corresponded to what I got on the latest Oura Ring I wore while testing. It wasn’t perfect. Or twice Once, the View didn’t catch when I was actually awake, snarfing down a midnight snack. The two devices also didn’t always agree about how long it took me to fall asleep. However, different companies use different algorithms, and the View held up against among the best sleep trackers out there.

At $79.99, it’s also the most affordable tracker that provides this number of features. Year After the first, a monthly Halo subscription is $3.99, which is much cheaper than Fitbit Premium still, Apple Fitness Plus, and many other fitness apps. There’s no doubt you get a complete lot for the price, but if you would like a simple tracker, you can turn to a Mi Band always, Fitbit Inspire 2 (which you can find frequently on sale), or one of Amazfit’s myriad trackers. None of those will ask you to take pictures of yourself in your undies.

Altogether, this feels like a tracker with an identity crisis. Half of its health features are terrible for your mental well-being arguably. They feel more like an Amazon tech showcase than tools to really help people. The other half is built out. On the one hand, Amazon obviously put a complete lot of effort into catering to those just starting out on their fitness journey. At the same time, it’s missing some basic metrics from workouts, Halo Fitness is tough to navigate, and I’d be shocked if a beginner felt at all encouraged by the 3D body fat models. The tragedy is Amazon could’ve built a simple, affordable tracker and left it at that. Instead, it had to get weird about it.

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