Amazon Halo: Shines as Activity and Sleep Tracker
PC Magazine|March 2021
Lots of fitness trackers can measure your calories burned, heart rate, and steps. With the Halo, Amazon wants to give you greater visibility into your overall health, along with actionable insights to help improve it. The Halo does an excellent job of monitoring your activity and sleep, and its companion app gives you access to a wide range of workouts and wellness programs. In addition, the Halo can analyze the tone of your voice to tell you how you sound to other people and measure your body-fat percentage based on images taken with its app. These two features are a bit gimmicky, but the Halo band is otherwise useful when you’re looking to move more and improve your shut-eye.
ANGELA MOSCARITOLO

WHAT THE HALO DOES

The Amazon Halo has four main features: It tracks your activity, sleep, tone of voice, and body fat percentage. I’ll go over each of these features briefly here and in more detail below.

Throughout the day, the Halo automatically tracks the intensity and duration of your movement as well as your sedentary time. Taking these factors into account, it gives you an Activity Score. Informed by recommendations from the American Heart Association, the app encourages you to reach an Activity Score of at least 150 points each week. At night, it tracks your sleep, then gives you a sleep score from 0 to 100 based on the duration and quality of your rest.

The Tone feature uses two built-in microphones to collect voice data throughout the day, then analyzes your tone and reports how you sound to others. A live mode lets you view your voice analysis in real-time. A button on the sensor capsule lets you turn the microphones off at any time to disable this feature.

Amazon Halo

PROS

Unobtrusive design. Automatically tracks activities and workouts. Comprehensive sleep tracking. Features workouts and wellness programs.

CONS

Requires a subscription. No screen or smartwatch capabilities. Tone analysis feature drains battery life. Doesn’t track recovery.

BOTTOM LINE

The unassuming Amazon Halo wristband works with a membership-based wellness service that can help you get active and sleep better, but its tone of voice and body composition analysis features are a bit creepy.

The Body feature uses your smartphone’s camera to measure your body-fat percentage and creates a 3D model you can use to track your trends. Amazon says its body-fat tool is as accurate as methods doctors use and nearly twice as accurate as top smart scales, though we can’t verify these claims. This feature doesn’t use any sensors in the Halo, but for now, Amazon requires you to own the Halo to use it.

Finally, the Discover section in the Halo app offers workouts and programs created by Amazon’s in-house experts and a number of third-party partners, including Headspace, Lifesum, Orangetheory Fitness, and Weight Watchers. There are plenty of workouts to choose from, and you can filter them by type (cardio, outdoor, strength, and yoga), duration (5 to 60 minutes), difficulty (all levels to advanced), and partner brand.

Discover offers a large selection of programs designed to help you get moving, sleep better, improve your nutrition, boost your mood through meditation, and bolster your listening and communication skills. That includes a four-week program called Conscious Listening for Better Relationships with Julian Treasure, a one-week meditation challenge from Headspace, and a three-week course from Lifesum offering tips and alternatives to help you cut down on your salt intake, just to offer a few examples. I like that the Halo not only helps you keep track of health metrics but also offers these workouts and programs to help you build healthier habits. The Discover feature alone justifies the monthly membership fee.

Instead of charging one lump sum for the hardware and offering its accompanying software features for free, as is customary with most fitness trackers, Amazon has made the Halo a membership-based service. If you choose not to renew your membership after the six-month free trial, you can still use the Halo to track your step count, heart rate, and sleep time, but you’ll lose all the other features.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE WRISTBAND

The Halo is unobtrusive. It has a fabric band with a Velcro-like clasp and a removable sensor capsule and comes in three color combinations: black on black, silver with a gray band, and rose-gold with a light-pink band. Amazon also sells fabric accessory bands in a range of colors, for $29.99 each, and silicone sport accessory bands with a buckle closure for $24.99. Changing out the band is quick and simple.

The sensor capsule measures 1.64 by 0.84 by 0.41 inches (LWH), and the band comes in small (for wrists 5.25 to 6.0 inches in circumference), medium (for wrists 5.75 to 7.0 inches), and large (for wrists 6.75 to 7.75 inches). The sensor weighs 0.63 ounces, and the small, medium and large bands weigh 0.18, 0.19, and 0.22 ounces, respectively. The Halo is so light that I barely notice it on my wrist, even when I wear it to bed.

The fabric band is a blend of polyester, nylon, and spandex; it has a tiny bit of stretch, but it’s not nearly as stretchy as the Whoop 3.0 strap. I find the Whoop 3.0 a bit more comfortable but less aesthetically pleasing due to its thickness. Along with my Halo review unit, Amazon sent a sport accessory band in Sunset (mauve and orange). It’s more comfortable and practical than the stock fabric strap, so I definitely recommend springing for one. Because it’s made of silicone, it’s easy to clean, and won’t absorb sweat while working out. And speaking of sweat, the Halo sensor capsule is water-resistant to 164 feet, meaning it’s safe to wear it to swim and shower.

Amazon includes a charging clip that powers the Halo in less than 90 minutes. Amazon says it gets up to seven days of battery life with the Tone feature disabled and up to two days with it enabled. In testing, I found those estimates to be accurate. I keep Tone on most of the time, and have to charge the Halo about every other day.

The Halo doesn’t have a screen. It doesn’t offer any smartwatch features, and it doesn’t buzz or ding, so it won’t distract you during the day or at night. In today’s connected world, that’s a breath of fresh air. But it also means you have to open the Halo app whenever you want to view your metrics.

SETTING UP THE HALO

To get started, place the Halo band inside the included USB charging clip with the button on the tracker facing out. After a few seconds, a tiny white light will illuminate, indicating it’s ready to pair. Download the Amazon Halo app (available for Android and iOS) and follow the onscreen instructions to finish the setup process.

When you open the app, allow Bluetooth access so the strap can communicate with your phone, press Set Up Your Band, sign in to your Amazon account, then tap or add your name. The app then asks your birthday, height, weight, and gender. Amazon says it offers only female and male gender options right now, because the Halo’s body-measurement models are currently based on sex assigned at birth. If you choose a gender that’s different than the one assigned to you at birth, some of your measurements or results might be inaccurate, the company says.

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