SDCAN REVIEW: Amazon Halo Fitness Tracker Pros and Cons

Amazon has made its new Halo fitness tracker device available for the X-mas rush.  So should you buy Amazon’s newest wearable device?  Here are the pros and cons that we documented after using the Halo for one week.   Amazon hasn’t had much luck in the wearables market – the Echo Loop smart ring, smart glasses and wireless earbuds have been disappointing, at best.   But it has now begun offering its newest wearable, which is essentially an accelerometer, a heart-rate monitor, a temperature sensor and two microphones rolled into a wristband.   Instead of a screen, it connects to a mobile app via Bluetooth.   Overall, we were impressed with the device’s capabilities but couldn’t quite overlook its many deficiencies.   Perhaps Amazon will be making some improvements in coming months.

But perhaps the most important takeaway that we got from our one week with the Halo is that it is less of a fitness tracker and more of a wellness device.  The Halo provides feedback about your sleep patterns, your emotional health (via voice and word analysis), your body composition as well as your fitness.   The retail giant appears to be building a wearable platform that will assist with the totality of your well-being, not just your fitness.   And that’s a good thing, because the fitness part of the Halo is likely its weakest link.

PROS

  • The sleep tracker is really impressive.  Its ability to track your deep sleep and REM cycles is very useful and, from what we can tell, largely accurate.
  • Its attention to mental health by analyzing your voice and the words you use is pretty cool.   It takes some bodacious AI capabilities to pull it off.  From what we can tell, the Halo was fairly accurate in its assessment.
  • Charge time for the device was super fast and we’ve been pleased with the battery performance.  One charge will last at least a full day, if not two days.  We’d place the device in its charger while showering and it’d been fully charged in less than 15 minutes.
  • The “Labs” offered by Amazon, in conjunction with other companies, offers useful information and helpful services although it isn’t as extensive as those offered by other fitness devices.
  • We’d like to say the $99 price is right, but its subsciption model (see below) makes the Halo more expensive than most of its competitors after just two years of use.

CONS

  • Its body composition scanner is impressive technology and a big step forward in full-body scanning.   But reviewers have noted that its BMI findings are on the high end.  In our case, the scanner added about 15% more body fat than alternative body fat composition test conducted by a doctor who specializes in measuring BMI.  But as a baseline, the scanner is useful in that it can show fat reduction over time.
  • The activity tracker is highly inaccurate unless you do a lot of cardiovascular walking and running.   We spent hours on an elliptical and despite our best efforts, the Halo saw that time as “light activity” regardless of how high we got our heart rate.  Ouch!  Similarly, yoga and pilates sessions that wiped out our muscles and left our muscles noodle-limp barely registered on the Halo.  Yes, Amazon offers a work around if you aren’t doing cardio workouts but, really, do we have to resort to that?
  • It doesn’t provide HRV (heart rate variability) which is a very popular metric by which to assess fitness. Since your HRV pattern is a reflection of how much stress your body is under, virtually all facets of your lifestyle can affect it. Unlike the Fitbit, Apple, Whoop and Garmin devices, Amazon doesn’t offer this information currently.   This was a big omission.
  • Other metrics not offered by the Halo include blood oxygen tracking, VO2 Max tracking and GPS.  VO2 Max testing is a really useful metric for HIIT routines and there’s no reason why Halo doesn’t offer it.
  • Halo is an affordable device until you factor in the $4 monthly fee needed to access most of its functions.   Is it currently worth that subscription price?   Not with the current offerings.   Perhaps in the future as they improve the service.

Our Conclusion

There’s a lot to like about the Halo.  Sadly, we see it as a work in progress.  It should improve over the next year and perhaps become a better value proposition.  We like the fact that Amazon is choosing not to compete as a fitness tracker as much as establishing itself as sort of a wellness coach.  But we continue to believe that the Fitbit Charge 4 and the Xiaomi Mi Band 5 offer better value at present.

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