If you are looking for a device which can tell you how hard you have exercised, how well you sleep, if you are talking politely to your friends and family, and what you would look like with 7% body fat, then Amazon has a device for you.
It’s called the Amazon Halo and it was recently put on sale as part of an early access programme on Amazon’s online store.
The device costs $64.99 (during the early access stage, after which it will rise to $99.99) and is only available in the US.
Fortunately, we bypassed these restrictions to bring you a hands-on review.
Unboxing the Halo
The Halo is a fitness band which packs a heart rate monitor, microphone, and other sensors – all aimed at helping people live a healthier lifestyle.
It does not contain any “watch” features, however, like a clock face, and all its feedback and data is processed and displayed in the Halo app – available for Android 7.0 and up and iOS 12.0 and up.
This means the Halo presents two challenges for potential South African users.
First, you have to use a US forwarding service and have the Halo imported to you via courier delivery.
Second, you cannot get the Halo app on local app stores – which means you must run a VPN on your smartphone to download and use the app.
The first hurdle was the importing, which went off without any problems after ordering the Halo from Amazon and sending it to our US address.
Photos of the Halo being unboxed after delivery are shown below.
Size and charging
The Halo is a narrow fitness band, with its strap made from a fabric material – a woven blend of polyester, nylon, and spandex.
Accessory “sport” straps made from silicone are also available for purchase separately, but by default you can select a fabric band in black, grey, or pink.
Three strap sizes are then available to users: small (135-155 mm), medium (145-180 mm), and large (170-220 mm).
In terms of the specifications: it is water resistant to 50 metres, weighs around 25 grams, and has a battery life of 7 days with standard use.
With “Tone” turned on, which we will get to later, the battery lasts two days.
Charging is then facilitated by a clip connector powered by a USB-A, and the Halo can go from 0% to a full charge in under 90 minutes.
Finally, the Halo connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth 5.0.
The photos below show the Halo in its charging clip, and its size compared to a standard wrist watch.
Halo app and subscription fee
As the Halo band provides no user interface, the power of what it offers must be accessed through the Halo app.
The app is not available in local app stores – as the Halo is currently only intended for use in the US – but we bypassed this by installing a VPN on an Android smartphone and setting our server location to the USA.
Amazon’s Halo app is the real drawcard in this set-up, as it offers a range of great insights and interesting information to users.
This comes at a price, though, and access to the full set of Halo app features cost $3.99 per month – meaning you buy the band once-off and then pay a monthly fee to use all that it has to offer.
To encourage people to give Halo a try, Amazon bundles the band with a free 6-month subscription, which is enabled by default and allowed us to give it a go.
The Halo app features are interesting and Amazon offers several elements which its competitors do not currently offer.
First up is Tone, which uses the Halo band’s built-in microphone to analyse how you speak and provides feedback to help “strengthen your communication”.
To set up Tone, you turn on the microphone on the band by long-pressing its sole button and accessing the Tone section on the Halo app.
You are then required to read several quotes and sentences so the app can recognise your “standard” voice – which it uses as a comparison point for all conversations.
The Tone feature can then be set to track your conversations throughout the day, or you can use the Live mode and track how you sound in real-time.
It works well and was a lot of fun to test. Importantly, it was accurate and when I spoke positively, aggressively, or sternly it displayed this on the app’s screen.
The idea of Tone is that you take stock of how you spoke at key moments using the bookmark feature (single button press on the band) or get an assessment of how you sounded throughout the day to your friends, colleagues, or family.
The screenshots below show the Tone screens in the app.
The next interesting Halo feature is Body Composition, which measures your body fat percentage.
The first step requires you to enter your birthday, so it can calculate your age, your height in feet, weight in pounds, gender, and ethnicity.
Once you have done this the Halo app asks you to get appropriately dressed for a body scan – which means getting down to your underwear.
It then instructs you to place your smartphone at waist level on a table and face it towards you, and stand around 1.5 metres away for four photos which are taken by your phone’s front-facing camera.
You press the “ready” button on the app and then take the poses shown on screen – which are:
- A photo of your front with arms at your sides, slightly raised.
- A photo of your left side.
- A photo of your right side.
- A photo of your back with arms at your sides, slightly raised.
Next up comes the fun part, the body fat percentage model.
The Halo app uses your photos to create a 3D model of your body and tells you your current body fat percentage – with Amazon stating the Halo scan is nearly twice as accurate compared with “leading at-home smart scales”.
It does not stop there, however, and the Halo app lets you adjust your body fat percentage using a slider to show you what you would look like with more or less fat on your body.
Amazon went to lengths on its Halo product page to state the body composition function ensures a user’s privacy by processing your photos in the cloud and then automatically deleting them so “no one but you ever sees them”.
The screenshots below show the 3D model in action.
Heart rate and sleep patterns
The remaining Halo features are a more standard affair.
The band comes with a sensor unit that includes a heart rate monitor, which allows it to track your activity and exercise intensity, sleep patterns, and sedentary time.
Amazon has also included an information section called Labs, packed with “science-backed experiments and challenges from experts like the Lifesum, SWEAT, and Headspace”.
The exercise and sleep features are well laid out and informative, and in the case of the exercise tracking the focus is on how active you are per week – using a points system – as opposed to duration- or calorie-based rankings.
Labs then gives you a range of exercise routines, sleep advice, nutrition guidance, and more health-focused tips and feedback.
Overall, these health focussed features are well presented in the app and should be more than enough to keep you going through your next bout of exercise.
However, this is all based on your keeping your Halo membership active.
If you decide not to renew your Halo subscription, you only retain access to basic sleep time, heart rate monitor, and step tracking functionality.
This is an opinion piece.