Affordable, But a Little Creepy


Rating:
7/10
?

  • 1 – Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 – Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 – Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 – Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 – Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 – Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 – Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 – Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 – Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 – Absolute Design Nirvana

Price: $80

The Amazon Halo View fitness band on top of its packaging.
Jordan Gloor

If you’re in the market for fitness wearables, you may have come across Amazon’s Halo View. The affordable band is meant to compete with the likes of FitBit, so we tried one out to see how it measures up.

Here’s What We Like

  • Simple interface
  • Easy to start using
  • Competitive price point

And What We Don’t

  • Invasive extra features
  • Subscription-locked functions
  • No GPS

The Halo View’s price point is comfortable compared to other fitness trackers, which combined with a generous one-year free trial of Amazon’s Halo subscription, makes for what appears to be a great deal. It sacrifices a few features that competing bands offer, though if you’re a minimalist, you might find that appealing. At the same time, it does bring a few features that others don’t. The trouble is, some of these features are a bit, well, off-putting.

The Band: Simple Interface, Decent Battery Life

Amazon Halo View fitness band on a person's arm.
Jordan Gloor

Fitting the Halo View’s band was easy enough, and the strap is light enough that I generally didn’t notice it was there. It has a bright touchscreen that, when set to maximum brightness, is easy to see in the sun. A single oval button below the screen exists for you to wake the screen, or, when the screen is on, to use as a back button. The menu itself is easy enough to navigate, and text messages show up as well as can be expected on a screen this narrow.

If you like the idea of customizing your watchface, though, prepare to be underwhelmed. You have eleven choices, and only a few look very different from the others. Personally, I don’t mind this, as I’m pretty utilitarian about my tech. As long as they aren’t completely ugly, I’m usually fine with defaults.

The View can track your heart rate, steps, calories burned, sedentary time, calculate a nightly sleep score (after syncing with the app), and generate a weekly “activity score.” It figures that based on your steps and exercise sessions, minus some points for sedentary time. It was one of my goals with this band to learn whether or not my activity levels were good enough against the amount of sitting I do at work, and that score helped me achieve that goal.

It can also check your blood oxygen level, though not passively—you have to run a test and stand completely still for the duration. For this and other features, I didn’t have the equipment to test for accuracy, but generally, the data seemed to jive with what I was feeling. T

Note: The View doesn’t offer ECG tests or GPS functions as some other bands do.

Amazon claims the battery can last up to seven days on a single charge with minimal usage, and I found that to be mostly true. The first time I recharged it, the battery had dropped to 28% after wearing it nonstop for four and a half days with a light-to-moderate amount of interaction. When I plugged it in, it reached 88% in one hour, which was fast enough for me.

The App: Basic, but Useful Features

While the band itself records the data, it’s the app, called Amazon Halo (available on iPhone and Android), that processes it and puts together a fitness program for you. The app’s default tab takes on the “newsfeed” format that’s popular these days, pushing information, reminders, and programs it believes are most relevant to you depending on your activity and the time of day. This makes navigating to find and enable specific features sometimes challenging, but for day-to-day use, it works. If you integrate the app with Alexa, you can simply ask Alexa about your health data read to you instead.

The sleep data in the app was interesting to check out, at least at first. In practice, though, my sleep score wasn’t that useful to me. I know my sleep was good last night—I was there. If you need to cultivate better sleep habits, it can function as a motivator for that, but not much else.

The Nutrition feature is pretty good at recommending meals I like after I input my preferences. The fact that the recipes and shopping lists it creates integrate with Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh, made me worried Amazon would make it difficult to shop at stores other than those. I was relieved to find this wasn’t the case.

The app feature I probably most appreciated though is called “Movement.” You set it up by filming yourself doing several stretches that a video guides you through. The app assesses your mobility and then uses that information to recommend several sets of workouts to do a few times a week. Later, you can take the assessment again to track your progress.

Specifically, I liked how easy Movement made it to start improving my fitness. I was almost immediately watching videos, scoring activity points, and, yes, feeling the burn. My one complaint is that during the assessment I had to stand pretty far from my smartphone, 7 to 10 feet, to allow the camera full view of my person. Depending on your screen size and how up-to-date your lens prescription is, watching the video you’re supposed to be following can be a challenge.

One major problem I ran into with the app happened soon after the initial setup. After toying with it for a few hours, I happened to reboot my smartphone. After that doing that, the Halo app had forgotten my data and needed to pair with the View a second time, which wasn’t possible until I factory reset the View. I enabled cloud syncing in the app settings, hoping that would lessen the chance of that happening again. It didn’t happen again, but it was an annoying and confusing hiccup nonetheless.

… And Then Some Creepy Extra Features

There are two opt-in features though that I found to be kind of creepy. They’re called “Body” and “Tone.” The first and more off-putting involves taking full-body photos of yourself with, in the app’s words, minimal clothing on. The photos are uploaded to the cloud and processed for the purpose of estimating your body fat and tracking it over the course of your program. Amazon claims the images are deleted immediately after processing, but there’s no getting around the creepiness factor. You have to put complete faith and trust in Amazon’s security and privacy protocols.

The second feature, Tone, records your conversations instead of recording your appearance. You could describe it sort of like a mood ring, informing you “how you sound to other people.” It does this in real-time during individual sessions, placing you moment-by-moment on a square graph with each corner representing a different category of emotion: excited, happy, sad, and angry. After each session, the app grades your overall “energy” and “positivity” levels.

You’re meant to connect these emotions with other aspects of your health, like how you treat others after getting a bad night’s sleep, or how your vibe improves after you’ve exercised. Interestingly, the app also encourages you to use Tone when practicing any speeches you plan to give so that you have real-time feedback on your performance.

Tone makes for a good reminder to think about how you speak to people around you, and I can see speeches possibly being a good use case. Again, though, you have to take Amazon’s word for it when they say they protect and immediately delete the recordings.

But let’s ignore the privacy concerns for a minute. Let’s also ignore how awkward it is to get consent from people to have your conversation with them monitored by your fitness app. Even then, it’s still a fact people act differently when they know they’re being recorded. That means any conversation you have using Tone is bound to be, in some way, off-kilter. That makes it questionable how accurate the app’s assessments can even be.

To be clear, Body and Tone are completely optional features and not even offered in the initial setup. You must enable and set them up first, and Tone only operates in limited sessions that start and stop when you choose. In other words, it’s not an ambient feature constantly recording you in the background.

Should You Buy the Halo View?

Using any sort of fitness-oriented wearable virtually always involves handing over sensitive data. The Amazon Halo View, though, invites you to go further than most with its Tone and Body features. You do get an effective tool for basic fitness tracking at an affordable price, but that value takes a hit one year after purchase. The free membership ends and you must pay $3.99 per month to keep using member-only features, which include activity scores, menu planning, and my favorite feature, Movement.

For context, our pick for the best fitness band out there, the Fitbit Charge 5, offers better hardware and many more features, but at a higher price and subscription cost. So, if you choose the Halo View, you get what you pay for, and nothing more—other than some extras you probably don’t want to use.

Here’s What We Like

  • Simple interface
  • Easy to start using
  • Competitive price point

And What We Don’t

  • Invasive extra features
  • Subscription-locked functions
  • No GPS





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