Amazon has already taken baby steps into the wearable gadget space with its Alexa-enabled Echo Buds true wireless earbuds and Echo Frames eyeglass frames. Now the company is coming after Apple and Google/Fitbit with a new health & fitness wearable called the Amazon Halo Band.
It’s a $100 wristband that’s designed to track your physical activities (including sleep), and even your tone of voice. The Halo Band is available for pre-order for $65 to members of an “Early Access” pilot, and customers will get a 6 month free subscription to a Halo Membership service which unlocks some special features. After the promotional period, you’ll have to pay $4 per month to keep your membership active.
Non-members can still use basic functionality including step counting, sleep tracking, and heart rate monitoring. But the subscription unlocks advanced features including access to “labs,” which Amazon describes as “science-backed experiments and challenges from experts like the Mayo Clinic, SWEAT, and Headspace.”
The Halo Band offers up to 7 days of battery life, features a swim-proof design that’s water resistant up to depths of 50 meters, dual microphones for Amazon’s “Tone” voice analysis features and Bluetooth 5.0 for connecting to a smartphone. You can charge the band using a USB charging clip.
Unlike a Fitbit or Apple Watch, the Halo Band does not have a screen. It’s not designed to let you see your step count or other activity stats at a glance. Instead, everything is synchronized with a smartphone app — and you’ll use your phone’s camera for some functions such as scanning your body to create a 3D model for estimating your body fat percentage.
The sensors are positioned underneath the band, and the Halo Band is available with a choice of fabric (polyster, nylon, and spandex) or silicone bands that come in three sizes and offer three color combinations (so far) including “black + onyx,” winter + silver,” and “blush + rose gold.”
It’ll be interesting to see whether there’s any real demand for an activity tracker that’s completely useless without a phone… and one which encourages you to snap photos of yourself with a camera and which can listen to your voice to gauge your “energy and positivity” levels when you’re talking to friends, family, or coworkers.
For now, the Halo Band seems to be little more than an experiment for Amazon — you need to request early access to purchase one, and if things don’t go well over the next few years, the Halo Band may join the Echo Look and Amazon Dash buttons in the Amazon hardware graveyard. But not all of Amazon’s off-the-wall ideas turn out to be bad ones. The original Amazon Echo smart speaker was only available to folks who’d requested an invite when it first launched. And that device sparked a revolution in hands-free voice assistants, prompting Google, Apple, and many other companies to get in on the action.
The difference is that this time Amazon is entering the already pretty well-established health & fitness wearable market with a device that may challenge potential customers expectations.