Amazon Halo Review (and comparison w/ Fitbit Charge 4)
I must confess – I am a long time Fitbit user, had a Fitbit One in 2013, and have had many models since, including the Fitbit Charge 4, that’s on my wrist now. I have even used an LGW7 Smartwatch for a while.
Given an opportunity to enter Amazon’s early access for the Halo, I decided to purchase the Black + Onyx model in Large size (after reviewing their size chart). I was intrigued by the light weight, no-display, slim design, body fat measure and voice tone analysis features. Those seemed like something different than anything Fitbit was offering.
For seven days, the Amazon Halo and the Fitbit Charge 4 have been on my left and right wrists respectively. Here’s what I’ve observed:
Since Halo doesn’t have a display on the band, the app is where everything you need to know sits. The home screen is not customizable like Fitbit’s, but it’s cleanly laid out and most of what you need to know is on the main screen. It loads quickly and syncs very consistently with the Halo Band.
The Standard Band
The Amazon Halo band that comes “in the box” is a lightweight piece of velcro that is anything but upscale. It is easily adjustable, but the clingy velcro part goes all around the band (for adjustability). One would have to believe stuff, like my Shiba Inu’s hair, will get stuck in it. And I wore it to workout twice and it started to get funky from sweat. The good news is I bought the accessory sport band and that is a very upscale piece of plastic and is the best sport band I have used. It is softer and has a better feel than anything Fitbit makes.
Charging and Battery Life
Just like Fitbit, The Halo use a clip based charging cable with a standard USB connector. And like the Fitbit it always takes one, two or three tries to get it clamped correctly to charge. At least the cable is 3ft (Fitbit for some bizarre reason is a frustrating 18 inches). The device charges about a percent a minute. Battery life has been disappointing with the app notifying me that Halo was low (20%) after 2.5 days of continuous use from a full charge. For a device with no display, that’s awful, but we’ll give Amazon a break here since the device is so new. Fitbit has taken many years of improvements to get devices with decent battery life. Also, the Halo is definitely draining my phone battery faster. They need to fix that too.
Heart Rate: This is aspect of the Halo shows the major design flaw of not having a display on the band. On the Fitbit, your heart rate is visible on the display all the time and that allows you to monitor your exertion levels constantly. Am I exerting myself too much or too little? Fitbit will warn me when I reach a heart rate level above the maximum for my age and it also tells me when I am in an active zone – cardio, fat burning, etc. What good is seeing your heart rate in an app after your activity?
Furthermore, it seems that the Halo’s heart monitor is inaccurate. You can view your heart rate in the “Live” mode in the Halo app. It almost always shows a bit higher than the Fitbit (and my SPO2 meter) and it exhibits a weird behavior of fluctuating slowly lower, eventually coming close to the Fitbit level. See comparison images from the respective apps:
Steps: There is no GPS (like the Fitbit Charge 4) in the Halo. So, I was curious to see how it would measure up . After several days of use, the Fitbit and the Halo end the day with about a 10% difference in step count. My sense after using Fitbit for many years that both step counts, Halo and Charge 4, are somewhat inaccurate, but ultimately it doesn’t matter much. If you use one device, and set a goal for steps, the idea is to meet or exceed that goal. So you are always competing against your goal, not an actual step number. And once again, your progress for the day on the Halo can only be viewed in the app.
Exercise Measurement: The Halo provides somewhat confusing data on your workout. Fitbit is easier to understand and provides much more useful data. Here is the app data from my 1-hour weightlifting activity for both devices:
The Halo measures sleep well and it’s lightweight which makes it barely noticeable and something folks who complain about sleeping with a Fitbit Versa or an Apple Watch will appreciate. The Halo and Fitbit Charge 4 have recorded almost identical values over the week I have used both.
Body Fat Measurement
The body fat measurement feature was one of the reasons I chose to be an early adopter of the Amazon Halo Fitness Band. The body fat measure is actually NOT done using the band at all. The Halo app has you take a series of photos (front, right, back, left) of yourself with the selfie camera of your phone resting on a table. It then uploads the picture and creates a body image which it then uses to determine your body fat percentage. Amazon claims your picture (in your undershorts only) is not saved and anywhere online. Believe that if you will. This feature has nothing to do with the Halo Band. It is a feature of their app. You don’t need the band to use this!
The bad news is that the reading seems about 10% too high (I did 3 tries at it). It measured me at 33% when just a few months ago, at the same weight I am now, at a doctor’s office measured me at 22%. After I recovered from the depressing thought of 33% body fat, I journeyed to the Private Facebook Group for us early Halo adopters and found many other users with the same complaint of ridiculously high body fat numbers. At least I got some relief for my ego and fear of shortened longevity.
Tone analysis was a unique feature of the Amazon Halo Fitness Band that I was very interested in using. You set it up by pressing a button on the side of the Halo band and reading from the app a half a dozen short passages and then the app will tell you that you’re all set. I have been viewing the results for a week now and honestly have no clue what use the information is or what I can do to “improve.” In addition, it’s interpretation of my speech seems bizarre and inaccurate. The paranoid among us might think that Big Brother Amazon put this feature in the Halo to be able to record stuff you are saying all day long. You can press the button on the side of the band and it (supposedly) turns off the band’s mic.
Amazon Halo Review Conclusion
I’ve had the Amazon Halo on every minute (except bathing) for seven days now. It’s attractive on my wrist and lightweight enough to sleep with. For folks that need a device to monitor their exercise, this is not it. It provides no real-time feedback or information – in particular actual heart rate and activity zones. The special features like tone analysis seem useless, and the body fat measure is inaccurate and you don’t need the band to measure that.
Fitbit information is available in app or in browser. Halo is app only. Fitbit proves all measurements free of charge, without subscription to their premium service. Halo gave us 6-months free of their paid subscription which is required to see most data.
“Membership includes body composition, tone of voice analysis, sleep & activity tracking, and more — free for 6 months. Auto-renews at $3.99/month + tax. Contact Customer Service to cancel.“
I am putting my Amazon Halo Fitness Band in the drawer, licking my wounds for the $65 plus another $16 for the sport band and going to keep using my Fitbit Charge 4. And I’ll hope Google doesn’t screw up Fitbit when they finally get the buyout completed.
There is a place for a lightweight, attractive band that provides basic activity measurements. I’m thinking something made by David Yurman, Movado, Rolex, Tag Heuer, etc, that wears and looks like a jewelry bracelet but keeps track of heart rate, steps and sleep. I could see taking off my Fitbit and wearing that when I go out for cinema or dinner. Neither the Halo nor anything Fitbit comes close to that.
Given Amazon’s wealth and tech resources it is shocking that the Halo’s concept is so badly conceived and worse, executed so poorly. Didn’t they have anyone on their development team that actually exercises?
Categories: Product Reviews