Hacking Personal Health: Amazon Halo isn’t the Apple Watch killer, but…

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The Amazon Halo is not a must-buy, particularly if you are already an Apple Watch or Fitbit user. However, it is a look into how Amazon views the fitness tracker as a larger play into their healthcare, marketing ecosystem, subscription offerings, and personal data aspirations.

A photo of my actual arm in 2014

I’ve worn a lot of wearables, and we’ve come a long way from 2013 – when I was getting a lot of pushback that smartwatches and wearables would ever be mainstream.

Instead, smartwatches and health tracking devices continued their growth trajectory despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with global smartwatch shipments increasing 6% in Q3 2020 compared to the same period last year, according to the recently published Global Smartwatch Model Tracker of Counterpoint Research. Apple is leading, but there are a lot of players.

So it’s no surprise Amazon wants to come into this market. But they aren’t doing it with an Apple Watch killer. Even if it may have been rushed to market to compete with Apple Fitness+‘s launch this week.

Amazon Halo

At first-look, the Halo isn’t much to look at… but that’s the point. Its low-key form factor comes off like you’re wearing a canvas survival bracelet at a Dave Matthews Band concert.

The $99 device doesn’t have a speaker or a screen, and therefore becomes immediately forgettable. This is the exact opposite experience of Amazon Echo Frames or Apple Watch, which beg you to interact with them.

Instead, Halo is more subtle, like a Fitbit. And besides the Fitbit-like things you would expect a 2020-era wearable to track — steps, calories, heart rate, activity level. Others have done the breakdown of how accurate it is compared to others, and that doesn’t really interest me. What does is the bonus Halo features of Tone, Body, and Sleep.


Tone “helps you understand how you sound to others — insights you can use to help improve your relationships and overall well-being.” The device learns your voice and then captures snippets throughout the day and ranks your vocal tone via High/Low Positivity and High/Low Energy. You can use the button on Halo to mute ton monitoring OR to listen to you speak up to 30 minutes and share an analysis.

I find it… unhelpful and unimportant data. But I’m curious why Amazon is leading with such a distinct and voice-specific offer. Are they using this data to further train Alexa, perhaps?

I totally understand that I may not have the perfect tone when interacting with coworkers, kids, and others. But what if the band SHOCKED you if you’re being a jerk? Now that would be some incentive. And make that data actionable.


Body claims to be “the first app-based tool for measuring body fat from the comfort and privacy of home,” with Amazon saying body fat is widely considered a better barometer of health and fitness than weight alone. How Amazon measures that is by having you change into minimal clothing and letting it scan your body with a camera, then process that data via computer vision and machine learning.

It reminds me of Amazon’s (discontinued) Echo Look camera, that would help you pick out outfits and figure out sizing for buying new clothes. Except now you’re standing half-naked in front of your phone sending pictures to Amazon for their A.I. to rank your body.

Photo credit: Amazon

I find it… not something I’m going to do. As an affluent, educated, white male I am privileged to be pretty liberal with my data and privacy. But giving Amazon a scan of my naked body is too far. And the value proposition just isn’t there for the privacy and risk trade off. If I was a woman or was concerned about my privacy, no way.


Sleep is a feature that tracks your time in bed, time asleep, time to fall asleep, REM/Light/Deep cycles, disturbances, sleep efficiency and sleep temperature.  I haven’t worn a wearable to sleep since the BASIS watch, so this data was particularly of interest.

I find it… fine. Amazon has done a great job of explaining the data they’re collecting, what it means, why the averages are created the way they are, and more.

But like a lot of the country, I’m personally not sleeping well these days. So this just verified that for me – thanks Amazon! And on the days I took melatonin, I couldn’t see a drastic difference. Are all the small “Awake” disturbances that seem to plague my nights normal? I found it more stressful to know I only got 5 hours of sleep and doom scrolled for 20 minutes in the middle of the night than to just complain I was tired the next day.

But honestly, I don’t think it’s that much different from other sleep trackers and isn’t enough for me to continue to wear both an Apple Watch and a Halo — particularly if Apple gets its battery life act together and starts innovating around sleep.


Throughout the app experience, Amazon Halo Labs experiences are highlighted with tips to help you fall asleep, stay asleep, boost your fitness workouts or change your diet. They will track a workout to a video series you watch and track your health data against it. This means Amazon is working hard to capitalize on the app-based fitness craze that Peloton, Strava, Apple Fitness+, and others are building. You can envision Amazon releasing their own bike, treadmill or suite of “Prime Exercise” apps and products using what they’ve learned from Halo and Halo Labs (and how many people will shell out $3.99/month for access).

So that’s the Amazon Halo. It’s a late-to-market fitness tracker that is mostly unremarkable except for its exploration into voice, body fat, and subscription-based curriculum. But it’s very early days, and one should never count Amazon out of an industry where they intend to invest and innovate.

And it’s getting some terrible PR this week…

If you aren’t an Apple Watch or Fitbit fan and are looking for an entry-level wearable (without a screen, clock, alarm, or speaker) that stores photos of you naked and you’ll probably have to replace within the year, this could be the device for you. Hit me up and I’ll share a code with you to get one at the early access price. I’m not kidding.


Recommended Reads from the archives:

Greg’s Holiday Gift Guide Picks for Every Budget

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Enough people have asked me “Greg, what would I buy someone who likes stuff that you like?” that I decided to put together a quick holiday gift guide of some of my favorite 2020 favorites with options for every budget…

Note: some of these are Amazon Affililate links, so feel free to not use my links if you want to stiff me $.08 cents off your total cart purchase. I get it.

DJI Mini2 drone ($450)

I own a DJI Spark, which is no longer in production because DJI has pivoted to this Mini platform. It’s a really nice, low-cost little drone that will do the job for amateurs like me.

Buy it here.

Oculus Quest 2 – $500

Having owned and operated nearly every possible virtual reality system on the market in the last 10 years, I can say that the Oculus Quest 2 is hands-down the best, portable, affordable, and most accessible system ever. It has six degrees of freedom (walkable VR). It’s wireless. And there are tons of games. Here are my kids’ 10 favorite VR apps.

Buy it here.

Nintendo Switch ($300)

Switch is an amazing platform. If you still have an old Nintendo Wii and are wishing you had an upgrade or the next similar platform for yourself and the folks you live with to hang out together and play over the holiday, the Nintendo Switch + Mario Kart is exactly what you’re looking for.

Buy one here.

Amazon Echo Frames ($250)

Amazon’s Echo Frames are the most affordable, effective, and consumer-facing look around the corner of where smart glasses trends are headed. Read my review here.

They look good. You can’t tell they are smart unless you’re told. And they are a remarkable step forward for getting our faces out of our phones and wrists in daily life. The public version is extremely affordable, and it’s easy to add prescription lenses.

Buy a pair here.

First Avenue LEGO set ($50)

I received this as a gift a few years ago, and it’s one of my favorite things that sits on my desk. I have so many amazing memories of First Avenue, and especially in this period of no-concerts, it’s been an awesome reminder of the fantastic music scene in Minneapolis. And note the gold star for Prince.

Buy this here.

Blue Kazoo Puzzles ($35)

These are super premium puzzles. They’re also a client. But they are AMAZING. Such high quality, and the founders Josh + Abraham write some pretty great marketing emails, too. I am buying them for myself and others this year.

Buy them here.

Simon Stålenhag’s Tales from the Loop book ($26)

Simon Stålenhag’s paintings and stories take place in an alternate version of Sweden in the ’80s and ’90s and include all kinds of fantastical technology, science, and the human consequences of our relationship with technology. Tales from the Loop Season 1 is streaming Amazon Prime – complete with a beautiful and haunting Philip Glass soundtrack. And I highly recommend it. Read more about my relationship with Stålenhag’s work here.

Buy it here.

Arby’s 13-Hour Puzzle ($25)

As seen in People magazine (cough, #client, cough)….
What’s the difference between Arby’s New 13-Hour Puzzle and Arby’s Classic 13-Hour Smoke Brisket? Just one bite and you’ll know this one is a puzzle.

Buy it here.

Amazon Echo Auto ($20)

If you’ve always wished your kids could ask Alexa to tell jokes, play “Old Town Road” and make fart noises while you drive them to school, now you can. But seriously, as more states pass distracted driving laws, hands-free technology is becoming more important – particularly for older cars that aren’t iOS CarPlay or Android Auto-enabled. This is the sweet spot for Echo Auto. Here’s my review.

Buy it here.

Fiddle Fone wooden phone surrogate ($18)

I originally bought this wooden scrolling phone as a joke for myself and to hold up on Zoom calls. But instead it’s turned into a daily-use fidget object for me while trying to pay attention during long online meetings. It’s funny and useful! And cheap!

Buy it here.

Kurt Andersen’s Fantasyland book ($15)

“History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.” – Mark Twain

The book is a brutal and unapologetic chronicle of the fantastical and fanciful belief systems that fuel the very ethos of the United States, and how religion, media, architecture, transportation, PT Barnum, Buffalo Bill, and Walt Disney all share in the blame for the current state of American politics. I read it a year ago, and it mentally helped me prepare for the chaos of 2020. Highly recommended.

Buy it here.

 A bag of tiny novelty hands ($11)

What can I say? These are a hit on Zoom calls, with the kids, and really just bring me joy.

Buy them here.