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Affordable, but a little scary

Affordable, but a little scary

Rating:
7/10
?

  • 1 – Absolutely hot rubbish
  • 2 – Black lukewarm rubbish
  • 3 – Severely deficient design
  • 4 – Some advantages, many disadvantages
  • 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

Amazon Halo View training strap on top of packaging.
Jordan Gloor

If you’re in the fitness equipment market, 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 to see how it measures up. As you will read, there are some rarities, but Halo View is one to consider.

Here’s what we like

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

And what we do not do

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

Halo View’s price point is competitive compared to other training trackers. Drop in a generous one-year free trial of Amazon’s Halo subscription (valued at $ 48) and you’ve got what looks like a great deal. The laptop sacrifices a few features that competing bands offer, but if you are a minimalist, you may find it appealing. At the same time, it provides a few features that others do not have.

Band: Simple interface, decent battery life

Amazon Halo View training strap on a person's arm.
Jordan Gloor

It was easy enough to mount the Halo View strap, and the strap is light enough that I usually did not notice that it was there. It has a bright touch screen which, when set to maximum brightness, is easy to see in the sun. A single oval button below the screen is available for you to wake up the screen, or, when the screen is on, to use as a back button. The menu itself is easy to navigate, and text messages are displayed as well as might be expected on such a narrow screen.

If you like the idea of ​​customizing your dial, prepare to be overwhelmed. You have eleven choices, and only a few look very different from the others. Personally, I do not mind this, since I am quite utilitarian when it comes to my technology. As long as they are not completely ugly, I am usually fine with default settings.

The view can track heart rate, steps, calories burned, sedentary time, calculate a nightly sleep score (after syncing with the app), and generate a weekly “activity score”. It shows that based on your steps and workouts, minus any points for sedentary time. It was one of my goals with this band to find out if my activity level was good enough in relation to the amount of sitting at work or not, and that score helped me reach that goal.

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It can also control the level of oxygen in your blood, but not passively – you have to run a test and stand completely still for as long as it lasts. For this and other features, I did not have the equipment to test for accuracy, but in general, the data seemed to match what I felt.

Note: The View does not offer ECG tests or GPS features like some other tapes do.

Amazon claims that the battery can last up to seven days on a single charge with minimal use, and I found that to be largely true. The first time I charged it, the battery had dropped to 28% after using it nonstop for four and a half days with a light to moderate amount of interaction. When I connected it, 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 is the app, called Amazon Halo (available on iPhone and Android), that processes them and puts together an exercise program for you. The app’s standard tab takes on the “news feed” format that is popular these days, and sends information, reminders, and programs it thinks are most relevant to you, depending on your activity and time of day. This makes navigating to find and activate specific features sometimes challenging, but for everyday 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 in the beginning. In practice, my sleep scores were not so useful to me. I know I slept well last night – I was there. If you need to cultivate better sleep habits, it may act as a motivator for it, but not so much else.

The nutritional function is pretty good at recommending meals I like after I have entered my preferences. The fact that the recipes and shopping lists it makes are integrated with Whole Foods and Amazon Fresh, made me worried that Amazon would make it difficult to shop in stores other than them. I was relieved to find that this was not the case.

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

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I especially liked how easy Movement made it to start improving my fitness. I watched videos almost immediately, scored activity points and, yes, felt the burning. My one complaint is that during the assessment I had to stand quite far from my smartphone, 7 to 10 feet, to let the camera get a full overview of my person. Depending on your screen size and how up-to-date your lens prescription is, watching the video you are watching can be a challenge.

A big problem I had with the app happened right after the first setup. After playing with it for a few hours, I accidentally restarted my smartphone. After that, the Halo app had forgotten my data and needed to pair with the display again, which was not possible until I reset the display to factory. I enabled cloud sync in the app settings, hoping it would reduce the chance of it happening again. It did not happen again, but it was an annoying and confusing hiccup nonetheless.

… And then some scary extras

However, there are two opt-in features that I thought were a little scary. They are called “Body” and “Tone”. The first and more disgusting thing is to take full-body photos of yourself with, in the words of the app, minimal clothing on. The images are uploaded to the cloud and processed for the purpose of estimating your body fat and tracking it during the program. Amazon claims that the images are deleted immediately after processing, but there is no getting around the scary factor. You must have full faith and trust in Amazon’s security and privacy protocols.

The second feature, Tone, records your calls instead of recording your appearance. You can describe it in a way as a mood ring, and inform yourself about “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 emotions: excited, happy, sad and angry. After each session, your app assesses your overall “energy” and “positivity” levels.

You are meant to connect these feelings with other aspects of your health, such as how you treat others after a bad night’s sleep, or how your mood improves after exercising. Interestingly, the app also encourages you to use Tone when practicing speeches you plan to give, so you get real-time feedback on your performance.

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Tone is a good reminder to think about how you talk to people around you, and I can see that speaking can be a good use. Again, but you have to take Amazon’s word for it when they say they protect and immediately delete the footage.

But let’s ignore the privacy concerns for a moment. Let’s also ignore how difficult it is to get people’s consent to have your conversation with them monitored by your training app. Even then, it is still a fact that people act differently when they know they are being picked up. This means that any conversation you have using Tone will somehow be unclear. This makes it doubtful how accurate the app’s reviews can even be.

To be clear, Body and Tone are completely optional features and not even offered in the initial setup. You need to enable and set them up first, and Tone only works during limited sessions that start and stop when you select it. In other words, it is not an ambient feature that constantly takes you into the background.

Should You Buy Halo View?

Using any kind of training-oriented wearable practically always involves handing over sensitive data. However, Amazon Halo View invites you to go further than most with its tone and body features. Admittedly, you get an effective tool for basic training tracking at an affordable price, but that value gets a hit one year after purchase. The free membership ends and you have to pay $ 3.99 per month to continue using the members-only features, which include activity points, menu scheduling, and my favorite feature, Movement.

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

Here’s what we like

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

And what we do not do

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

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