Amazon Halo View review: $80 is a great price, but you get what you pay for

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Amazon’s $80 Halo View addresses one of my biggest complaints about Amazon’s first fitness band: its lack of a screen. As its name implies, Amazon’s latest wearable has a color touchscreen for showing health statistics and the time, among other things like text messages. It’s a big departure from the distraction-free approach Amazon took with its first Halo band, and it ultimately makes the Halo View feel like a much more capable Fitbit rival than the original. 

It’s also cheaper than the first Halo, which had a regular price of $100 at launch, and the new band is available for just $50 during the prerelease period. Pricing for the UK and Australia isn’t yet available, but the $80 price converts roughly to £60 and AU$110. 

And crucially, Amazon removed the microphone from the Halo View, meaning that it relies on your phone instead to assess the tone of your voice. Amazon has rounded out its Halo membership service with its own workout videos in addition to options from partners like Orangetheory Fitness, and it’s adding a nutrition service in early 2022.

Like

  • Low price
  • Weekly activity score feels more useful than daily goals
  • Solid sleep tracking
  • Long battery life
  • Subscription price is lower than competitors’

Don’t Like

  • Most features require a subscription
  • No call or calendar alerts on band yet
  • Text messages look small on screen
  • Doesn’t track distance during walks or runs
  • Body fat and tone analysis don’t feel useful yet

However, Amazon hasn’t convinced me that its fitness band and service are better than the competition just yet. The Halo View’s main draw is its low price, but I’m not sure if that’s enough to lure people away from more established fitness platforms like Apple and Fitbit. You’ll also have to ask yourself whether you’re willing to pay $4 a month to get most of the Halo View’s features, rather than spending more up front for a tracker to get additional features without a subscription. The Amazon-specific features that debuted on the first model, like voice and body fat analysis, also don’t feel helpful enough yet to set Amazon apart from its rivals. 

Overall, the Halo View shows potential for those who care more about tracking general wellness than specific fitness-oriented statistics. But it still feels limited compared with the competition in certain ways. 

Here’s a closer look at what it’s been like to use it over the past several days. 

The Halo View’s screen makes it more useful 

Amazon Halo View

The Halo View includes a color touchscreen for viewing the time and health data.


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Now that Amazon’s fitness band has a screen, I’m much happier giving it that valuable space on my wrist. When I glance down at my wrist, it can now at least tell the time. 

The Halo View also shows icons for sleep and activity progress on the home screen in addition to the time. Swiping to the left or right will let you cycle through your heart rate, activity points, steps taken, calories burned and your sleep score from the previous night. You can swipe up or down to access the settings menu, the tools app for setting timers, alarms and stopwatches, a more detailed look at your activity data and exercise modes. 

It’s a minimalist interface that’s generally pretty intuitive to navigate. My only gripe is that it’s not immediately obvious that the tiny rounded rectangle below the screen is a haptic home button. That initially made it difficult to figure out how to revert back to the home screen or end a workout. Many new fitness trackers have an all-screen design that relies on taps and swipes rather than using a dedicated button. 

The screen is clearly meant to be more utilitarian than eye-catching. While it’s plenty bright and crisp even on the medium brightness setting, you can easily obscure a lot of the content on screen with your finger since the display is small. There’s no option for an always-on display, but that’s to be expected in a device that costs less than $100. The slightly pricier Fitbit Inspire 2, usually priced at $100, doesn’t even have a color screen, for example. 

In addition to viewing workout stats and the time, you can receive text notifications, but that seems to be the only phone alert available. Fitbit’s similarly priced Inspire 2 can also show call and calendar alerts in addition to texts, which feels like a more complete package. The $45 Mi Band 6 can also display all app notifications from your phone. Amazon says call and calendar alerts will also come to the Halo View soon, although it didn’t specify when. 

Amazon always intended for the Halo to be a distraction-free device, so it’s not surprising to see very few notification options available. Even so, it’s still a much better smartphone companion than the first Halo.

A basic band that relies on Amazon membership

Amazon Halo View

The Halo View fit relies on Amazon’s accompanying subscription.


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

As with its predecessor, the quality of the Halo View’s workout experience largely depends on its accompanying app. You can track basic metrics like steps, heart rate, calories burned, activity sessions, sleep duration and sleep temperature without a subscription to Amazon’s $4 service. 

But to unlock a lot of the Halo View’s most useful features, you’ll have to be willing to pay that monthly fee after your first year. That not only includes Amazon’s full library of programs, workouts and recipes (although a limited amount are available for free), but also the Halo View’s most distinguishing features, like body fat estimates, tone of voice analysis and posture and mobility assessments. 

If you want the Halo app to make better sense of the data the band collects, you’ll also have to pay. Your activity score, details about the intensity of your workouts, a score assessing the quality of your sleep and how much time you spent in light, deep and REM sleep all require a subscription. 

All of this information is organized in the Feed and Data sections of the Halo app. The Feed tab seems intended as a news digest that condenses the most important information at a glance. Your health stats are pinned to the top of the feed, followed by reminders, insights into your data, recent activity and suggestions for recipes and workouts. 

It’s a lot of information, and while I found most of it to be relevant, this feed can also feel a little chaotic. One second I’m looking at a summary of my activity points from last week, and then I’m browsing through meal ideas. I didn’t even come across one of Amazon’s most useful suggestions — stretches to avoid injury — until I scrolled to the bottom of the feed. It would be great to see suggestions like this appear higher up in the feed based on the frequency and intensity of my workouts.

The Data tab is self-explanatory: It’s the home for all of your health metrics. There are tiles for each category at the top of the screen, and you can tap them to see more details like your weekly goals and progress. 

Since many insights require a subscription, it’s best to think of the Halo View as a basic fitness tracker that becomes a more fully featured device with a Halo membership. The fee is waived for the first year, but after that you’ll have to start paying $4 per month. 

That might seem like a downer — and it some respects it is — but there are two ways to think about this approach. Yes, it’s a troubling idea that much of the Halo View’s functionality essentially disappears after a year if you don’t pay $4 per month.

But at the same time, Amazon’s approach isn’t much different than that of its major competitors. Fitbit also keeps some of its most useful features behind a paywall, and the Inspire 2 also comes with a free one-year subscription. The third-gen Oura ring also locks all of its metrics except for its readiness score behind a $6 monthly subscription.

However, it’s worth noting that you can at least see Fitbit’s basic scores for metrics like sleep and stress management without a subscription, while Amazon requires a membership for its sleep score feature. Still, Fitbit’s membership is more than twice as expensive as Amazon’s at $10 per month. 

Apple Fitness Plus is also $10 per month, but that service is focused on Apple’s suite of studio-quality fitness classes. You don’t need a subscription to get the Apple Watch’s full selection of health insights, although the Apple Watch itself costs notably more than Amazon’s and Fitbit’s devices. 

All that aside, paying for fitness services isn’t a new concept, and Amazon’s price is much lower than most gyms and competing streaming services. The question is whether Amazon’s service is good enough to keep you hooked, or if you’re better off looking elsewhere — even if the competition is more expensive. 

Finding that answer is surely going to be difficult for Amazon since it’s late to the fitness tracker game. That makes me wonder how Amazon will differentiate its offerings. 

Amazon’s body fat and tone analysis features still aren’t doing it for me

Amazon Halo View

The Halo Fit includes a lot of fitness and sleep-tracking features, but is missing some features we usually see on rival devices.


Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Amazon’s solution to this challenge isn’t entirely clear yet, but it’s starting to come together through the Halo View and improvements to Amazon’s Halo service. Amazon’s approach to standing out in the wellness space seems to be two-pronged: measuring metrics that have been largely unexplored in a commercial way (tone of voice and body fat analysis, for example) and focusing on the quality of its subscription service more than the device itself. 

Amazon shows potential in both of these areas, although it hasn’t convinced me to ditch my Apple Watch just yet. Its body fat analysis and tone of voice assessments don’t feel useful yet because it’s unclear how I should interpret these readings and what I should do with them. 

The body fat analysis feature hasn’t really changed since Amazon launched its first Halo band. I wasn’t a fan of it back then, and Amazon hasn’t done anything to change my mind. (You can read more about how Amazon’s body fat analysis works here).

Perhaps I don’t like this tool because Amazon never tells me what I want to hear. Amazon consistently says that my body fat percentage is in the unhealthy range, even though my primary care physician has never flagged my weight or physique as a cause for concern. 

That makes it hard to know how to interpret these readings. Do I need to see a nutritionist or share these results with my doctor? I already exercise on most days during the week, so am I doing something wrong? Amazon’s Halo app is full of workouts and healthy meal ideas. But losing weight and body fat is a complicated task that incorporates a lot of different factors. And there isn’t a one-size-fits all approach. Without deeper personalization, these results largely feel discouraging instead of helpful. 

I also don’t find myself using Amazon’s Tone feature very often. It’s amusing to see how the app thinks I sound (curious, interested, but also skeptical and disappointed). But it’s not something I find myself constantly thinking about and looking to improve as I do with other metrics like fitness and sleep. Since the new band doesn’t have a microphone, the only way to have Amazon analyze your tone is by manually starting a session in the Live section of the Halo app. That makes the whole concept of Amazon analyzing your voice more palatable from a privacy standpoint since there’s no option for intermittent voice monitoring as there was in the previous Halo band. But it also means I don’t find myself using this feature nearly as often.

amazon-halo-tone

Amazon can analyze the tone of your voice using your phone’s microphones.


Screenshot by Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Amazon also offers tools for improving your stability and posture by tracking your range of motion and balance. The assessment uses your phone’s camera and requires you to complete a set of movements meant to test your mobility, stability and posture. The process takes less than 10 minutes to complete and provides detailed results that break down your stability across different areas of the body, such as the shoulder, trunk, hip and lower body. Amazon also issues an overall movement score and recommends programs meant to help improve on weak areas. 

That level of personalization and actionable next steps that are tailored to my specific results makes this feel more useful than other new metrics like body fat and voice analysis. It’s what I’m hoping to see from Amazon’s body fat estimation feature in the future.

Amazon’s fitness videos are engaging and fun, but I still prefer Apple Fitness Plus

Amazon Halo View

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Amazon is also trying to distinguish its fitness band from the competition by improving the quality of its Halo subscription service. That was a big part of the original band’s appeal too, but Amazon recently expanded its offerings. 

It launched new fitness videos that have been produced in-house, which join the options from its partner services, and a nutrition service is coming in early 2022. Whether you have the original Halo band or the Halo View, you’ll be able to access everything in the app with a Halo subscription.

Overall, Amazon’s exercise videos seem well-produced and energetic, and the workouts themselves are challenging. So far, Amazon has in-house Halo videos for strength, yoga, core, mobility, outdoor and cardio routines. 

I’ve been a fan of working out at home since before the pandemic. I cancelled my gym subscription in 2017 to participate in HIIT and strength training videos from my living room and never looked back. Even as someone who’s been following video workouts on YouTube and reviewing fitness gadgets for years, I still found myself learning something new from Amazon’s workouts. The 10-minute dynamic core workout with trainer Francheska Martinez was a highlight for me.

However, I’m definitely missing some of the polish of Apple Fitness Plus. For example, Apple focuses on modifications a lot more than Amazon. Apple Fitness Plus workouts have a dedicated trainer just for showing modified moves for the duration of the class. As someone who frequently needs to go a little easier because of a persistent knee injury, I really appreciate this. From what I’ve seen so far, Amazon’s trainers mention modification options and sometimes demonstrate them, but there isn’t nearly as much consistency and focus in this regard. 

Apple also displays a timer onscreen during interval workouts that makes it easy to follow along and count down with the trainer. I haven’t seen this in any of Amazon’s HIIT videos yet, which can make it difficult to know when the demonstration stops and the actual interval begins. Also, once you’re used to having your Apple Watch automatically trigger a workout when you press the play button on a video, it’s hard to go back to anything else.

But Amazon will be adding the ability to see live personalized fitness metrics on screen next year, which should make these workouts and those from its partners feel closer to the Apple Fitness Plus experience. 

Tracking activity and sleep with the Halo View 

Amazon Halo View

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The Halo View is a solid fitness tracker for logging basic workouts and sleep. Its selection of workout types and metrics can feel limited compared with other trackers, but Amazon’s real advantage is in how it presents that data — if you have a Halo subscription, of course.

For example, I love that Amazon coaches you to work toward a weekly goal through its Activity Score feature rather than adhering to a daily metric like Apple’s Activity Rings. Don’t get me wrong, the Apple Watch’s Activity Rings are certainly motivating. (Yes, I’m that person who does a round of jumping jacks before bed just to close my rings). 

But the Activity Score makes it easier for me to focus on recovery and take it easy when I need to. I can go for a brisk walk and still contribute to my weekly goal with Amazon Halo, whereas a day with the Apple Watch feels wasted if I don’t close at least one of my rings. 

Amazon sets a goal of 150 points per week by default, and you earn points by being active. The more intense your activity, the more points you earn, similar to Fitbit’s Active Zone Minutes. You also lose points when you don’t move enough. 

In the Discover feed, it’s also easy to bookmark workouts you’re interested in so that you can quickly access them later — making it easy to jump right into a workout when you’re ready. 

That being said, there are some limitations to be aware of when tracking workouts with the Halo View. For one, the Halo View doesn’t show distance as a metric when tracking outdoor walks and runs, which is likely a drawback for runners. The selection of exercise modes is also fairly small compared with what Fitbit and Apple offer. The Halo View has 10 exercise modes, while the Fitbit Inspire 2 offers 20 and my Apple Watch can store 21 workout modes. And I’ve noticed that the Halo View doesn’t usually detect when I’ve stopped working out automatically if I happen to forget to manually end a workout.

Speaking of metrics, the Halo View can measure blood oxygen saturation like many modern fitness trackers. You can take an on-demand reading by swiping up or down from the band’s home screen, tapping the Data tile and choosing Blood Oxygen. But these results aren’t incorporated into Amazon’s insights in any meaningful way, so I didn’t find myself paying attention to these readings very much. 

Otherwise, Amazon offers a good level of sleep insight for a cheap fitness tracker, although it’s not doing anything that truly sets it apart from its competitors. Amazon measures the duration of your sleep, how long it took to fall asleep, time spent awake and sleep stages. It also combines this data into a sleep score to give you a sense of how well you slept overnight. But again, you only get this score and the breakdown of your sleep stages with a Halo subscription.

I’ve been tracking my sleep with the Halo View and an Oura ring over the past few nights, and the results tend to vary between the two. Amazon says my average sleep score is 64, while Oura pegs it at 72. It’s hard to tell which one is more accurate. But on one recent night when I had a particularly rough night’s sleep, I did feel like Amazon’s sleep score of 48 accurately reflected how I slept.

The other aspect that makes the Halo View a reliable sleep tracker is its battery life. The Halo View should be able to last for up to seven days on a charge, according to Amazon. Although that estimate doesn’t reflect my experience, I’m still happy to get multiple days of usage without a charge since I’m used to the Apple Watch’s less than two-day battery life. After nearly five full days of use, my Halo View had 7% of its battery charge left. 

Battery life can vary depending on a variety of factors. So this is a good reminder that just because a company says a device can last for a certain amount of time doesn’t mean it necessarily will. During my time with the Halo View, I’ve mostly kept the brightness level set to medium and had text notifications turned on. The Fitbit Inspire 2 is estimated to have a longer 10-day battery life based on Fitbit’s claims, but remember that device doesn’t have a color screen. The latest Fitbit Charge 5 with a color display can last four days with heavy use, or two days with the always-on display active.

The bottom line

Amazon Halo View

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

I’m not sold on Amazon’s body fat or tone analysis features yet, and the lack of distance measurements could be a serious deal breaker for runners and cyclists. But I see the value in the Halo View for those who just want some motivation to move more, eat healthier and get more sleep. For less than $100, you’re getting a color touchscreen, a comfortable fit and decently useful data on your activity and sleep. 

But remember that you need to pay $4 per month after the first year to continue getting those insights. The good news is Amazon’s subscription price is significantly lower than competing prices from Fitbit and Apple, and the company is adding new features like nutrition programs without increasing the cost.

That said, if you’re already committed to Apple’s or Fitbit’s ecosystem, Amazon’s offerings aren’t convincing enough to switch. It feels like Amazon is still figuring out how it’s going to make its approach stand out in an already crowded space. The Halo View and Amazon’s recent additions to its Halo service are a step in that direction, but we’re not quite there just yet. 

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