Lots of fitness trackers can measure your calories burned, heart rate, and steps. With the Halo, Amazon wants to give you greater visibility into your overall health, along with actionable insights to help improve it. Priced at $99.99 for the band plus $3.99 per month for a membership (after a six-month free trial), the Halo does an excellent job of monitoring your activity and sleep, and its companion app gives you access to a wide range of workouts and wellness programs. In addition, the Halo has the ability to analyze the tone of your voice to tell you how you sound to other people, and measure your body fat percentage based on images taken with with its app. These two features are a bit gimmicky, but the Halo band is otherwise useful if you’re looking to move more and improve your shut eye.
What the Halo Does
The Amazon Halo has four main features: the ability to track your activity, sleep, tone of voice, and body fat percentage. I’ll go over each of these features briefly now, and in more detail below.
Throughout the day, the Halo automatically tracks the intensity and duration of your movement, as well as your sedentary time. Taking these factors into account, it gives you an Activity Score. Informed by recommendations from the American Heart Association, the app encourages you to reach an Activity Score of at least 150 points each week. At night, it tracks your shut eye, then gives you a sleep score from zero to 100 based on the duration and quality of your rest.
The Tone feature uses two built-in microphones to collect voice data throughout the day, then analyzes your tone and reports how you sound to others. A live mode lets you view your voice analysis in real time. A button on the sensor capsule lets you turn the microphones off at any time if you want to disable this feature.
The Body feature uses your smartphone’s camera to measure your body fat percentage and create a personalized 3D model you can use to track your trends. Amazon says its body fat percentage tool is as accurate as methods doctors use, and nearly twice as accurate as top smart scales, though we can’t verify these claims. This feature doesn’t use any sensors in the Halo, but right now, Amazon requires the Halo to use it.
Finally, a Discover section in the Halo app offers workouts and programs created by Amazon’s in-house experts and a number of third-party partners, including Headspace, Lifesum, Orangetheory Fitness, and Weight Watchers.
There are plenty of workouts to choose from, and you can filter them by type (cardio, outdoor, strength, and yoga), duration (five to 60 minutes), difficulty (all levels to advanced), and partner brand.
In Discover, there’s also a large selection of programs designed to help you get moving, sleep better, improve your nutrition, boost your mood through meditation, and bolster your listening and communication skills. That includes a four-week program called Conscious Listening for Better Relationships with Julian Treasure, a one-week meditation challenge from Headspace, and a three-week course from Lifesum offering tips and alternatives to help you cut down on your salt intake, just to offer a few examples.
I like that the Halo not only helps you keep track of health metrics, but offers these workouts and programs to help you build healthier habits. The Discover feature alone justifies the monthly membership fee.
Instead of charging one lump sum for the hardware and offering its accompanying software features for free, as is customary with most fitness trackers, Amazon has made the Halo a membership-based service. The company charges $99.99 for the tracker itself, and $3.99 per month (after a six-month trial) to use most of its features.
If you choose not to renew your membership after the trial, you can still use the Halo to track your step count, heart rate, and sleep time, but you’ll lose all of its other activity, sleep, tone, and body features. Your membership automatically renews after the initial six-month trial, so remember to cancel in time if you don’t want that to happen.
Not Your Average Wristband
The Halo is unobtrusive, featuring a fabric band with a Velcro-like clasp and a removable sensor capsule. It comes in three color combinations: black on black, silver with a gray band, or rose gold with a light pink band. The sensor capsule measures 1.64 by 0.84 by 0.41 inches (LWH), and the band comes in small (for wrists 5.25 to 6.0 inches in circumference), medium (for wrists 5.75 to 7.0 inches), or large (for wrists 6.75 to 7.75 inches).
Left to right: Fitbit Inspire 2, Amazon Halo, Whoop Strap 3.0
For this review, Amazon sent me the rose gold/pink model. It’s a bit wider than the Fitbit Inspire 2 and thinner than the Whoop Strap 3.0, though all three are about the same thickness. As a word of caution, the light pink fabric band quickly gets dirty.
The sensor capsule weighs 0.63 ounces, and the small, medium, and large bands weigh 0.18, 0.19, and 0.22 ounces, respectively. The Halo is so light that I barely notice it on my wrist, even when I wear it to bed.
The fabric band is a blend of polyester, nylon, and spandex; it has a tiny bit of stretch, but it’s not nearly as stretchy as the Whoop 3.0 strap. I find the Whoop 3.0 a bit more comfortable, but less aesthetically pleasing due to its thickness.
Amazon sells fabric accessory bands in a range of colors for $29.99 each, and silicone sport accessory bands with a buckle closure for $24.99. Changing out the band is quick and simple. You just pop off the sensor capsule, then insert it in a different band.
Along with my Halo review unit, Amazon sent a sport accessory band in Sunset (mauve and orange). It’s more comfortable and practical than the stock fabric strap, so I definitely recommend springing for one. Because it’s made of silicone, it’s easy to clean, and won’t absorb sweat while working out.
Speaking of sweat, the Halo sensor capsule is water resistant to 164 feet, meaning it’s safe to swim and shower in.
Amazon includes a charging clip that powers the Halo in less than 90 minutes. Amazon says it gets up to seven days of battery life with the Tone feature disabled, and up to two days with it enabled. In testing, I found those estimates to be accurate. I keep Tone on most of the time, and have to charge it about every other day.
As you can see from the photos, the Halo doesn’t have a screen. It doesn’t offer any smartwatch features, and it doesn’t buzz or ding, so it won’t distract you during the day or at night. In today’s ever-connected world, it’s sort of a breath of fresh air. But this also means you have to open the Halo app (for Android and iOS) whenever you want to view your metrics.
Setting Up the Halo
To get started, just place the Halo band inside the included USB charging clip with the button on the tracker facing out. After a few seconds, a tiny white light will illuminate, indicating it’s ready to pair. From there, download the Amazon Halo app (available on Android and iOS) and follow the on-screen instructions to finish the setup process.
When you open the app, allow Bluetooth access so the strap can communicate with your phone, press Set Up Your Band, sign in to your Amazon account, then tap or add your name. The app then asks your birthday, height, weight, and gender. Amazon says it only offers female and male gender options right now because the Halo’s body measurement models are currently based on sex assigned at birth. If you choose a sex different than the one assigned to you at birth, some of your measurements or results might be inaccurate, the company says.
Next, the app asks for your phone number or email address, and sends a code to verify your identity. From there, make sure the light on the side of the device is blinking white, press Continue in the app, and it will begin searching for the band.
The Halo links to the app through an encrypted Bluetooth connection, which Amazon says ensures your data is safe from prying eyes. The company says to only unpair and re-pair the band directly via the Halo app, not your phone’s settings, to protect your data and ensure a secure Bluetooth connection.
Amazon says the band might occasionally disconnect from the app to “optimize battery life.” If this happens, the band still has your recent data, and you can reconnect it to the app by double pressing the side button.
After getting your band connected to the app, you’ll probably need to install updates, which for me only took a few seconds. The app then asks for permission to send you notifications and asks which wrist you plan to wear it on. This is all standard practice when setting up a fitness tracker.
Amazon recommends wearing the band about two finger’s width away from your wrist. Be sure to wear it with the button facing you, and tighten it snugly for the most accurate measurements.
Once the setup process is complete, the app will play a quick video taking you through the Halo’s main features.
Analyzing Your Tone
The Halo offers a unique feature that analyzes your tone of voice to help you understand how you sound to other people, which isn’t a feature you’ll find natively on other wearables. It’s optional, and if you decide to set it up, it will analyze your tone throughout the day. For privacy reasons, the Halo only analyzes and reports on your tone, not anyone else’s.
The app walks you through the setup process. To turn on your band’s microphone, simply press and hold the button until you see a green light. When a pop-up asks for permission to access your microphone, press OK. Next, the app has you read several book quotes aloud so the Halo can recognize your voice—be sure to do this in a quiet place.
The button on the side of the Halo lets you mute and unmute the microphone, to disable and enable Tone, with a three-second press. When the microphone is muted, a small LED on the side will briefly shine red; when it’s unmuted, the LED will shine green. You can also press the button once at the beginning of an exchange so the Halo will analyze the full conversation and bookmark it to review later.
Within the Tone section of the app, Amazon offers a summary graph of your results throughout the day. The graph shows which percentage of your analyzed phrases fell into the following four categories: yellow (amused, delighted, excited), green (content, appreciative, caring), purple (reserved, discouraged, worried), or red (displeased, irritated, enraged). Below that is a summary of your notable moments. For each notable moment, it shows the time and how you sounded.
It’s certainly interesting to see your Tone results, but I wish Amazon attached sound clips for each notable moment, so you can actually hear how you sound and what you were saying. Since there are no clips, you have to remember who you were talking to at that moment and what you said.
Amazon says Tone can help you uncover patterns and trends, like how you sound when talking to certain people or whether you sound different in the morning versus the evening. I can see this potentially being helpful if you notice you constantly sound angry or negative around a certain person, which might be a wake-up call that they bring you down.
Amazon also points out that the real-time feedback option can be helpful if you’re rehearsing for a presentation or speech. To see your real-time analysis, head over to the Live tab within the Halo app, toggle Tone, and press Start.
That said, the Halo app can do a better job of acknowledging that it’s OK to sound sad or tired, especially given that we’re nearly a full year into a global pandemic. With its color coding and emojis, the Tone feature seems to suggest that it’s best to sound positive and excited at all times. I won’t lie: seeing a substantial percentage of my interactions fall into the purple or red categories some days felt discouraging, and made me want to artificially change my tone to sound happier. But negative emotions are a part of life, and it’s better to talk to people about them than bottle them up inside or mask your true feelings.
Measuring Your Body Fat
Amazon says the Halo uses the first app-based tool for measuring body fat, a metric that offers a better picture of your health and fitness than weight alone.
To take a body fat scan using the app, you first need to strip down to your skivvies, then follow the prompts to position your phone camera at the correct angle. The app then uses computer vision and machine learning technology to remove the background on your photo, analyze the shape of your body, and calculate your body fat percentage in 30 seconds.
“Body is powered by a new proprietary artificial intelligence (AI), which has been trained to understand the relationship between images of a person and the physical properties of their body, including body shape and distribution of fat and muscle,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “Body’s deep neural network for estimating body fat percentage has been trained across diverse body shapes and appearances and accounts for variations in lighting conditions, backgrounds, and smartphones.”
In terms of accuracy, Amazon says its computer vision and machine learning method is comparable with clinically recommended methods such as air displacement (Bod Pod) and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA).
If the idea of standing in front of your smartphone camera and letting Amazon’s technology analyze your nearly naked body creeps you out, you’re not alone. When testing this feature, I felt super awkward, and if not for the sake of this review, I probably wouldn’t have tried it. For what it’s worth, Amazon says that body scan images and body fat measurements are handled with utmost privacy.
“Your scan images are processed in the Amazon cloud by machine, then deleted from the cloud by default, unless you turn on automatic backups,” the company says. “No one but you sees your scan images unless you choose to share them.”
When you’re about to take a body scan image for the first time, Amazon asks if you want to turn on cloud backups. If you enable them, the Halo automatically backs up your scans to the Amazon cloud, so you won’t lose them if you lose your phone. If you choose not to enable cloud backups, the scans will still be stored on your device in the app unless you delete them.
Next, it asks for permission to access your camera, then has you select your ethnicity and weight before walking you through the scan process. Amazon says to find a well-lit area and avoid lighting from behind, change into “minimal” clothing so the camera can see your body, and pull your hair up if it’s long. Next, it tells you to prop up your phone on a surface that is knee to waist high, and make sure there is four to six feet of free space behind you so the camera can see your entire body.
When you have your phone positioned correctly, you’ll see a check mark on the screen and the app will tell you to stand with your feet apart and your arms away from your body. It will then have you turn to your side, turn again so your back is facing the camera, then turn one more time so your other side is facing the camera.
After a few seconds, it will output your body fat percentage along with your fat mass and lean mass. It also shows a range for people your gender and age range, and where you fall on that scale.
Based on your results, Amazon will recommend related Discover programs and challenges you might be interested in, such as “4 weeks to a leaner, stronger you” from Orangetheory Fitness.
After the scan, the app keeps a record of your images from each side, and creates a 3D image you can swipe to view your body at different angles. In addition, a slider tool lets you see what your body would look like with a higher or lower body fat percentage.
When I took a scan using the app, it told me I had 31.1% body fat, which put me between “healthy” and “too high” on the scale for women in my age range. Since I’ve never had my body fat measured via Bod Pod or DXA, I’m not going to say Amazon is wrong, but 31.1% body fat sounds a bit high for me.
In contrast, a scan on the Arboleaf Smart Fitness Scale taken just a few minutes prior indicated I had 17.1% body fat, which, according to its companion app, put me in the “athlete” range. A scan on the FitTrack smart scale said I had 20.9% body fat, which its companion app said was in the “low” range. Amazon warns that its body fat percentage measurements will be different than the results you get from a smart scale, but I wasn’t expecting this level of disparity.
Since your results can vary widely from one device to the next, I recommend picking one and sticking with it. Using a smart scale is definitely quicker and easier than Amazon’s computer vision method, and offers more body composition metrics than just body fat percentage, fat mass, and lean mass. With a smart scale, you also get metrics like your weight, body mass index, muscle mass, bone mass, body water percentage, visceral fat percentage, and more, depending on the model you choose.
As a word of caution, if you have a history of disordered eating or feel obsessed with your weight and/or body image, I would stay away from the Body feature, as I feel it can potentially contribute to these issues. The same can be said for smart scales, but with its slider tool, the Body feature goes beyond just measuring your fat percentage by creating a 3D model showing what you might look like with more or less of it. The slider tool doesn’t let you get below a “healthy” amount of body fat for your age and sex (for me, it only estimates body changes down to 13% body fat), but I still worry it could be triggering for those with unhealthy attitudes toward their body, food, and/or exercise.
Tracking Your Workouts
Activity and sleep tracking are probably the Halo’s least interesting—but most useful—features. Plenty of wearables can competently track your fitness and sleep, and the Halo is one of them.
With its Activity Score metric, the Halo aims to encourage you to get moving and sit less. It awards you points for every minute the band senses you’re active, based on your heart rate and movement. It also takes into account the intensity of your activities, so you’ll earn more points running than walking, for instance.
You get two points for every minute of intense activity (like running, shoveling snow, or playing soccer), one point for every minute of moderate activity (like walking briskly, cycling, or raking leaves), and one point for every 20 minutes of light activity (like grocery shopping, walking, or making the bed). Sitting down for too long will cause you to lose points. For every sedentary hour in excess of eight in a single day, you’ll lose one point.
Your goal is to rack up at least 150 activity points every week. According to Amazon, doing so “helps keep your heart healthy by meeting the minimum physical activity recommendations from the American Heart Association as well as the latest medical research.” Every Monday, your score resets back to zero.
One of the things I like about the Halo is that it keeps a record of your workouts and activities without any intervention on your part. It can automatically recognize certain types of activities, such as running and walking, and log them. For each record, it includes the date and time, duration of the workout, number of activity points earned, a graph of your heart rate throughout the workout, your maximum and average heart rate, how much time you spent in each intensity zone, steps, and calories burned.
If the Halo detects you’re active but can’t recognize what type of workout you’re doing, it will keep track of your stats for that session and simply label it as an Activity. You can optionally go into that record after your workout and manually tag what you did. I’ve had to do this for indoor cycling and yoga sessions, but it only takes a second. When editing an activity, you can adjust the duration, if necessary. I find that the Halo often lowballs the length of my yoga sessions, but for the most part accurately tracks the duration of walks and runs.
If the Halo misses a workout, you can manually log it in the app after the fact. When manually logging a workout, you can select the activity type, date, time, and duration.
Between practicing and teaching yoga, and testing smart home gym equipment for a living, I work out daily and have no problem reaching the weekly 150-point Activity Goal. The Halo even awards me activity points when walking my dog twice a day. As I write this, it’s a Friday afternoon and I’ve already accumulated 304 points this week. The Halo says my next goal is 600 points, which I doubt I’ll hit this week, but maybe next.
Monitoring Your Sleep
At night, the Halo automatically monitors your sleep duration, stages, and quality. It keeps track of your total time in bed, how long it took you to fall asleep, how much time you spent asleep and awake, your sleep efficiency (the percentage of time in bed you were actually asleep), and disturbances throughout the night.
In the morning, you can view all of your stats, along with your Sleep Score and a graph of your sleep stages (awake, light, deep, and REM). The Sleep Score is based on your total sleep time, time to fall asleep, time spent in each sleep stage, and how often you woke up during the night. A score of 0 to 49 is considered poor, 50 to 69 is fair, 70 to 84 is good, and 85 to 100 is great. Amazon says a score below 70 “might be a signal to change up your sleep routine.”
Based on your results, the Halo will recommend related Discover tools that can help you sleep better, such as progressive muscle relaxation meditations, calming music, soothing water sounds, and yoga nidra.
The Halo can also measure changes in your body’s skin temperature while you sleep, a useful feature in the era of COVID-19 that’s also available on the Fitbit Sense and the Oura Ring. To track this metric, you’ll need to wear the Halo to bed for three nights, during which the band will analyze your sleep temperature and establish your personal baseline. After that, it will tell you whether you’re running hotter or cooler compared with previous days and weeks, and by how much. Clicking into this metric brings up a graph showing deviations from your baseline temperature throughout the night. Your skin temperature should stay fairly consistent most of the time, and a sudden spike can indicate illness.
Where the Halo Shines and Falls Short
The Amazon Halo is among a growing class of wearables that go beyond fitness tracking to provide a more complete picture of your health, a category that devices like the Fitbit Sense, Oura Ring, and Whoop Strap 3.0 also fall into. Its tone analysis feature aims to help improve your social and emotional wellbeing, while its computer vision-powered body fat measurement tool is meant to help you monitor more than just your weight. Those are respectable goals, but the tone feature falls short and drains battery life quickly, while the body scan method is creepy, even despite Amazon’s privacy assurances.
That said, the Halo shines as an activity and sleep tracker. During the day, it automatically logs your workouts, and motivates you to move more and sit less. At night, it comprehensively tracks your shut eye, including your nightly skin temperature, a metric few wearables offer. An intuitive app helps you interpret your metrics, and gives you access to a large library of workouts and wellness programs, justifying the $3.99 monthly membership fee atop your initial $99.99 hardware investment.
If you’re considering the Halo, it’s also worth checking out the Whoop Strap 3.0, another screenless health tracker with a subscription pricing model. It doesn’t track your body temperature and is a bit bigger than the Halo, but it offers useful recovery metrics, personalized daily activity and sleep guidance, and data-packed weekly and monthly performance assessments. If you’re an athlete and/or train hard several days a week, the Whoop is a better choice. If you’re just starting out on a wellness journey or simply looking to stay active rather than make gains, you’ll be better served by the Halo.
The Bottom Line
The unassuming Amazon Halo wristband works with a membership-based wellness service that can help you get active and sleep better, but its tone of voice and body composition analysis features are a bit creepy.
Amazon Halo Specs
|Heart Rate Monitor||Yes|
|Battery Life||1 week|