Given all of the…feedback Amazon has received, it’s hard to believe the Halo wasn’t widely available until today. Announced in late-August, the product has been offered in “early access” to invited users. That changes today, however, as the product opens to everyone in the U.S.
The band runs $100, a price that includes six months of membership. It was probably inevitable that the company would launch a fitness product, though Amazon’s behind the curve as far as form factors go. Smartwatches have become a dominant force in fitness tracking on the high end. Bands are still a presence on the opposite side of the market, but generally command a fraction of the cost.
What makes the Halo different is its use of voice and the amount of data it collects and processes — neither are honestly a surprise, coming from Amazon. The former involves processing the wearer’s tone of voice, which has drawn some…mixed feedback. Here’s how Amazon describes that bit:
Tone of voice analysis can help you communicate more thoughtfully with family, friends, colleagues, your favorite food truck proprietor, and everyone in between.
Body fat scanning is an even bigger question mark. Early reviews have called the technology “invasive,” among other things. It has also drawn scrutiny from lawmakers. Senator Amy Klobuchar penned a letter to Health and Human Services.
“While new wearable fitness devices make it easier for people to monitor their own health, these devices give companies unprecedented access to personal and private data with limited oversight,” Klobuchar wrote. “More must be done to ensure the privacy and security of health-related consumer devices.”
Amazon has actively pushed back on privacy concerns, highlighting, among other things, that the body scans exist only on the device used to capture them. “Privacy is foundational to how we designed and built Amazon Halo,” a spokesperson told The Washington Post. “Body and Tone are both optional features that are not required to use the product.”
Amazon’s got the dually difficult task of assuring consumer privacy and attempting to set the product apart in a well-saturated market.