Amazon closing Halo health division, lays off staff while offering hardware refunds

Amazon sent out a note to Halo customers today announcing that it is shutting down its Halo Health division, effective July 31. Included in the announcement is news of layoffs, as well as full refunds on hardware purchased over the past 12 months.

That includes Amazon Halo View, Halo Band, Halo Rise and a bunch of accessories. That’s not an unprecedented move (Google did something similar when it recently shut down Stadia), but it’s a sign of good will for customers and a tacit acknowledgement that the hardware won’t be worth a hell of a lot when its associated services shut down. The company will also be ending subscription fees and refunding those that were pre-paid.

“At Amazon, we think big, experiment, and invest in new ideas like Amazon Halo in our efforts to delight customers,” the company notes in a letter addressed to “Halo Member.” As of the beginning of August, all of the aforementioned products will cease to function. Amazon has also tossed in information for recycling the hardware and saving scan images to a phone’s camera roll.

Those impacted by layoffs, on the other hand, don’t appear to have received much warning:

We notified impacted employees in the U.S. and Canada today. In other regions, we are following local processes, which may include time for consultation with employee representative bodies and possibly result in longer timelines to communicate with impacted employees. For employees who are impacted by this decision, we are providing packages that include a separation payment, transitional health insurance benefits, and external job placement support.

At the end of last month, the company announced 9,000 layoffs, adding to 18,000 it made beginning in January. Amazon’s hardware divisions were disproportionately impacted by the first round, with strong focuses on the Alexa/Echo team.

The original Halo tracker was greeted with privacy pushback when it was announced in August 2020. A few months later, we spoke to Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar about the concerns.

“I really do think there’s got to be rules in place,” she told TechCrunch at the time. “The reason I’m writing HHS is because they should play a larger role in ensuring data privacy when it comes to health, but between the HHS and the Federal Trade Commission, they’ve got to come up with some rules to safeguard private health information. And I think the Amazon Halo is just the ultimate example of it, but there’s a number of other devices that have the same issues. I’m thinking there’s some state regulations going on and things like that, and we just need federal standards.”

The line still grew quickly, adding the Halo View, an $80 Fitbit competitor, in late 2021, alongside additional fitness and nutrition programs. Last September, it announced the Halo Rise, a bedside sleep tracker, which went on sale at the end of the year.