Amazon adds display in new $80 Halo View health band, skips mic, boosts free membership to a year

Amazon’s new Halo View health band. (Amazon Photo)

Amazon unveiled a new health band called Halo View, the second device from its Halo health-and-wellness initiative, and the first with a display.

Unlike the original Halo Band, released last year, the Halo View does not include a microphone. Despite user privacy protections, Amazon drew criticism and scrutiny for an optional feature in the original Halo Band that uses the microphone to assess the wearer’s tone of voice in everyday conversations as a measure of wellness.

PREVIOUSLY: Amazon’s Halo tests the limits of personal privacy, and offers a glimpse of the future of health

With the changes, Amazon is competing more directly with Fitbit and other popular health bands, which commonly offer displays with basic health metrics. Data available on the Halo View screen will include step count, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, sleep score, and live workout tracking.

Halo View will retail for $79.99. It comes with a free year-long Halo membership, which is normally $3.99/month, offering access to advanced features and services. Halo Band comes with a six-month membership.

In conjunction with the Halo View announcement, company is also launching its own Halo Fitness service, offering Halo members fitness classes recorded at a new production studio in Seattle. Amazon says its new service will join third-party fitness content available via Halo.

In addition, Amazon is launching a Halo Nutrition service with recipes and meal-planning tools that can be customized based on allergies and other preferences.

Amazon made the announcements as part of its fall Alexa and Echo devices unveiling Tuesday morning. Earlier this year, the company rolled out the option for Halo users to connect with Alexa for health updates via voice.

The Halo health and wellness initiative is part of a broader push by Amazon into health, including its Amazon Pharmacy service, Amazon Care primary healthcare services, and Amazon Web Services healthcare initiatives.

Why no microphone in Halo View? Amazon heard from customers who wanted a device focused on health and fitness, said Melissa Cha, vice president of Amazon Halo. Leaving the microphone out also means battery life in the new Halo View will be as many as seven days by default.

Halo View and the Halo app with the new Halo Fitness service. (Amazon Photo)

Amazon isn’t saying whether it plans to include microphones in future Halo devices. The original Halo Band will remain on the market. It’s priced at $99.99.

The Tone feature, part of the Halo membership, will also continue to be available in the Halo app, letting users activate it manually to analyze their tone of voice during conversations, using the smartphone microphone.

The Halo membership also continues to include the option for users to scan their bodies to assess body fat percentage over time, which was the other feature that drew scrutiny in reviews of the device. This was the other feature that drew scrutiny in reviews of the device.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last year expressing “serious concerns regarding recent reports on the data collection practices of Amazon’s health-tracking bracelet” and calling for stronger federal oversight of data collected by health tracking devices.

Amazon says no human sees the body scans, which are automatically deleted from the cloud after processing, and stored locally in the Halo app. Likewise, the company says no human listens to the temporary audio recordings that are used to produce the tone-of-voice analysis. Full details on data privacy are available here.

The company didn’t give a release date for Halo View but said it will be available in time for the holidays. At its base price, Halo Band will be available in three sport bands, in black, olive and lavender. Fifteen other sport band colors cost an extra $14.99 each, and fabric, leather and metal options cost an extra $29.99 each.

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Amazon Health/life sciences Halo Halo view