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Home News The Amazon Halo has a lot to prove before it can compete...

The Amazon Halo has a lot to prove before it can compete with Fitbit and Apple

As it often does, Amazon entered a new product category with no warning today. Its new product is called the Amazon Halo, and it’s a fitness band that promises A.I.-enabled features and is bought via an ongoing a subscription rather than an upfront purchase.

Considering that nobody’s used — or even touched — an Amazon Halo just yet, the only way we can start to analyze its position in the fitness world is a product page and a look back at Amazon’s shaky past in wearables. Amazon has undeniably done well in hardware overall, earning incredible success with its Echo smart speakers, Kindles, Fire tablets and Fire TV devices. But when it comes to wearables, Amazon’s track record is … well, bad.

There’s been the Echo Loop smart ring, Echo Frames smart lasses, and the Echo Buds wireless earbuds — the latter being the only product that was actually fully released to the public. And even the Echo Buds, a dramatically less ambitious product, weren’t able to make many waves in the headphone space as Amazon was quickly surpassed by established brands making better earbuds.

Thankfully, it seems as though the group inside Amazon that’s handling the Halo is quite a bit more invested in its success than these niche and one-off wearable efforts of the past. So there is some hope to be had there. Amazon made specific hires from the health world to make sure it got the details right — and the device sure has a long list of health features on offer.

And it wouldn’t be an Amazon product without leaning on artificial intelligence (A.I.) and machine learning, and there’s plenty of that here.

With an upload of a set of (minimally clothed) photos of yourself, Amazon claims it can do body fat analysis to more accurately track your health and fitness. While it’s true that body fat percentage is a much more accurate representation of physical fitness than a body mass index (BMI) chart, and that body fat scans are expensive, I’m hesitant to believe Amazon’s A.I. and machine learning can give you an accurate read from a handful of photos. I also wonder if anyone at Amazon considered the past failure of the Amazon Echo Look, which couldn’t provide a compelling clothing picker, let alone health insights. There will once again be privacy concerns here, but I believe Amazon when it says it’s keeping this data safe and private to you.

Is it a good deal?

Another A.I. feature is a voice tone analysis that purports to be able to tell you how your voice is reflecting your emotional state, in hopes of reducing stress and providing insight into how you can change how you speak to others to improve relationships and interactions. This frankly seems like a wild claim. Every “stress” monitor I’ve ever used — on Wear OS watches, the Apple Watch, Garmin watches, and Samsung Galaxy watches — has been woefully inaccurate. I have little faith that Amazon’s A.I. analysis of my voice tones can do any better, but if the company can pull something like this off, it would be truly revolutionary. (Sadly, Amazon notes that tone analysis drops the Halo’s battery life from 7 days down to just 2 days. Yikes.)

All of Halo’s other health tracking and insights seem relatively standard. There are workouts and activity challenges, breakdowns of sleep data, and data-based suggestions on how you can lead a healthier life. These are things that we just can’t have any idea about in term of their effectiveness until we actually wear one for a while.

On that point, let’s talk about pricing and competition. Amazon’s getting a ton of attention for launching the Halo as a subscription service, rather than an upfront purchase — not unlike the Whoop fitness tracker. In the early access period you pay $65, which gets you the Halo and 6 months of service. But the catch is that you need to keep paying at $4 per month — that’s a bit over $50 per year when you include tax. If you buy after the early access discount is over, you’re looking at $99 for the tracker and 6 months of service, so your first year costs you about $125.

Amazon has some amazing features, but we should be hesitant to believe they’ll work as claimed.

Amazon is obviously going after casual fitness trackers, like the just-updated Fitbit Inspire 2, but with its current subscription model, the Halo doesn’t really come out looking like a good deal. An Inspire 2 is just $99, with no ongoing subscription. Fitbit maintains its robust services, apps, and health data insights for “free” in hopes that you’ll keep buying Fitbits, but you can use yours all you want without a monthly payment. Sure it doesn’t offer body fat tracking or voice tone analysis, but do you care?

If you choose to cancel your subscription, Amazon says “nonmembers retain access to basic sleep time, heart rate, and step tracking.” While it’s good that the device doesn’t just brick itself, that’s not great. I understand paying extra for features like body composition and voice tone analysis, but turning off all activity tracking beyond steps is really rough.

The best thing the Amazon Halo has going for it is a strong brand name and a low introductory price, so there’s little commitment involved if you just want to give it a try — and I’m sure Amazon’s banking on people realizing that. For $65, it’s worth taking a shot for 6 months if you like the idea of this minimalist fitness tracker and the potentially unique health insights. But I don’t believe Fitbit, Garmin, or Apple are worried about giving up ground in the fitness tracker space just yet.


Simplisafe Video Doorbell Pro review

DIY security is a hot topic item in the tech space these days. One of the companies that have been at the forefront of that movement has been Simplisafe. The company prides itself on the complete system you can set up in minutes and has recently added the Video Doorbell Pro to its lineup.Simplisafe was kind enough to send me the new Video Doorbell Pro for the last few weeks and I’m going to share my experience with this full review.DesignThe Simplisafe Doorbell Pro doesn’t set the world ablaze with a radical design. But that’s OK, and honestly, there’s only so much you can do here. You get an elongated rectangular device with rounded edges that immediately reminds you of well… a doorbell.At the top, you have a camera capable of 1080p HD recording with a 162-degree field of view. The lens has pan and zoom to help capture this wider viewing angle. Just below that is a motion sensor with IR night vision as well.The small pinhole towards the middle is a two-way microphone. This allows you to have a conversation with anyone that comes to the door even when not at home. This has already come in handy for me to “sign” for a package that arrived while I wasn’t in the house.The bottom of the Simplisafe Doorbell Pro is, well… the doorbell. This a large chrome button surrounded by an LED ring. This ring illuminates when pressed and the press of the button rings your existing bell while immediately initiating an app notification.Setup and the appThe setup of the Simplisafe Video Doorbell Pro is pretty painless. You have start with safety. Find your appropriate breaker to cut power to your existing doorbell. You will then remove the mounting screws of your current system.After destruction has taken place we can now move forward with our new fancy gadget Doorbell Pro. I’d suggest using the back bracket with the new power terminal to make sure your existing screw holes match the alignment. Mine was slightly different and I had to make an alternative pilot drill hole for the top screw.Then, you need to run the two wires from your old bell through the keyhole-shaped opening. These will need to go up, and behind, the terminal screws to then be secured with a Philips head screwdriver. Now use the included mounting screws to secure to your exterior wall at the top and bottom of the Simplisafte Doorbell bracket.One more note, if you have a doorbell currently installed in a corner or uneven surface like siding, don’t worry. Simplisafe thought about these scenarios and includes a wedge in the box to mount at an angle to give you a more stable view. I personally didn’t have to use this accessory but it’s nice to see it in the box.Once the Simplisafe Vido Doorbell Pro is secured, you then take the outside casing and slide it over the base, and press down to snap into place. Now, you should restore power and test the unit.If successful, you should give your Doorbell around 90 seconds to properly power up. Then you can test to make sure your doorbell chime works when pressing the large, silver button on the Simplisafe. If you chime works as intended you can secured the base and front plate as the final hardware step with the include super-tiny hex screw in the packaging into the very bottom of the Doorbell Pro.Completing the setup and connecting to your Simplisafe system is all handled through the app. Here you’ll go through the normal steps of a connected device: add a camera, enter your WiFi credentials, and give it a name or location.But my favorite part of this is Simplisafe uses the Doorbell Pro’s camera to scan a QR code on your phone to link it to your app. This is a nice feature to both verify the account information and whether the Doorbell’s video system works. 1 of 9 The app experience is pretty comparable to most video apps after setup. You get a dedicated tab at the bottom of the Simplisafe app along with the last history preview at the bottom of your Overview main page.Notifications are also fairly normal. When the Simplisafe Video Doorbell Pro detects movement, it starts recording and sends an instant notification to your devices via the app. You then are dropped directly into the live video feed by tapping the notification.I did have a complaint and one hiccup while using the app. First, I think any Android app revolving around video should offer a thumbnail view in the notification. It’s a quick, glanceable way to see just how important the need is at the door. Is it my normal Amazon package that can wait or is my mom standing in the rain waiting for me to let her inside?And that leads to my main issue. Simplisafe either has a connection issue in tunneling the app to the live stream, or the WiFi radio is very inconsistent. About every 8th time I try to open a notification or manually check the live video I get the below message.I’ll close this section of the review on the positive that you don’t have to be a Simplisafe subscriber to use the Video Doorbell Pro. The device and app can both be used without an existing Simplisafe security system or monitoring plan.ConclusionDespite a couple of hiccups, I’m impressed with the video quality, app notifications, and ease of setup with the Simplisafe Video Doorbell Pro. The quality is as good if not better than other security cameras I currently have installed.If you are already a Simplisafe customer, then this is the doorbell camera for you. I can’t imagine adding another app and ecosystem with better results. And you can opt into if something triggers your alarm to allow the monitoring system to confirm a physical threat via the video feed.Even if you’re not a Simplisafe user, I think the Video Doorbell Plus warrants a look. At $170 it’s competitively priced with similar options. Add that to a quick installation process, and good looking device and Simplisafe has a winner with the Video Doorbell Plus.

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