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Amazon's Halo Health Service and Tracker Isn't a Bad First Effort

Amazon found some ways to differentiate its health/fitness solution. But it still faces stiff competition.  (AMZN) - Get, Inc. Report is leaning on innovative technology features and somewhat-aggressive pricing to take on more mature health and fitness offerings from Apple  (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report and Fitbit  (FIT) - Get Fitbit, Inc. Class A Report.

For the time being, Amazon is charging just $65 for its Halo Band health/fitness tracker and six months of a subscription service (simply known as Halo) that relies on the Halo Band. The price will eventually go up to a still-fairly-low $100, while the Halo service will cost $4 per month after the first six months are up.

For comparison, Fitbit’s fitness trackers are priced from $70 to $170, while its smartwatches go from $160 to $330. And the company’s Fitbit Premium service, which among other things provides users with video workouts, guided fitness programs and a personalized “wellness report,” costs $10 per month or $80 per year.

The Apple Watch Series 3 starts at $199, while the newer Apple Watch Series 5 starts at $399. Apple doesn’t currently sell any health/fitness services (a virtual fitness class service is reportedly being prepped), but it does integrate a slew of health/fitness features with the Watch, including heart-rate monitoring, ECG functionality, fall detection and a Workout app that tracks metrics such as miles run and calories burned. And with watchOS 7, which will be rolling out to Watch users soon, Apple will be adding sleep-tracking.

As a fitness tracker rather than a smartwatch, the Halo Band more directly competes against Fitbit’s lineup than Apple. Indeed, the Halo Band is even more minimalist than Fitbit’s trackers, since it lacks a screen and only relies on an LED indicator light to notify users.

However, Amazon did manage to pack a heart-rate monitor, two microphones and temperature and motion sensors into the Halo Band. And through a mixture of hardware (both the Halo Band and a user’s smartphone), a Halo mobile app and machine learning algorithms, the Halo service does provide some unique features.

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Amazon claims Halo can accurately measure a user’s body fat percentage by analyzing 3D body scans conducted with the help of a smartphone’s camera. Halo also attempts to gauge a user’s emotional well-being by analyzing the “energy and positivity in a customer’s voice,” and it tracks not just sleep time but also “time spent in the various phases of sleep” and a user’s sleep temperature.

Also, just as Apple has formed partnerships with a slew of health/fitness app and service providers, Halo will let users share their data with third parties such as healthcare providers, the Mayo Clinic and WW (formerly Weight Watchers).

For now, it remains to be seen whether Halo will be something more than a niche offering.

Fitbit, whose pending sale to Alphabet/Google  (GOOG) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class C Report is still being reviewed by regulators, doesn’t require a subscription for access to features such as sleep-tracking, heart-rate monitoring and workout metrics. And neither does Apple, whose smartwatches support a large ecosystem of third-party apps and can be used for many things besides health and fitness functions.

But at the same time, Amazon did show some ability to think outside the box with Halo and the Halo Band, as well as to leverage its computer vision and machine learning R&D to help differentiate its health/fitness offering. And judging by Amazon’s history with hardware platforms such as the Kindle, Echo and Fire TV, the coming years will see a meaningful expansion of the products and services delivered under the Halo label.

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