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Amazon Halo Is Gone

Even accounting for hindsight bias, I think Amazon’s nuking Halo might’ve been an easy call. I didn’t make it, and I didn’t think it’d come true so quickly – they just released a new device (Halo Rise) to the lineup earlier this year; this year isn’t half over!

The bands were constantly on sale, and it seemed like Amazon was trying to liquidate them. One of the few things I actually remember from congressional hearings is that Amazon, somewhat unsurprisingly, does lose money on its in-house products like Kindle and (especially) Echo1, but only when they’re on sale (which is often).

The Halo View was listed for a similar price as a Fitbit but looked much worse. Also, Fitbit is still around, and their app will still work after August 1st! I never found the View compelling; it was a poor knock-off2 of a Fitbit. The Band, however, was more interesting – it was different! I think it had a similar appeal as the Fitbit Flex, where there was no screen, no distraction, but the data was there when you wanted it. This has been my approach with sleep tracking – the Withings sleep tracker goes under the matress, silently and forgettably recording data. I can go weeks or months without looking at it; but when I’m curious, I can check on my sleep data. The Band had a gimmick – of course it did – it could analyze your conversations and record how you sounded. It was an entertaining gimmick! Its resolution was higher than I expected: “confrontational”, “reflective”, or “encouraging” instead of “sad” or “happy”. This wasn’t very insightful, though. I tend to have some idea what I sound like and of the emotions I’m conveying. The only value I found was in remembering moments throughout the day, based on the timestamped emotions.

Amazon was almost giving the Band away when I bought it – $24.99. I don’t wear a fitness tracker, and smart watches annoy me; heartrate data3, though, was kind of interesting.

I ended up with the Halo Rise a few months after its release after they discounted it like 30%. It’s surprisingly difficult to find internet-connected4 clocks that don’t look horrible – my other one is the Echo Show 5, configured5 only to show the current time – and this was one of those. The radar-based sleep tracking (similar to my now-broken-and-recycled Nest Hub gen 2) was interesting. It also seemed like it would make a good reading light. (It didn’t; the angle was weird.) The sunrise/smart alarm feature was cool and reminiscent of the Sleep Cycle app; it was useful for about a week.

Amazon discontinued the entire Halo line a couple weeks ago; coincidentaly, this was right after I read The Composting Theory of Continuous Growth, which references Amazon’s seemingly-failed projects like the Fire Phone and presents them as proofs of concept for AWS services. Applied to this scenario, the health data systems Amazon built might6 be for sale to AWS customers.

Conceivably, Amazon might not have turned all Halo devices to bricks as immediately as they have – app support ends in August, making the devices completely useless7. But supporting it was probably a complete waste of resources, and they’re refunding everyone! Yes, manufactured e-waste is bad; it’s annoying these products are disappearing. Companies like Amazon and Google, though, have the resources to make customers (almost) whole – Stadia refunded everything, so some customers got to use it for free. With Stadia, time and save data was lost; with Halo, health data is lost (it’s downloadable, but portability might be tough).

I woke up this morning to a notification from Amazon, saying they’d processed my refunds. I’m sure(?) there are Halo customers out there who are more upset than I, but, selfishly, this worked out well; Halo was okay but unneccesary, and it’s nice that it’s free.

Halo is off to compost.

1Selling the latest Echo for $49.99 with a free color Hue bulb is clearly not profitable.

2Amazfit, anyone?

3My phone tracks my steps, apparently.

4Because they keep time well and automatically adjust for daylight saving time (syncronization with time servers!)

5Which likes to turn on other homescreen features and ads, even after I turn them off

6Didn’t bother checking

7We’ll see if the Rise still works as a light or clock, but the Alexa control seems to go through Halo, so I’m not hopeful.

As always, let me know if I’m wrong. My nonchalance on this might make for a boring, meandering read.