Skip to main content

Amazon is fixing its fitness wearables by not listening to its customers

Removing the microphone is a win for privacy advocates.

Amazon says it didn't remove the microphone for the Tone feature from its new Halo View fitness tracker due to privacy concerns, but rather because it was listening to what customers wanted. And while many experts agree with Amazon's statement to ditch the feature, they say whether the company will admit to it or not, privacy is still part of the company's decision to offer an alternative.

The new Halo View fitness band was announced during Amazon's September hardware event last week. It improves on the first generation band by adding an AMOLED display, giving users instant access to health data without having to pull out their phone.

The new band doesn't have a microphone like the original version, and it is also priced on the lower end compared to the best fitness trackers on the market. This could arguably also make this band compete successfully in the market, some experts believe.

In a statement to Android Central, an Amazon spokesperson said that the company "didn't remove [the microphone] based on [privacy] concerns."

"We are a customer-obsessed business. That means we are always looking to hear and learn from our customers so that we can provide a variety of great options that fit their individual needs. Many Halo Band members shared that Tone is one of their favorite features, informing how they interact with colleagues in the workplace, their children, and even their significant other. That said, we understand Tone may not be needed for everyone. For those customers who were looking for a lower price point and where Live Mode for Tone in the Halo app is enough, Halo View is a great option," - Amazon spokesperson.

The original Halo health tracker debuted in December 2020, even after a scathing report that revealed privacy concerns about the tracker. The original device did not have a display but had a microphone that would collect some of the most intimate information that has ever been collected from a consumer health gadget — a customer's spoken thoughts. This was part of what the company called Tone, which was an opt-in feature that tracked the tone of a user's voice to understand their emotional state.

Many privacy experts said that the information collected by Tone was not actually helping consumers learn anything, but rather was another way for Amazon to gather more of your data.

Tone feature was just not that useful

Nishanth Sastry, a professor at the University of Surrey in the U.K. and specializes in the privacy of tracking technologies, agrees with Amazon and says in an interview that the Tone feature was very divisive in that some found it very useful, while others "thought it was creepy."

"Many Halo band users thought Tone 'was creepy,'" says Nishanth Sastry

"A quick Google of the reviews for the Halo Band will show how opinions were quite evenly split," he says. "Clearly Amazon thought it was a good idea to also offer a more conventional alternative which does not have the creepy/useful Tone feature."

He says that Amazon eliminating the feature came from customer feedback, but that the feedback was likely about how customers had privacy concerns.

IDC's research manager of worldwide device trackers, Jitesh Urbani, adds that the Tone feature was probably what most customers didn't really care for.

"Sure, customers would know that at some point in the day they sounded anxious or energetic, but ultimately what's a customer supposed to do with that information?" he says. "Moreover, the removal of the microphone helps further reduce the cost of the device while alleviating any privacy concerns or negativity that buyers may have felt."

Avi Greengart, founder and lead analyst at Techsponential, agrees and in an interview notes that it was removed "partly because it is controversial and because, let's face it, Tone is not a common health feature in the fitness category."

"Removing it and lowering the price makes the Halo View more competitive, not less," he says.

Halo View will be a great fitness band to target the low-end market

Amazon's original device was released to the market at $100, but the new version is slightly cheaper at $80. At the time, the original band was late to enter the fitness tracker market, which was already dominated by the likes of Apple and Fitbit, and with the no-screen display and a rather invasive tracking, it was hard to convince consumers to want to buy the product.

Greengart notes that on a whole, Amazon doesn't specifically target premium market segments and that several of its device lines are filled with products that are sold at incredibly low prices like the Echo Dot, Fire HD tablets, and the Fire TV streaming sticks.

"However, it is worth noting that Amazon is hardly the lowest cost fitness band on the market; Xiaomi, Amazfit, and others sell fitness bands for $40-50 on Amazon," he says.

Currently, there aren't many fitness bands in the market that do target a low-end market. The Apple Watch Series 3 is priced at $199, Fitbit's Inspire 2 (not counting its kid's trackers) is $99, and Samsung's Galaxy Watch 4 is $250.

Anshel Sag, a senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, agrees in an interview noting that there are many basic fitness bands out there but believes there's an opportunity here for Amazon.

"I believe that Amazon sees an opportunity in this market for a U.S. manufacturer and wants to offer an entry-level price to its customers," he says.

"I believe that Amazon sees an opportunity in this market for a U.S. manufacturer and wants to offer an entry-level price to its customers," Anshel Sag says.

By having a second option as well, Sag says that Amazon can cater to more consumers.

Urbani added that this product will help Amazon gain a better foothold in the wearable market.

"This is where Amazon has a leg up on the competition since brands like Fitbit still tend to rely more on hardware margin rather than services. The low upfront cost of the Halo View might convince more users to sign onto Amazon's ecosystem of hardware and services," he says.

Where Amazon got it right is by adding a screen, Urbani says, and that the original Halo kept it from breaking into the mainstream. The Halo View is finally on par with the competition while also improving user experience, he says.

"The lower cost also goes a long way in improving uptake," Urbani notes.

Sastry agreed with Urbani, saying that adding the screen makes this device more conventional to users.

Privacy concerns will always be there, especially with health trackers

But by making a more conventional product, Sastry says that this will mean Amazon will still be collecting more data from people.

"Amazon gets more data from more people and it is health data, which previously it did not have. Currently, all is fine, until Amazon decides it will change its data policy and starts using this new source for powerful new algorithms to sell more stuff," he says.

Amazon did write a white paper explaining the privacy around the original Halo band.

Sastry says that the company has also promised to never sell user data to others and that in the previous version, it was only processing the voice data on the device; it doesn't mean that privacy concerns don't exist.

"However, as more of us start to give out health data to one of the biggest data harvesters out there, there may be interesting/dangerous developments in how Amazon could use that to sell more stuff to us," he says.

Greengart agrees with this, noting that any product that is designed to collect and track personal health data is a privacy concern.

For example, if someone was pregnant, Sastry asks, would it be possible for the tracker to detect changes in one's body metabolism and advertise targeted products to the individual?

"If someone is becoming pre-diabetic, could this be detected and offer to sell more products? What if Amazon's recommender systems discover people who have a high Body Mass Index tend to buy sweet stuff and put those in their personalized feed? That would be the equivalent of supermarket selling sweet stuff near counters," Nishanth Sastry says.

And Sag notes that while Amazon wrote an entire document about Halo's privacy, this is clear enough "that privacy is still very much a concern."

Source: androidcentral

Popular posts from this blog

How to watch season 18 of Grey’s Anatomy online from anywhere

After last season was cut short, Grey's Anatomy is returning to ABC with brand new episodes and we have all the details on how you can watch the longest running medical drama yet on TV or online. Just as ABC did with season 17 last year, the season 18 premiere of the show will actually be a two-hour crossover event with Grey's Anatomy spin-off series Station 19. While Grey's Anatomy tells the story of Meredith Grey, played by Ellen Pompeo, and the other doctors, nurses and residents at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, Station 19 follows a group of firefighters from the Seattle Fire Department. Based on the trailer for the two show's latest crossover event, after a Station 19 fire truck is hijacked, a patient needs to be brought on foot to Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital for treatment. Last season of Grey's Anatomy saw Dr. Meredith Gray infected Covid-19 and while in a coma, many characters from past seasons of the show returned to visit her on a beach. Although Mere

PS5 restocks: Here are the latest PS5 stock updates & how to find one

PS5 stock is selling out fast, so be sure to have your credit card ready. Looking to buy a PS5 ? Well, so are millions of other people, and the stock levels we've seen so far are tight, even nearly a year after its launch. Every time a retailer puts stock up for sale, it sells out super quickly. The longest we've seen them stay in stock is maybe 15 to 20 minutes (usually just a few minutes, though), and that's at random times, so finding one for yourself can be a truly difficult task. Sony warned that it will be hard to find stock throughout the year and well into 2022, but retailers are promising more are coming, and Sony has secured additional semiconductor chips to make them. In our PS5 review, we called it a technical marvel with a groundbreaking controller. After spending a few months with it now, it's nearly impossible to go back to the PS4. Everything about the PS5 is better , from the games to the DualSense haptic feedback . You'll definitely want to

How to watch the London Marathon: Live stream online

While it may have once again been postponed from its usual April slot, the delayed 2021 edition of the London Marathon should have a more familiar feel to proceedings this year - read on to find out how to watch this iconic race online, no matter where in the world you are. This year's event welcomes back ametuar and fun runners after last year's race was limited to elite runners, while a limited number of spectators are set to be in attendance along the 26.2-mile route through the UK capital. 2020 winner Shura Kitata returns to defend his title despite a hamstring injury against a field that boasts seven sub-2:04 marathon runners including fellow Ethiopian stars Birhanu Legese and Mosinet Geremew. Kenyan superstar and Olympic silver medalist Brigid Kosge will also be hitting London's streets once more as she looks to replicate her incredible victory in the women's race last year against a strong field of runners that also includes Ethiopia's Roza Dereje, and

Google Pixel 6 price just leaked — and it's lower than we expected

The standard Pixel 6 may only be slightly more expensive than the Pixel 5. What you need to know A new leak suggests the standard Pixel 6 will start at €649 in Europe. The Pixel 6 Pro could be priced at €899 in the old continent. It also claims that the Pixel 6 series will be announced on October 19. Last week, Brandon Lee from This is Tech Today gave us our first real-world look at Google's upcoming Pixel 6 Pro. Lee has now revealed a few more details about the upcoming Pixel 6 series phones in a new YouTube video. According to Brandon Lee's sources, the Google Pixel 6 is going to retail for €649 in Europe, while the bigger Pixel 6 Pro will be priced at €899. While it looks like the Pixel 6 Pro will be nearly as expensive as the best Android phones from Samsung, the standard Pixel 6 may only be €20 more expensive than last year's Pixel 5 . The Pixel 6's black colorway will apparently be called "carbon," while the green option could be marke