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Amazon unveils Halo to battle Apple Watch and Fitbit — tracks activity, body fat, emotions – CNBC



Halo app and band
Source: Amazon

Amazon is entering the wearables market in a big way.

The company on Thursday introduced a wristband for health and fitness tracking called Halo, alongside a subscription service and smartphone app.

The space is currently dominated by the Apple Watch and devices from Fitbit, which is awaiting regulatory approval for an acquisition by Alphabet’s Google. Amazon’s Halo product builds on these older fitness-tracking devices with features that have never been seen in a mainstream wearable device, including one that tracks a user’s emotional state by listening to the tone of their voice, and another that provides a three-dimensional rendering of their body with an estimated body fat percentage. 

It’s a departure for Amazon’s hardware business, which has previously focused on in-home devices, such as the Echo smart speakers and the Fire TV streaming video devices. Amazon showed off some wearable devices at its annual hardware event last fall, including wireless headphones and a set of glasses with built-in access to the Alexa voice assistant. But Halo is its first real shot at capturing a piece the fast-growing wearables market, which Gartner last year estimated would top $50 billion in 2020. 

The company has spent several years preparing. Amazon’s Melissa Cha, a vice president at Halo, said the company already had expertise around machine learning and computer vision, but expanding into health required a whole new set of hires.

“We did a global search to find the best experts,” she said. “We found cardiologists, fitness experts, and people who had spent their careers researching sleep and wellness.”

The company has stressed its commitment to privacy with this new device and committed that it won’t use the insights to sell health-related products to its users. But it is a way for the company to learn more about their users’ health habits and gather feedback along the way. 

Halo app home screen
Source: Amazon

It also ties in with Amazon’s broader efforts to capture a part of the $3.5 trillion health care sector. Five years ago, Amazon had no presence in the market. Since then, it’s added a team working on virtual health care offerings, known as Amazon Care, and joined Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan in an effort to transform employer health care. It has a health and wellness team under Alexa, its voice assistant, as well as a group focused on Covid-19. There’s also a secretive research and development “moonshot” team known as Grand Challenge, and a pharmacy-delivery group under PillPack. 

All of these teams could be pulled together into a health solution spanning devices, software and services. 

Helping people manage their help could also let Amazon build a deeper connection with customers. Health care is highly personal. If Amazon can build trust with users and get privacy right, while proving that it can improve people’s health care over time, it could unlock massive new revenue streams. The largest stakeholders in the industry, from health plans to employers, are all looking for ways to cut costs by keeping their populations healthier. 

Focused on health

The Halo device resembles a Fitbit tracker far more than an Apple Watch. It’s a simple design without a screen, with LED lights and two microphones. The device comes in a variety of styles, and Cha said it’s meant to be kept on all the time — it’s water-resistant for the shower or swimming, and it shouldn’t catch on clothes or bedsheets. There are also multiple sizes available for women with slender wrists. Cha said the company paid special attention to that, as many existing devices can feel overly clunky. 

Amazon Halo accessory bands
Source: Amazon

The basic features of the Halo band will be familiar to anybody who’s used a fitness-tracker: It tracks motion, heart rate, sleep phases and skin temperature while sleeping.

At the same time, it provides a unique “points” tracking system that could be more effective than competitors in encouraging exercise. 

In the morning, users will see a sleep score out of 100 and a report showing their baseline sleep temperature.

Halo app sleep feature
Source: Amazon

Unlike Apple Watch, which encourages users to close rings, Amazon Halo uses a points system when tracking exercise. It sets a baseline goal of 150 points weekly, and users get more points for intensive exercise, such as running or walking up steep hills. Steps are automatically tracked, but users must manually enter certain other activities, like swimming. 

“This approach is more aligned with scientific guidelines,” said Dr. Maulik Majmudar, a cardiologist and principal medical officer with Amazon Halo.

Users who are sedentary for long periods — except during sleep — can also lose points. That’s a big difference from other products, which focus only on positive motivation. 

Halo app activity feature
Source: Amazon

The battery lasts longer than Apple Watch at about seven days, in part because there’s no screen. The sole focus of the device is health and fitness, so there are also no features associated with making calls or accessing social media. 

Cha said the team had debates about adding other use-cases, like social media or e-commerce, but ultimately narrowed down the scope to health. “Our focus was in offering a service, with a wearable that felt like just a part of that.” 

Beyond the basics

But the device goes beyond traditional fitness-tracking with two unique features.

Tone is an optional feature that listens to the user’s voice throughout the day and analyzes that information to present a picture of how they felt — for instance, showing times they were feeling energetic, hopeful, or hesitant. For instance, the device might pick up on an argument, or a tense conversation at work, and indicate that the user felt elated at 10 a.m. but hesitant thirty minutes later. 

Amazon says none of the voice-based snippets are stored in the cloud and they’re automatically deleted once they’re processed. The company also said it won’t use the voice recordings for targeted advertising.

Body gives users a three-dimensional rendering of their body with information about their weight and body fat percentage. Measuring body fat percentage is typically difficult, but it’s a lot more helpful than the more widely used body mass index, which can mistake muscle for fat, leading to mistakes like labeling body builders as obese.

The Body feature uses the smartphone app, which guides users to stand in front of their phone in various positions, then takes photos from the front, back, and both sides. It then spits out a result in seconds. As users take scans over time — Amazon recommends doing one every two weeks or so — the Halo app generates a body model with a slider, which users can move back and forth to get a visual representation of their progress.

Halo app body feature
Source: Amazon

Amazon hopes ultimately to replace hydrostatic dunk tanks and pods, which typically require special access to a trainer or facility and are expensive, limiting them to athletesF and the wealthy. “We believe that everyone should has access to this important clinically relevant information about their own health,” said Majmudar.

The company said it tested the product on a wide range of body types, genders and ethnicities. Amazon stressed that the data can be deleted anytime and the images are automatically deleted from the cloud after they’re processed. But those who want to store their body scan images in Amazon Cloud can opt in to do so.

Partnerships and integrations

Users who have a specific goal in mind, such as weight loss, reducing caffeine consumption or getting better sleep, can opt to sign up to a challenge for a set period of time. Amazon refers to them as “Halo Labs,” and many of them include parnters such as the American Heart Association, WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers), Headspace, Mayo Clinic, and more. Amazon described these challenges as “science-backed,” meaning they are grounded in medical evidence. 

Halo also offers integrations with third parties — for instance, WW members who link their accounts will find that their Halo points translate to WW FitPoints. WW has a promotion for its members to get a free band and membership as part of its sign up process. There’s also an option to get a free device and three years of membership through John Hancock, a life insurer, for user that are willing to share their health information. (John Hancock also has a program with Apple, where policyholders can buy a discounted watch.)

Users who access their medical information via Cerner, one of the largest medical records companies, can also opt to share the health information gathered through Halo with their doctor. 

The subscription model

Unlike an Apple Watch or Fitbit, users can’t buy the Halo by itself — it’s only available as part of a subscription service. Amazon says this model could help the Halo avoid the fate of many wearables, which people typically use for a few months before relegating them to a drawer. 

Users will be able to buy a single band plus a six-month subscription for an up-front price of $64.99 during an early access period, which starts Aug. 27. (Eventually that price will go up to $99.99, but Amazon didn’t say when the early access period will end.) After the first six months, users will have to pay $3.99 a month to keep the service going. 

Style-conscious users can buy additional fabric bands for $19.99 and sports bands for $15.99. Those prices will also go up once the early access period is ended.

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There may be fewer PS5 Digital Edition consoles at retail compared to the base model – reports – VG247



It’s going to be harder for everyone to find PS5’s cheaper Digital Edition at retail.

The PS5 pre-order process has so far been a mess. Unlike what Microsoft is doing with Xbox Series X and Series S, Sony didn’t set time/dates for when PS5 pre-orders would be going live.

This resulted in a free-for-all that saw retailers opening up pre-orders shortly after the conclusion of the PS5 Showcase event. There didn’t seem to be a plan in place, so it looked like each retailer was simply reacting to their competitor’s moves, making for a terrible experience for customers.

Sony admitted that this could have gone a lot better, and promised to replenish stock throughout the year. But what Sony neglected to mention was the difference in unit allocation between the standard, disc-based PS5, and the $100 cheaper Digital Edition.

According to multiple reports, Digital is much harder to find because Sony didn’t make enough of it. Ars Technica contacted GameStop stores at nine locations across the US, and found that roughly 24% of the allotment is taken up by the Digital Edition, whereas the rest has all been standard.

20% was the most common ratio, but it could go as high as 33% and as low as 13%. A similar ratio could also be seen at other retailers Ars spoke to off the record. VGC has likewise heard that far fewer PS5 Digital Edition units will be available compared to the disc-based model.

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PlayStation boss Jim Ryan was even asked specifically by AV Watch to clarify the split, but wouldn’t budge.

“The ratio between the Digital Edition and the disc drive model is currently something we cannot disclose at this time,” said Ryan. “We cannot give specific information on numbers, but we can say that we plan to produce the necessary number of units to meet the demand for that model type.”

“However, we’ve never produced two different console models at the same time before so deciding on the right number and the right ratio is very hard to know. We are doing our best to predict demand,” he added.

It goes without saying that specialist retailers like GameStop would likely order more of the disc-based console, as it allows them to continue selling discs to customers, whereas a digital unit would limit their reach greatly.

But it also seems Sony itself may not be interested in offering the Digital Edition in mass quantities right now because the initial launch allotment will be bought by the hardcore anyway, so it may not be worth taking a hit on the – by most accounts, subsidised – Digital Edition until we clear this launch period. Of course, this tactic could end up biting Sony in the butt if Microsoft uses it to sell more of its $300 Xbox Series S.

We may never get clarity on this, but you can consult our PS5 pre-order page to keep up to date with stock refreshes across retailers, and hopefully get a console in time for the holidays.

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Sony promises more PS5 pre-order stock for retailers –



Platform holder apologises for confusion after major stores sold out one day before pre-orders were supposed to begin

Sony has assured retailers and prospective PlayStation 5 owners that more stock is on the way following confusion over early pre-orders.

Orders for the upcoming console were due to open last Thursday, but on Wednesday several big retailers in the US and UK began taking pre-orders, with many selling out of their initial allocation by the end of the day.

Amazon has even warned those who have managed to place an order may not receive their console in time for November 12 launch.

The official PlayStation Twitter account has since posted an apology and promised more stock will be available soon.

“Let’s be honest: PS5 pre-orders could have been a lot smoother,” the platform holder tweeted. “We truly apologise for that.

“Over the next few days, we will release more PS5 consoles for pre-order — retailers will share more details. And more PS5s will be available through the end of the year.”

The news follows reports that Sony was having issues with manufacturing a key component for PS5 and scaling back the number of units it could produce — although the platform holder has since denied this is the case.

“We have not changed the production number for PlayStation 5 since the start of mass production,” the company told

It has also been reported that Sony is using air freight, which is faster but more expensive, to ensure it can ship enough consoles to US retailers for launch.

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This is the best time to get the PlayStation 5 for very cheap according to a study – Mashable SE Asia



In case you’ve missed the latest news on the Playstation 5, Sony has announced that the world’s popular gaming console will be going for US$499.

There’s a cheaper, disc drive-free Digital Edition that will also be released on the same day, November 12, 2020. It’ll go for US$399.

However, taking into account currency conversions and other economic factors, the Playstation 5 would most likely be priced at US$538 (Standard edition) and US$506 (Digital edition). These conversions are based on the pricing set for the Singaporean market.

Naturally, gamers have begun preordering the console prior to its launch. But there are a select special few – you and me – who prefer waiting and getting the console for a much cheaper rate. The Playstation 5 is after all the most priciest console released by Sony to date.

If only there was a crystal ball. Actually we have data.

IMAGE: iPrice Group.

According to a study done by iPrice Group, the best time to buy the Playstation 5 would be six months after its official release.

Southeast Asian meta-search website operator says the perfect time would be in May 2021 and you’ll be able to get the Standard edition for US$506 and Digital edition for US$416.

Yes, we’re looking at a 6 percent discount for the Standard edition and a whopping 18 percent discount for the Digital edition. Nice!

Oh but there’s even better news for those who’re adept at being patient. The price is expected to drop even further by November 2021 to US$385 (Digital edition) and US$468 (Standard edition). That’s 24 percent and 14 percent for both editions respectively .

Wait, so how did iPrice Group get these figures?

The Playstation 5 is the most expensive Sony console to date.

The e-commerce aggregator came to this conclusion by examining the price history of the PlayStation 4 Pro.

“We collected and compared selling prices of the console throughout the years on over 150 online shopping websites. And we noticed that the average online selling price for Sony consoles tends to drop by 6 percent, six months after release and then by a further 8 percent one year after release,” the study reads.

The prices of course factor in seasonal discounts from nationwide online retailers (especially those in Singapore) or deals from unofficial sellers. So if you want those sweet juicy deals, buy the console online because the official price drop from Sony might take a longer time.

“The first official price drop for the PlayStation 4 happened two years after its initial launch, and price was slashed by 15 percent.”

Well, the old adage ‘Good things come to those who have wait’ certainly rings true here.

Follow Mashable SEA on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.


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