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The original Amazon Halo Band, left, and the new Halo View, right. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

Amazon’s original Halo Band, released last year, was notable both for what it lacked (a screen) and for what it contained: a microphone that gave wearers the option of monitoring and analyzing their tone of voice.

The company’s new Halo View health band nixes the mic and adds a screen, delivering an overall experience more akin to a traditional health band. This device will feel familiar to the Fitbit crowd.

Halo View ships today. Overall it’s a good health band, based on my initial experience over the past week. The screen creates the ability to monitor and assess workouts, set alarms and timers, access basic data like your nightly sleep score without picking up your smartphone, and, of course, see the time on your wrist.

The battery life on Halo View is very good, especially compared to the mere day or two that you’ll get with the mic turned on in the Halo Band. Amazon says the Halo View’s default battery life is seven days, but based on my experience, I think it might be even longer.

Halo View comes with a 12-month free Halo membership, which normally costs $3.99/month. The membership offers access to premium content including workouts, meditation, recipes and meal-planning tools, plus health insights based on data from the device. That’s an upgrade from the six-month free membership offered with the Halo Band.

In addition, Amazon continues to improve the Halo health service and smartphone app with new content and programs, offering unique ways to understand and improve your overall health.

Halo View comes with a Sport band that is difficult to put on. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

But here’s my biggest piece of advice if you’re planning to get one: pay the additional $29.99 to get a fabric band, on top of the $79.99 retail price of the Halo View.

It might sound trivial, but as someone who previously purchased an original Halo Band, with its stylish, comfortable fabric wrist strap, the rubber Sport band that comes with the Halo View base model has been my biggest pain point, literally, in testing out the new device on loan from Amazon for review over the past week.

After awkwardly snapping it in place, you need to tuck the excess length of rubber through an oval loop and underneath the other side of the band, rubbing against your wrist and pulling your skin in the process.

To be fair, this process became slightly less painful as the band became less rigid over the course of the past week, and maybe it will improve further as it gets more broken in. I also learned to adjust the position of my wrist and push the band through the loop more carefully to minimize the effect.

But the initial experience was so painful that I still dread the thought of putting this thing on. The fabric band on the Halo Band is so well-made and easy to put on, by comparison, that it feels like a major downgrade.

Unfortunately, the band from the original Halo Band can’t be swapped onto the Halo View. The chargers from the two devices aren’t compatible, either, but you get one of those for free with the device, so that’s not as much of an issue.

Still, it’s unfortunate that customer-obsessed and environmentally focused Amazon wasn’t able to reward early adopters of its Halo devices by making the Halo Band’s accessories compatible with the new Halo View.

Another issue is the font size on the Halo View. It’s so small that it’s difficult to read. Yes, I’m getting old (and cranky, apparently) but this is not just a function of farsightedness. I compared it to a Fitbit Charge, for example, and the Halo View font is about 25% smaller, by my estimate. This seems like something Amazon could fix in a software update.

Lastly, I do miss the ability to activate the Halo Band microphone to analyze specific conversations, and the routine of checking at the end of the day to see what Halo thought of my tone of voice at specific moments.

I’m probably an outlier in this regard, given the privacy concerns that the original Halo Band microphone caused. This “Tone” feature is still available to Halo View users in the Halo smartphone app, letting them activate it manually to analyze their tone of voice during conversations, using the smartphone microphone.

Amazon’s new Halo View health band comes in three colors at its base price of $79.99. (Amazon Photo)

OK, enough complaining. Despite these shortcomings, I am planning to keep the Halo View that I purchased during the pre-order period (separate from the review unit, which goes back to Amazon), and pay for a fabric band.

The reason: I’ve become a fan of the Halo service in my time using it over the past year. I especially like the Activity Score, which takes into account overall activity, not just steps, and subtracts points for sedentary time.

I also like the way the Halo service uses my data to recommend specific programs, such as meditation for better sleep when it sees that I’m not sleeping as well as I should, for example. This type of feature isn’t unique to Halo, of course, but in general I’ve come to appreciate the holistic and unique approach that Amazon is taking to health.

So why not just stick with the Halo Band? Frankly, I’m tired of looking at the band on my wrist to check the time, only to remember that it’s not a watch.

Halo View is available via Amazon for $79.99. It’s available in three sport bands: black, olive and lavender. Fifteen other sport band colors will cost an extra $14.99 each, and fabric, leather and metal options will cost an extra $29.99 each.

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