Wearables Week in Review

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Week In Review

Fitbit Sense(s) an opportunity?

Fitbit has launched a new smartwatch – the Sense – that is focused on tracking stress levels by monitoring heart rate and skin temperature. The device comes with an on-wrist EDA scan app that tracks the wearer’s electrodermal activity with the goal of tracking the body’s response to anxiety. To make the anxiety tracking work, the wearer holds their palm over the screen while breathing for a few seconds. But perhaps the more important feature in these pandemic times is the device’s ability to track the wearer’s temperature, offering an early warning of any fever.

The NPD Take:

  • While it’s unlikely to convert anyone away from an Apple Watch, Fitbit still has a strong brand awareness and is dominant in the activity tracker space. As such, this new smartwatch is a solid upgrade path for current Fitbit owners looking for more functionality – and especially more health-related features.

Amazon’s Halo launch

Amazon has launched its first health wearable, the Halo, which, as well as offering the usual sleep and activity tracking features, comes with unique features that are raising a few privacy concerns along the way. The device is unique in that it does not have a screen, instead relying on the accompanying smartphone app, but it does have two microphones. These are used for a new feature – “Tone” – that analyzes your speech (pitch, intensity, tempo and rhythm) to see how it may be perceived by other people (i.e., is it hesitant, positive and so on). Amazon is quick to point out that the feature is opt-in only, and is built using machine learning rather than human analysis. Further Amazon has stressed the privacy controls behind the feature (case in point, the voice analysis happens on your phone only, not in the cloud).

The NPD Take:

  • There’s always a fine-line between privacy and value-ad for the consumer, and this new Tone feature certainly pushes closer to the line… or at least will be perceived that way by many users. And even those that buy into the argument that the analysis only happens on the phone may still wonder what else these microphones could be used for.
  • Having said that, the feature is certainly a clever one and could be deemed to be useful by consumers looking to improve themselves, or to improve public speaking, for example.
  • There is one more catch, and a big one at that. While the Halo Band costs just $99.99, the app is a membership-based service costing $3.99 per month (after the first six months). Surprisingly, the fee is not waived for Prime customers (at least not yet) and we expect a limited uptake for the device due to this ongoing fee.
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