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Resourceful Chinese Ingenious Use Perpetuum Mobile Device to Fool Their Pedometer Smartphone Apps

In China, health insurance companies apparently offer discounts to people who can prove they get enough exercise every day by using their mobile phones to monitor their movement. Only instead of actually going for walks, some people use ingenious perpetuum mobile devices to cheat the system.

I first learned about China’s “mobile phone cradles” a few days ago, after seeing a picture of a strange perpetuum mobile device with a smartphone attached to it, tweeted by Chinese comedian Dashan (@akaDashan). He had spotted it in a restaurant in Harbin, where patrons were invited to use it to trick their phones’ pedometer apps into recording thousands of steps artificially, while they relaxed, and had a bite to eat or a drink. Why would anyone want to do that, you ask? Well, that’s where it gets interesting.

Photo: Taobao

Dashan himself says that some Chinese health insurance providers offer discounts to people who can prove that they walk at least 10,000 steps every day, so these perpetuum mobile devices are used as an alternative to actual exercise. Instead of “wasting time” walking, you can just take a nap or just chill, while the cradle tricks the smartphones into recording your non-existent movement.

It all seemed too crazy to be true, so I decided to do some more research on these things. Using Google Translate to find useful information on Chinese websites is always a challenge, but what I can confirm is that this type of mobile phone cradles is very popular in Chine right now. A simple search on commerce platforms like Taobao or Tmall reveals hundreds of such perpetuum mobile devices, of different shapes and sizes, all designed to cheat the pedometer app on a smartphone.

Photo: Taobao

As for the reasons people use this ingenious hack, I couldn’t confirm the health insurance theory, although one of the people commenting on Dashan’s tweet did write that his wife got one such cradle FROM THE HEALTH INSURER. I did however come across a blog post that suggested students are using similar methods to cheat their way out of having to exercise. Some schools apparently require students to walk/exercise every day and routinely check their smartphone pedometer apps.

Photo: Taobao

Another interesting thing I’ve found was that people sometimes cheat for a good cause as well. Last year, China’s top social media platform, WeChat, implemented a system that allows users to “donate steps walked” to various charities. These steps are converted into real currency and businesses involved in the program donate the money to the charity of the user’s choice. It’s designed to encourage people to exercise and help those less fortunate than them at the same time.

 

Interestingly, these perpetuum mobile cradles are just one of the ways Chinese people use to trick their smartphones’ pedometer app. A YouTube video shows a guy trying various other tricks, like putting the phone in a tumble dryer or taping it to the wheel of a car and then spinning it. Another article I’ve found mentioned a student carrying 10 mobile phones in her purse as she ran in a race, so she could record steps for her colleagues as well.

 

Regardless of how you feel about cheating, you have to admire Chinese ingenuity.

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