Crypto currencies are big news right now. Bitcoin is booming (and maybe busting), scores of me-too digital money makers are scrambling to get their coin into the virtual gold rush, Facebook has banned crypto ads, and even the people listening for aliens are struggling to do their job because all the computer hardware is being sucked up in the frenzy to mine this magical money. The digital currency fever has crept into the fitness tech world too thanks to Sweatcoin, a smartphone app that lets you earn while you burn. But can you really turn your sweat into stuff? I’ve spent a month the app doing a Sweatcoin review and here’s everything you need to know about fitness’ very own crypto cash.
What is Sweatcoin?
The concept is simple enough, the more steps you take the more Sweatcoins you earn, and these virtual coins can be cashed in for real world goods. If steps equals stuff, then as runners we’re perfectly placed to turn our effort into rewards.
Sweatcoin isn’t the first app to convert activity into rewards. Running Heroes, MyMoneyTime and CharityMiles have all been around for a few years though there is a subtle but crucial difference. Whereas these other apps let you clock up reward points for your efforts, Sweatcoin has been designed to feel like you’re actually mining a futuristic currency. And while the others apps tend to convert your points into offers and discounts, Sweatcoin lets you buy real world products, not just get money off
A currency you generate by moving more, that has strong real world value, is a potentially powerful idea
At the time of writing you could use Sweatcoins (SWC) to purchase a month of unlimited magazines on Readly (15 SWC), a wearable baby thermometer (3,795 SWC) and even an iPhone X, £1,000 Thomas Cook holiday, a Samsung TV (20,000 SWC). Those big ticket items are an early sign that Sweatcoin has real world value, so long as you can generate enough of the stuff.
The crypto Etsy?
Sweatcoin doesn’t stop at offering goods from brands it’s partnered with for sale in its official marketplace either, the company has called out to local business all over the world to list items for users to buy using their hard earned Sweatcoins. That’s right, this is crypto currency’s answer to eBay, Etsy or Amazon. Right now, this only included some fidget spinners in London and a set of candles from Miami but it’s quite a tantalising thought, that one day you could have the equivalent of Amazon but rather then using cash, you’re buying and selling things using currency you’ve earned out running.
The more businesses who offer goods, the more competitive the prices will become too, which means that Sweatcoins you earn have more real world value. If they added peer-to-peer selling into the mix, that could make things really interesting indeed.
How does Sweatcoin convert steps into coins?
Sweatcoin uses an algorithm to analyse steps collected by your phone and checks them against things such as GPS location, speed and consistency of movement. It’s smart enough to know when you’re in a vehicle or shaking your phone up and down and can weed out ‘cheating’. However, because it relies heavily on knowing your GPS location to do this, only outdoor steps tend to count towards your total, convertible steps.
For every 1,000 steps that qualify, you earn 1 Sweatcoin, minus 5 per commission extracted by Sweatcoin themselves.
How much can I earn with Sweatcoin?
This is one my biggest issues with Sweatcoin. There are different levels of user, each with an upper limit on the number of Sweatcoins you can earn in a day or month. In order to increase your allowance you have to pay to upgrade, in Sweatcoins. The account levels look like this…
Mover: Free, earn up 5.00 SWC per day or up to 150.00 per month
Shaker: 4.75 SWC per month, earn up to 10.00 SWC per day or 300.00 SWC per month
Quaker: 20.00 SWC per month, earn up to 15.00 SWC per day or 450.00 SWC per month
Breaker: 30.00 SWC per month, earn up to 20.00 SWC per day or up to 600.00 per month
Crunch some simple numbers and you can see that at the basic level, at a rate of 5 Sweatcoins per day, it would take you 4,000 days to earn enough coins to cash in for a Samsung television or the iPhone X. That’s just shy of 11 years. By which point Netflix will be streamed direct into our brains anyway so we won’t need a TV.
But you have to pay commission
The other thing that jars is that Sweatcoin takes 5 per cent commission off every single one of your hard earned coins. Let’s say you rack up 10,000 qualifying steps per day, rather than earning 10 Sweatcoins, you only get 9.5 after commission. It’s not really clear why, other than the company is banking on the currency becoming high value, and it doesn’t feel fair.
Sweatcoin review: The Manvmiles test
I’ve been using Sweatcoin for month and here’s what I like and what needs improvement on Sweatcoin
What do you actually earn?
In time I’ve been testing Sweatcoin, I’ve clocked up 124,000 convertible steps and earned 117 Sweatcoins. That’s a conversion rate of 1,059 steps for every coin once you’ve factored in the commission.
According to Sweatcoin I racked up an average of 5,199 qualifying steps per day and that’s consistently less than 50 per cent of the steps the app calculates I took in a given day. Also if you compare my total steps logged by the app, prior to the removal of non convertible steps, with Nokia Health and the Apple Watch, Sweatcoin consistently comes in at least 25 per cent lower. Nokia and Apple were often within 1,000 of each other.
If you look at the total steps clocked above, before the Sweatcoin algorithm removed those it didn’t like, my conversion for total steps to coins is actually over 2,000 steps. So real world steps to coins conversion is double what Sweatcoin allows.
When it comes to running, on a day where I ran a 10k I clocked up just short of 12,000 qualifying steps, that’s 11.39 SWC and when I ran 15.5 miles on a long Sunday run that jumped to 21,000 steps and the maximum 20.00 SWC. This does also take into account my other movements on those days but it should give you and indication of how far you’d need to run to earn a decent number of coins.
Another way to look at it might be with cadence. If you can hit 180 steps per minute, at a conversion rate of 2,000 steps per coin it’s take approximately 11 minutes of running at that target cadence to earn on Sweatcoin. So your average hour run should bag you about six coins. To earn that iPhone X, you’ll have to run for 3,333 hours, or 278 days. Even Forrest Gump would have struggled to convert at this rate.
It’s a bit of a no brainer
Two things: 1. You move around every day. 2. This app works in the background without you having to press anything to start tracking. So by simply downloading the app you can turn being alive into a reward. How long it takes to earn that reward is one of the biggest potential problems but you could also look at it this way: even if it takes 5 years to earn a new free phone, all you had to do was be alive to do so.
The app is generally well executed
That fact the app makes it feel like you’re actually mining a futuristic currency is cool. The design of the app is simple and easy to use and there are some nice touches in there that you’ll find in other social fitness apps, such as Add a friend and leaderboards. I didn’t find these particularly motivating but there are plenty of studies that prove we move more when we’re in a community, virtual or otherwise so this is a nice touch.
It does motivate you to move more
Sweatcoin essentially takes the Fitbit step tracker concept and kicks it on by giving you a reason to take notice of your steps even after that initial novelty has warn off. The fact that you’re earning coins that you can cash in for real world goods is genuinely motivating because there’s a sense that over time you’re actually going to get a decent reward.
It doesn’t convert all your steps to Sweatcoins
As we mentioned earlier, it’s only outside steps that count and that’s rubbish for anyone who spends large chunks of their day indoors. Which, aside from posties and traffic wardens, is most people. Even if you diligently get up to move around in your office, this indoor activity won’t bag you any coin. It will still help you be healthier though. So there is that.
There aren’t enough Sweatcoin rewards
It’s early days in Sweatcoin and there are still a limited range of things you can cash you coins in for. In order for this to work long term they will need to offer a broader selection, and crucially more interesting items at achievable rates. One potentially interesting area could be with food outlets. For example, if you could use Sweatcoins to buy your lunch, or a coffee, or even a gym membership that’d be great. It’s crying out for lower cost, everyday things which would be more motivating than striving for a television it’ll take years to earn. Perhaps the user marketplace will be the answer.
The app only stores totals for converted steps
Let’s say you’re a personal trainer, on your feet all day and crossing the gym floor with clients. Many of of the steps you log won’t count towards Sweatcoins but not only that, the following day you won’t be able to see how many steps, including those indoor steps, you took because this figure isn’t stored anywhere in the app. This not only makes Sweatcoin less useful as a general activity tracker but it stops you seeing the ratio of steps that qualify against those that don’t over a period to time. Perhaps deliberately.
There are technological problems
As you start using the app, it offers up helpful hints on how to overcome some of the technical hurdles that between you and your qualifying steps. If you leave your phone’s Wifi on it can affects the accuracy when it picks up roaming wifi networks. You also have to turn off battery saver mode on your phone to maximise your step totals, because this affects your GPS accuracy.
Your other activity doesn’t count
Perhaps most frustrating of all is that Sweatcoin should really be called Stepcoin because this is the only activity it currently rewards. That strength session in the gym, your hour of yoga, pilates or barre, none of these earn you any coin. There are some obvious technical reasons why this is the case but it does make this mission of the app to get everyone active a bit limited.
Your phone is required
Ok, so many of us are rarely more than an arm’s length from our smartphone but for if you’re a runner who like to leave it behind, you can kiss goodbye to all those Sweatcoin-earning steps. The app is 100 per cent phone based and there’s currently no way to sync data gathered by any other third party devices. Your Garmin and Polar watches are no good here.
Sweatcoin review: The Manvmiles verdict
It’s been a long time since I found a new running app exciting but the Sweatcoin concept really captured my imagination. For a start, I’m right behind businesses that help people be healthier and fitter. We need more companies on this mission.
There are frustrations with the app and it’d be easy to judge Sweatcoin on where it is right now however, I’ve got one eye on what it could become. A currency you generate by moving more, that has strong real world value is a potentially powerful idea. Add to that the possibility of an Amazon/Etsy style marketplace targeted at people who want to live healthier lives, and indeed a global peer-to-peer market place for goods, and it moves to a whole new level. But I think Sweatcoin should be genuine in its mission and I’d like to see it partner with brands that advocate health and fitness. I want to be able to buy food from places that put health first, or at least have Sweatcoin discount incentives to buy healthier food, or health and fitness items.
Download it now, forget about it and who knows what you’ll have earned in 10 years time. Hopefully a healthier you.
One last thought: When I was a kid I remember adults collecting cards from packets of Embassy cigarettes. You needed about 10,000 of these things to earn some kind of budget reward, like a pen. That’s a lot of cigarettes by the way. Since then we’ve seen loyalty cards like Nectar, but that’s all based on you having to splash a load of cash first. Sweatcoin is the first time I’ve seen something that rewards you for something you already do, move around. And if the prospect of a free pen – or an iPhone – can inspire more people to move around more in the same way Embassy got people chain smoking, then I’m all for it.
Download it now, forget about it and who knows what you’ll have earned in 10 years time. Hopefully a healthier you.