What happened: In a Zhihu forum thread titled “What things make you feel like your IQ is being insulted?” one user replied with a video of Xiaomi’s latest smartwatch, the Mi Band 3, strapped around a toilet paper roll. The clip apparently shows the watch taking the pulse of the paper, showing a heart rate of 86 bpm. The response was shared across social media, leading other netizens to do toilet paper tests on their Apple, Huawei, and Samsung smartwatches, with similar results. The original tester later updated his Zhihu post, adding that he suspects smart watch sellers of including bug-prone features in their products in order to improve user experience or because they “aren’t confident” enough in their watches.
Why it’s important: As the author of the article points out, accidentally taking the pulse of a toilet paper roll doesn’t necessarily negate the accuracy of smartwatches’ heart rate monitors. So far scholarship seems to show that at least some brands are fairly reliable, and Apple even gained FDA clearance for two new heart monitor-related features last month. However, as the incident shows, many consumers still don’t fully understand the technology behind the monitors, which may lead to doubts over their efficacy. Chinese consumers may be additionally on edge thanks to recent health scandals such as the widespread distribution of ineffective vaccines.