Sweatcoin is a currency generated through GPS-tracked outdoor walking that can be exchanged in a proprietary marketplace for real-world goods. Essentially, the app just runs in the background of your smartphone — allowing you to earn this currency with little to no effort.
The app is fairly simple to use, with the main page displaying a step count, the number of sweatcoins that have been earned that day and a bar showing how close you are to hitting your daily cap on sweatcoin generation. There is also a friends list where you can see how well your friends are doing as well as send them your own sweatcoins.
I tried out this app for just under a week to see just how lucrative it could be without changing much about my own life. The app currently only converts outdoor steps into coins and requires GPS data to prevent someone from cheating the system — so you can’t generate coins just by shaking the phone. Due to this constraint, I was only able to get steps during my walks to campus, for the most part.
Sweatcoin has tiered memberships that increase the cap on production placed on an account. The first and only free tier caps you at five sweatcoins per day — which I never managed to hit during my time with the app. Subsequent tiers are bought on a monthly subscription basis with sweatcoins.
It takes 1000 verified steps to generate 95 per cent of a whole sweatcoin. If large amounts of your steps are being taken indoors — which I found to be the case in my life — then there is often going to be a disparity in how many steps you record and how many sweatcoins you actually make. If you’re one for bombarding friends and acquaintances with invites, you can also generate sweatcoins when people use your invite link.
So how lucrative is sweatcoin? Well, it’s going to depend on how much you’re walking outdoors. In my experience with the app, I generated around 32 sweatcoins through walking and daily bonuses, which require you to watch an ad. The most affordable item in the marketplace at the time of writing was a $1 amazon gift card, which was priced at 50 sweatcoins.
There are other, grander options available, but many would require you to save for a substantial amount of time. For instance, to get $1,000 in cash, a user would have to save 20,000 sweatcoins — a feat that Sweatcoin describes as taking two years to complete. There are also branded offerings, such as an iPhone or a Samsung television.
While that may seem impossible, these coins are generated through almost no work on your part as the app just runs in the background and you only have to open it for the daily bonuses. When you think about it, this company is essentially giving away stuff for your steps, which hold no obvious value.
This brings up the question of how prizes earned with sweatcoin are actually being paid for — how does Sweatcoin make money off all of this? Their FAQ section states that they make money from partnerships with brands in their marketplace and have begun to get partnerships with big health-care and insurance companies.
In an age of heightened awareness around data collection, an app that requires GPS to be turned on and that runs continuously in the background raises some red flags. While Sweatcoin will have access to your data in order to process it, they do state on their website that they do not sell or share user data to third parties.
Monetizing movement is frankly quite odd, and Sweatcoin feels like a product of the strange modernity we find ourselves in. But with free stuff so often hard to come by, perhaps it should be regarded as a blessing that one can sell their steps to a company for goods and services.
Jack Thompson / Sports & Health Editor
Graphic: Yashica Bither