Ethics Quiz: The Fake Status Devices

The AcryPhone, created by eKod Works, is literally a piece of acrylic shaped to look like a smartphone. It has no screen, speakers, nor even an LED. What’s it for? Supposedly the fake is for cellphone addicts to wean themselves off addiction to their smartphones. Do you believe that? I don’t. I think that explanation is like the ad copy for those suspiciously shaped battery-powered “massagers” for women that have photos showing a model using it on her neck.

The Acryphone is a prop for insecure people who can’t afford a smartphone or the costs of its service, but who want to look like they can. One reason I am quite certain of this is another product from the same country (Japan) that you see on the right: Stone Watch, a fake smart watch that doesn’t even tell time. The Stone Watches are just glossy, black pieced of plastic with a silicone band so the wearer will look like he or she is using the current fad gadget.

You have a double Ethics Quiz of the Day, and the two questions are,

Is it ethical to pretend to use one of these props in public?


Is it ethical to manufacture and sell them?

My tentative answer: they are both visual lies, like a phony Tale diploma hanging on an office wall. Making and selling products that have no legitimate use other than to deceive is itself unethical.

But I am open to being convinced otherwise.

13 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The Fake Status Devices

  1. Manufacture? Yup. That’s a no brainer for “of course it’s ethical”. Props are props. How they are used or marketed is a different story. I won’t use this comment to address the latter points, but to manufacture the product? It’s a slam dunk. It could be for a movie or stage prop (ethical). It could be a decoy for muggings (ethical).

    • Agreed, my first thought was that they could work as pickpocket bait.

      And I have a hard time believing many people would be stupid enough to pass off a fake smartphone or smartwatch as real in public. All it takes is for someone to ask, “You got the time?” or “Can I use your phone, it’s an emergency.” The humiliation for being caught wouldn’t be worth “looking cool” in front of complete strangers.

  2. I’m ambivalent, but given a disjunctive choice between agreeing and disagreeing with you, I’ll opt for the latter.

    Having or not having a diploma matters in terms of real credentials, and employing a fake speaks to the character of the person hanging it on the wall.
    But I’d say the AcryPhone is more like a cubic zirconia ring or a faux pearl necklace. If someone chooses to think more or less of the wearer because the gem is or isn’t authentic, that person probably deserves to be fooled. (There are obvious exceptions; please accept them as granted.) I know someone whose net worth is probably in eight figures who wears (very good) fake pearls all the time: they were a gift from her husband when they were all they could afford.

    There’s also a safety aspect: several young women have told me they have faked being on their phones to see if that creepy-looking guy over there really was stalking them. I’d suggest that level of deception is completely ethical, and there’s not much difference between a fake call on a real phone and a fake call on a fake one.

    As long as neither the company nor the purchaser make false claims, I guess I’m okay with it.

  3. The people that would buy this crap are clearly immature and insecure. That says a lot about those people, the society they live in and their chosen social circle. Imagine choosing a social circle where you actually think others are going to look down on you because you don’t have those “devices”, that’s using some really fucked up logic!

    As for the questions posed…

    “Is it ethical to pretend to use one of these props in public?”

    I wouldn’t say it’s ethical or unethical, I think it falls in a grey area. What it is is just plain immature and damned stupid to spend money to pretend to have or pretend to use these kind of deceptive “devices” when you could save the same dollars and eventually get these items for real. How are these idiotically immature people going to “feel” when those in their social circle figure out that they have fake devices and ridicule them because of it? If that is the kind of social circle these people to be in, then they need to grow the fuck up.

    “Is it ethical to manufacture and sell them?”

    Nope. Manufacturers make all kinds of crap to make people “feel” better about themselves in some way. Where do you draw the line.

  4. Unethical? Probably not. Stupid? Definitely. For $5 more, you can buy an actual working low-end smartphone. Even without paying for a cell service plan, it can be used to make emergency calls and access the internet over wifi. That’s significantly more useful than a slab of plastic. So maybe the only actual use for this thing really is to help conquer phone addiction (somehow).

  5. I remember the era of the pet rock. Is it unethical to manufacture, buy and display these stupid devices to stupid people. I would say no! The buyers know what it is they are buying, this is merely consensual stupidity. “ stupid is what stupid does.”

  6. Deception isn’t always unethical.

    Magicians regularly use deception in this gray area, some like Uri Geller cross our of the gray area straight into completely unethical.

    What about those prop security cameras that do nothing but blink a little red light?

    Masterlock regularly makes padlocks that can be opened with a simple comb pick. People in the locksport communities believe this is deceptive, but most consumers do not.

    • The deception in “magic” is known before hand by the viewer (or should be reasonably known) – the viewer willingly chooses to be deceived for their own entertainment. They want to see believable deception done so well combined with enjoyable theatrics.

      A “magician” plying their trade with someone who reasonably believes they aren’t just illusionists there to entertain them – such as a gypsy pick pocket or con men – they are unethical.

      • But in the instance of a magician “deceiving” someone know ultimately knows it’s an illusion – then there is no deception – just suspension of disbelief, which virtually all entertainment relies upon to some degree or another.

  7. I was lunching in Mo’s Pastrami shop. They had a shelf filled with fake designer watches. No attempt was made to purport these to be the real thing. There was a sign that fact said “fake watches” and the prices were well below what one would pay for a real watch of any particular brand. I bought a fake Roelx for $5. ( yes that was how it was spelled). When people asked about the watch I told them it was a Roelx I bought for $5 at Mo’s Pastrami Shop. Did I engage in unethical behavior? BTW the watch did run accurately for almost two years, it offered a unique calendar where the month would be one language and the day of the week another- it was edifying in that way!

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