8 Gadgets That Lie to You Every Day

#4. GPS Navigation

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If the only thing you used a GPS device for was to tell you where you were, there would be no problem. Most GPS devices are accurate to within one meter, which is pretty amazing if you consider this is some machine in outer space telling you where you are.

Unfortunately, most of us use GPS systems to tell us where to go, which is where we start to put a lot more faith in them than we should. Programs aren't always smart enough to account for construction or scary cliff roads or other human elements. We've all heard stories about people who appear to lack all common sense, obeying a GPS order to turn right and driving down some railroad tracks, only to be surprised when they run into a train.

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"HOLY SHIT WHERE DID THAT COME FROM!"

But it doesn't just affect the kind of clueless people that make for a rare wacky news story. According to one survey, 290,000 drivers in the U.K. reported getting into an accident or near-miss directly due to following their GPS. Tourists driving through California's Death Valley have gotten lost and even died, not due to the failure of the high-tech GPS tracking but due to the low-tech error of outdated maps being entered into that high-tech machine.


Probably shouldn't upload this into your GPS.

All the technology in the world can't do anything for you if the map it's given to read is wrong, and you can bet the map companies aren't sending people out to drive and check every single road they're feeding into the computer. So, especially in the cases of rural and less-traveled areas, there are a ton of nonexistent roads sitting in the computer, just waiting to be traveled by some poor sucker.

#3. Speedometers

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Another device we rely on is our car speedometer, which is vital to not being caught by cops. Er, we mean vital to keeping our driving at a legal speed so we can be safe and responsible drivers who don't endanger ourselves or others.

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Drive safe, kids!

The bad news is that your speedometer very likely is lying to you. But the good news is that it's probably erring on the side of caution -- if you're going 70 mph (which of course you wouldn't, because very few speed limits are above 65), the average speedometer would read 71.37. Worst case scenario, if you were driving on bald tires (2 percent), with your tire pressure off by 5 psi (1 percent), with the maximum error allowed by U.S. regulations (4 percent), in a Midwest winter (2 percent) and your alternator was acting up (1 percent), your speedometer could be off by 10 percent, or 7 mph if you were driving 70.

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Which we never, ever do, kids.

But again, there's no legal troubles with your speedometer being too fast. What you have to worry about is if the cop's speedometer reads high, since they often verify your speed by matching speed with you. Traffic cops tend to test their speedometers fairly often, but the standard across all auto manufacturers is that you can be up to 4 percent too high but cannot err on the low side. So if the cop's speedometer is off at all, it's off on the side of catching you.

But if the accuracy of your own speedometer is an issue (for setting personal records or something), one way to deal with that is to buy a cheap car. Apparently cars less than $20,000 have more accurate speedometers than luxury cars.

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"Well, I bought it because I thought the speedometer would be more accurate!"

And if you don't want to switch cars but really care about knowing your own speed, well, ironically your GPS might actually be the better bet here.

#2. Blood Pressure Cuffs

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If you've been to the doctor at all, you know they pretty much always have someone take your blood pressure before you go in to see the doctor. If you're a young person, we suspect they do this mainly to kill some time because the doctor is running late. But for many patients, especially older ones and people with illnesses, the number that comes up is actually important.

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A blood pressure device is called a sphygmomanometer. Fun game: Time how
long it takes you to figure out how to pronounce sphygmomanometer.

That's why it's kind of disturbing that 30 to 40 percent of blood pressure cuffs are wrong by 4 mm Hg (pressure units) or more, and 10 percent are off by 10 mm Hg or more. The doctors in that article estimate that consistently high misreadings off by just 5 mm Hg would double the amount of patients being treated for high blood pressure, meaning some people would be gulping down pills they don't need, suffering side effects for no practical reason and paying for it to boot.

They can't just bias it one way like the speedometers either, because consistently low misreadings by 5 mm Hg would remove two-thirds of current high blood pressure patients from treatment and leave them in danger without realizing anything was wrong.

Also if you're fat, using a regular-sized cuff on you could overestimate your blood pressure by about 6 mm Hg.

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So you'd be taking drugs you don't need and paying for them, and you'd be fat. Can't catch a break.

#1. Cellphones

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Cellphones actually lie to you about two things -- battery life and bars. When it comes to battery life, phones often lie to you, like the government, for your own good.

The main issue is that most cellphone batteries are never kept at "100 percent" charge, because being at 100 percent charge can do long-term damage to the battery. Instead, phones are made to charge up to 100 percent, and then let the battery drain up to 10 percent, and it will "rest" in that state until you take it off the charger.


Not literally.

The phone will say 100 percent when you remove it from the charger, because if it didn't, you'd go, "I left this phone on the charger all night, why didn't it reach 100 percent yet?" and complain to customer service about the phone or the charger being broken. So it reads 100 percent at first to keep you happy, and then, in the interests of truth, the phone will quietly pretend the battery is draining over the next few minutes until it reaches 95 percent or whatever charge the phone is really at. It appeases both your expectation to see 100 percent when you take it off the charger, and your need to see an accurate battery reading as soon as possible.

The only side effect might be you getting annoyed that your phone "drains really fast" after you take it off the charger, but not a lot of people go to the returns desk for that.

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And those are the same people that would complain the phone "smells funny" or "doesn't seem to like me."

The cellphone "bars" that indicate signal strength are also lying to you, in a number of ways. The simplest one is that in most cases, the bars have nothing to do with signal quality. PC World tested cellphone service in 13 cities and found that only one city (Phoenix) showed a correlation between bars and service quality. In San Francisco, only 13 percent of their test calls showed any relationship whatsoever between bars and quality.

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Not included: Data on the quality of San Francisco bars.

There's two other keys to the puzzle that would really tell you what your service quality is. One is a number called EC/I0. The bars tell you how much signal you're getting, but the EC/I0 number tells you how much is actually usable. They don't put that on your phone because it changes so fast your bars would spaz out and never give a single solid reading, which would drive most users nuts and send them to the returns counter. The second key is that cellphone communication goes two ways. The bars tell you how well you're getting signal from the tower, but nothing can tell you how well the reverse link -- from your phone to the tower -- is working.

All the forward link (tower to phone) quality in the world won't do you any good if your reverse link is weak or down. And that's not something your phone can really tell you. But don't you worry your pretty little head about that, because here's some bars to keep you happy.

Not everything on your phone is sweet, sweet lies, though. Your Angry Birds score is probably accurate.

For humans who have deceived you over the years, check out 6 Lies About the Human Body You Learned in Kindergarten and 6 Famous Explorers Who Shaped The World (With Insane Lies).

And stop by LinkSTORM to aid you in your Thanksgiving fast.

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