Digital pregnancy tests that display the words “pregnant” or “not pregnant” on a screen often cost about four times as much as ones that simply provide a single or double line on a paper strip to indicate pregnancy. The experiment has raised questions about whether the extra cost of digital pregnancy tests is justified.
Some say the electronics give women a clearer answer but others point to the e-waste created by digital test kits. The experiment also found the digital test contained a microprocessor more powerful than early home computers. But the electronics themselves did not play a role in hormone detection.
Foone was surprised to find the testing element inside was basically a standard paper test. Paper test strips detect a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin, which is produced during pregnancy. The test strip is treated with a chemical that changes color when the hormone is present.
The electronics simply read the result from the paper test and then displayed the “pregnant” or “not pregnant” read-out. The circuit board featured a “surprisingly complicated chip”, more powerful than the CPU used in the original IBM PC.
Foone concluded that digital tests were “probably not worth the money”, given that paper strip tests can cost as little as 20 cents (15p). “It’s a scam, basically,” they wrote on Twitter. “Computers are cheap now. People are buying the digital one thinking it’s a more accurate fancy model, but it is the same.” However, others pointed out that paper tests could be misread, and judging the result of the test was subjective.
“It is not stupid or wasteful to use a hardware interface to help women with this,” said tech YouTuber Naomi Wu. Assistant professor of bio-nanotechnology Vittorio Saggiomo agreed that interpreting the lines on a paper test could vary from person to person.
“I can see a faint line, another person doesn’t see anything,” he said.
Another user added: “The information you are supposed to get out of it is literally life-altering. You don’t want to guess the outcome or have to re-read the manual 10 times to know how to interpret a faint line. I’d happily pay a few euros more.”