The Fiji Government Backed an App That Claims to Defy Physics

This is very, very strange.

Dec 2 2016, 8:32pm

Image: Flickr/Martin Abegglen

The Fijian government has thrown its support behind InstaCharge, an Android app that claims to store extra "wasted energy" while your phone charges overnight so that it can be "released" on demand and charge your phone instantly on the go. There's only one problem: this is impossible, because of physics.

The laws of thermodynamics say that energy can neither be created nor destroyed in a closed system and since an app isn't a physical thing, it can't store "extra" energy. A battery can only store as much energy as it's physically able to, or less. Energy might be wasted as heat, but it has nowhere to else go in the phone.

Despite all this, the app's creator, Las Vegas-based entrepreneur Douglas Stewart, has apparently convinced the Fijian government to support the app.

The app was announced last week in a lavish ceremony at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Fiji's capital. According to the Fiji Sun, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama spoke at the ceremony, emphasizing Fiji's aspirations in the global tech industry. Videos apparently from the event on the sparsely populated InstaCharge Facebook page show that music, dancers, and food were also part of the ceremony.

The Fijian government claims the app is a "multi-billion dollar venture," Radio New Zealand reported, which, considering we're talking about a single Android smartphone app that's not even available on Google Play yet, is dubious at best. Again, this is all for an app that any high school science teacher will tell you simply cannot work as advertised.

In response to Motherboard's specific questions about the app, InstaCharge sent Motherboard four press releases responding to various press criticisms about its viability. InstaCharge claims it cannot divulge details about the app in order to preserve a competitive advantage over potential copycats.

"Creations such as the light bulb, aeroplane, photo copier, computer, internet and not forgetting some of the greatest scientists that are taught to our children today regarding their magnificent achievements and contributions to mankind have all faced the same scepticism and ridicule that has been targeted toward InstaCharge App," one statement read.

There are more red flags than just the concept itself. For one, while the launch happened last week, there's no indication as to when the app will be available. The app's website is quite nice on the whole, but there are little slip ups—for example, a YouTube video on the site advertising the app is filled with "lorem ipsum" filler text where it should be explaining what the software does.

Screengrab: YouTube

Finally, the only piece of video evidence ostensibly showing the app at work was posted six months ago to Stewart's YouTube channel. The video shows someone opening the app, hitting "begin charge," and then a progress bar slowly loads. But if you look closely, the phone has been at 100 percent battery life the entire time. The name of the app on the phone's home screen isn't InstaCharge, but "ProgressBar."

The question of who is Douglas Stewart raises more questions. His LinkedIn account lists no background in technology whatsoever and states he's the owner of Benzo Luxury Rent-a-Car in Las Vegas. Not the occupation you'd expect from a man with the brilliance to bend the laws of physics and turn it into a consumer product. Moreover, reviews for the company on Yellow Pages and elsewhere all, with one exception, claim the business is a scam.

Stewart also filed for chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2007, and court documents show he listed Benzo LLC as being his company and that he was in possession of six Mercedes cars and a Range Rover, all leased. His bankruptcy case was dismissed after he failed to pay the assigned fees, putting him right back where he started financially.

Fast forward nine years, and Stewart is in Fiji making deals with local businesspeople and getting the prime minister to help announce the launch of an app that apparently defies the laws of nature.

It's unclear what, exactly, is going on in the strange tale of an American pitching some quite literally unbelievable new technology in Fiji, but all indications point to the lesson here being: if an app promises the moon before even getting off the ground, it's probably not worth your time or your government's.

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Update: This article has been updated to include comment from InstaCharge.