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You are here: MacNN Forums > News > Tech News > Wrist tattoos may interfere with Apple Watch functions, reports say

Wrist tattoos may interfere with Apple Watch functions, reports say
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Apr 28, 2015, 07:07 PM
 
Potential Apple Watch buyers who have dark, solid-colored tattoos on their wrist may want to hold off for a while -- reports from early adopters have indicated that certain kinds of wrist or "sleeve" tattoos may interfere with some of the functions of the Watch, including accurate heart rate detection, skin contact verification (needed for Apple Pay using the Watch), and some rumored future features like blood oxygen detection.

Users who experience the issue can work around the problem by turning off wrist detection, but this will disable the use of some features like Apple Pay. The problem does not affect people with darker skin tones, because the pigments used in tattoos can contain metals or plastics that block light-based skin readings, such as the way the Apple Watch detects heartbeat.

Non-scientific tests done by various sites reporting the issue have determined that the solid, dark colors in a tattoo present the biggest issue, mostly due to the composition of the ink and how deeply it is embedded in the skin. Solid but lighter colors can produce inaccurate heart rate readings, while patterned or varied tattoo designs generally appear to allow the functionality to work in most cases, though this will vary with other factors, like the density of the pattern, the metals used in the inks, the age and fading seen in the tattoo, and more.

The problem stems from the way the Apple Watch detects heart rate and other information. By flashing green LED lights hundreds of times per second during readings, the amount of blood in the skin (which ebbs and flows with the heart beat) can be detected. For those with naturally darker skin, the Watch automatically increases the LED sensor brightness and sampling rate, but in particular metal-based dark colors in tattoos appears to be unable to be overcome, though it is possible that Apple may be able to work around the issue in a future software update.

The Apple Watch can also use infrared readings to determine heart rate, but that is considered less accurate. In theory, the same issue that causes dark tattoos to mislead the heart rate sensors could also affect those with severe scar tissue on their wrist. Lighter but solid-color tattoos may produce inaccurate readings compared to "control" samples from non-tattooed wrists, but don't interfere with skin contact registration the way the dark solid-color tattoos do. The skin contact helps tell the Apple Watch when to lock, as well as being used for Apple Pay.

In the meantime, users who think they have or are likely to experience the issue can return the Apple Watch for a refund within 14 days. Buyers can work around the problem by turning off wrist detection (though this will disable some features), or wearing the Watch on a non-tattooed wrist if available.
     
techweenie1
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Apr 28, 2015, 09:24 PM
 
Stupid Millennials and their strange fascination with tattoos.
     
bobolicious
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Apr 28, 2015, 11:19 PM
 
...hipster revenge...?
     
msuper69
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Apr 29, 2015, 07:22 AM
 
I smell a lawsuit!
     
Mr. Strat
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Apr 29, 2015, 10:21 AM
 
The tattoo/piercing fad is just so primitive.
     
Spheric Harlot
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Apr 29, 2015, 01:41 PM
 
And yet, this fad has survived since way, way, way before Biblical times.

The "hipster" comments were predictable, though I'm surprised the very first one hit the mark already.

I guess people can be counted upon to take advantage of any chance to feel good about themselves by shitting on others.
     
JeffHarris
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Apr 29, 2015, 02:04 PM
 
And I thought that tattoos only interfered with brain function.
     
slboett
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Apr 29, 2015, 04:05 PM
 
Tatt-Gate™
     
slboett
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Apr 29, 2015, 04:06 PM
 
Ink-Gate™
     
   
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