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Tattoos may make the Apple Watch malfunction

By Marcus Wong - on 4 May 2015, 10:59am

Tattoos may make the Apple Watch malfunction


The Apple Watch may be good for many things and many people, but if you’re sporting heavily tattooed arms, you may want to think about where on your arm you’re going to wear the watch. It appears that tattoo sporting users may have issues getting it to operate as the watch locks up every time the screen goes dark. It was first brought up by a user on Reddit, and has since been picked up by various users on YouTube..

This has since led to Apple updating their Apple Watch support document to acknowledge the issue and give this official explanation:

“Permanent or temporary changes to your skin, such as some tattoos, can also impact heart rate sensor performance. The ink, pattern, and saturation of some tattoos can block light from the sensor, making it difficult to get reliable readings.”

It’s apparently a common issue with the type of heart rate sensor that Apple uses which uses photoplethysmography technology to measure your heart rate. Because blood is red, it absorbs green light, so the Apple Watch uses green LED lights paired with light‑sensitive photodiodes to measuring the amount of green light absorption by your blood stream, hence allowing it to detect each beat and thus get your heart rate. Tattoo ink - especially the darker colors - also absorbs the green light, hence throwing off Apple's sensors.

The official workaround to this is to get an external heart monitor such as a Bluetooth chest strap and connect that to your Apple Watch wirelessly, but evidently everything else should still function properly, so you can still rely on the accelerometer and the GPS to track your daily activities.

#tattoogate Anyone?

Sources: Apple, Reddit, YouTube, The Verge, Tech Crunch

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