Tattooed Apple Watch owners report sensor troubles

Caitlin McGarry
30 April, 2015
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Apple-Watch-what-we-know-apple-macworld-australia1The Apple Watch is slowly but surely making its way into the world, but less than a week after the first devices landed on the front steps of lucky pre-orderers, there’s already a problem—sort of.

The watch reportedly has trouble sensing it’s on your skin if you have a heavily pigmented tattoo sleeve, according to Reddit users. This means the watch constantly locks up if you have it set to lock when it’s not on your wrist, and it doesn’t tap you when notifications come in. People who are experiencing the problem have tried turning off wrist detection, which allows alerts to come through, but turning off that setting also prevents Apple Pay from working, so it’s a less-than-ideal solution.

One possible explanation for the problem: The Apple Watch’s sensors send light through your skin to function, and black ink absorbs light rather than reflecting it back, so the watch can’t recognize that it’s sitting on your skin. Ink and skin have completely different properties, so the sensor issues are unrelated to skin tone.

Before we leap to affix a “-gate” to this issue, what we know so far indicates it only affects a limited amount of people: those with a swatch of black ink (or other really dark pigmented ink) tattooed where the watch would sit on the wrist. Our pals at iMore tested the watch’s sensors on wrists tattooed with patterns or lighter inks and didn’t find any issues.

We’ve reached out to Apple for comment and will update if they respond.

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