Talking tech since 2003

Sleeve tattoos—they’re pretty popular with all the cool kids these days. So, too, is the Apple Watch. As such, it’s a shame that the two don’t quite get along, as reports since the wearable’s release have swirled that the device has trouble sensing when it’s strapped to an arm that’s got some ink. Apple has acknowledged the problem in recent days—though it doesn’t seem like there’s anything it’s doing about it just yet.

The problem, specifically, has to do with the ability of the Apple Watch to detect its presence on a user’s skin, not to mention its heart rate sensor. The heart rate sensor relies on a number of factors to provide accurate readings, and one of those factors is the ability for light to pass through a person’s skin and back again.

According to the Apple Support Page, the ink of tattoos provide a roadblock in that regard:

“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.”

So what’s the fix? Well:

“If you’re not able to get a consistent reading because of any of these factors, you can connect your Apple Watch wirelessly to external heart rate monitors such as Bluetooth chest straps.”

That kinda…sucks. And, as you can see in the video above, the heart rate sensor isn’t the only problem. If the Watch can’t detect that it’s on your wrist, some of its other features might not work either, like the pedometer or even unlocking. A post on 9to5Mac says it’ll work okay if you turn off the “wrist-detection” feature on your iPhone.

Moreover, there’s only so much you can blame on Apple. This sounds like a problem that has more to do with the realities of science rather than any technological lacking on Apple’s part.

Still, it’s got to be disappointing to know that your tattoo precludes you from letting your smartwatch measure and record your heart rate. Though, if that’s the only reason you bought an Apple Watch, you probably could’ve saved some money. In the meantime, I hear laser tattoo removal is pretty effective…

[Apple Watch Support]

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