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Cupertino admits Apple Watch has a problem with dark tattoos

Following reports from disgruntled tattooed Apple Watch users earlier this week, Cupertino has officially admitted that there is a problem with the smartwatch and those who have darkly inked tattoos on their wrist.

Tattoogate, as it was inevitably christened, erupted when several folks with wrist tattoos posted YouTube videos (and there was also a big Reddit thread) of the watch malfunctioning – one was particularly telling, as the user showed that on his tattooed wrist the workout app kept pausing itself, while on his other wrist with no tattoos, it worked flawlessly.

As spotted by Trusted Reviews, Apple has now admitted that dark ink can interfere with the heart rate sensor. The company added the following to its support page for the smartwatch: “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.”

The Apple Watch heart rate sensor utilises photoplethysmography, and essentially that means it uses green LED lights and light‑sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through the user’s wrist – which the heartbeat rate can be worked out from. But the dark ink can interfere with these LED lights.

The solution for those of you with heavy tattoos? Apple says: “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.”

Which, of course, is not an ideal solution, and leads to further expense – not to mention the fact that a chest strap is extra hassle in terms of putting it on, and generally goes against the grain of the convenience of the Apple Watch.

Not to worry – we’re sure that come the launch of the Apple Watch 2, one of the selling points lauded by the company will be the ability of the smartwatch to cope with the darkest wrist tattoo.

Darren Allan

Darran has over 25 years of experience in digital and magazine publishing as a writer and editor. He's also an author, having co-written a novel published by Little, Brown (Hachette UK). He currently writes news, features and buying guides for TechRadar, and occasionally other Future websites such as T3 or Creative Bloq and he's a copy editor for TechRadar Pro. Darrran has written for a large number of tech and gaming websites/magazines in the past, including Web User and ComputerActive. He has also worked at IDG Media, having been the Editor of PC Games Solutions and the Deputy Editor of PC Home.