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Inked & incensed: Apple Watch won’t work on tattooed or scarred wrists

Apple may have a small problem with their newest piece of technology; the Apple Watch isn’t working on people with tattooed or scarred wrists.

apple watch tattoos

apple watch tattoos

The Apple Watch has a major problem

The Apple Watch is supposed to come with a host of cool features; from tracking heartbeats and sending them to loved ones, to allowing you to use Apple Pay without pulling out your phone. So what happens when these features do not work? Enter tattoogate.

Some Apple users are reporting the very features that make Apple Watch useful are not working. Why? Apparently, the infrared sensors Apple uses cannot “see” through wrist tattoos or scar tissue. Since the sensors cannot operate properly, users cannot pay for items, accurately track heartbeats, or use the sensor’s ability to tell when it’s on your wrist.

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When the sensors are functioning correctly, the device can tell when you’re wearing it, so you do not have to enter your passcode every time you need to use it; and since tattooed users do not have this ability, they have lost a bit of the novelty of the Watch.

The type of tattoo makes a difference

YouTube user, Michael Lovell, demonstrates the problem. When the device is on his non-tattooed left side, the device works without issues. However, when he switches it to his tattooed right side, the device stopped working and asked for the passcode.

The type of tattoo seems to make a difference in the effectiveness of the device: big blocks of dark color seem to be most problematic, while lighter shades go unnoticed by the device.

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This seems odd given the device will work regardless of skin tone, however, as iMore notes, “natural skin pigmentation doesn’t block light in the same way artificial ink pigment, or even scar tissue does.”

Perhaps they should have addressed this issue before launch. I would not be a happy camper if I threw down my money, only to find out that the device isn’t fond of tattoos.

There is a workaround, but with a catch

For users with tattoos or scars that want to continue to use their devices, there is a workaround, but it will make your device less secure. To continue using your device, simply turn off wrist detection all together and you will not longer need to enter a passcode at all.

Again, do so with caution, as you will be less secure, but at least the device will function. I am not sure what the workaround is for tracking heartbeats, since the device cannot read them without the wrist sensor. Hopefully Apple will come up with a better way to deal with this problem, or some users may be hopping mad.

#TattooGate

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Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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