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Apple admits that tattoos confuse the heart rate monitor on the Apple Watch

Apple Watch Sport
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
We’ve all heard people say, “That tattoo won’t look so nice in 20 years,” but how about, “That tattoo won’t play nice with future wearable technology!” Err … What? It seems that some people with dark wrist tattoos are having problems with the heart rate monitor on their Apple Watches.

Updated on 05-01-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added statement from Apple on the effect of dark tattoos on the heart rate monitor.

Shortly after news of the issue went viral, Apple added a statement to its user guide, explaining why tattoos interfere with the heart rate monitor and what users can do to work around the issue.

“The ink, pattern, and saturation of some tattoos can block light from the sensor, making it difficult to get reliable readings,” Apple wrote on the support page. “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.”

The issue seems to be most prevalent with people who have tattoos covering their wrists that are dark in color. Apparently, the dark tattoo ink absorbs the green light the watch gives out in order to read your heart rate, thus rendering the heart rate monitor useless. To make matters worse, the Apple Watch actually uses the heart rate monitor to determine when you are wearing the device. If the watch can’t detect that you’re wearing it, the screen locks with your passcode. Many users are also unable to use Apple Pay due to interference from their tattoos, because to add an extra level of security, Apple Pay will only work when the watch is being worn.

Along with Apple Pay, a number of apps are not working either, and many users are having trouble with even simpler functions, such as checking the watch through wrist movements. Rocking body art shouldn’t bar you from using the latest tech, and it will be interesting to see how Apple deals with this, or if those bearing wrist tattoos are simply out of luck.

While you can temporarily work around this issue by turning off  “wrist detection,” this will also disable the watch’s Apple Pay functionality. Seeing as there’s no quick fix for the issue, other dark or solid tattoos that limit the light penetrating your skin will continue to be a problem. So if you’ve got both your wrists tattooed, then its possible you’ll soon be returning your Apple Watch and waiting for the next one.

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