Tattoo-gate? (Are Tattoos causing issues with your watch?)

Discussion in 'Apple Watch' started by LNYMRKO, Apr 28, 2015.

  1. LNYMRKO, Apr 28, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 28, 2015

    LNYMRKO macrumors regular

    Nov 8, 2010
    Interesting read, as someone who is heavily tattooed (sleeves all the way down to fingers) I'd like to know more, as I'm keen to buy one. I did a try-on appointment however all the watches I tried on were in "demo" mode so I couldn't really use them on my wrist. Can any Apple Watch owners with wrist tattoos confirm anything? Pics would be ideal to show your wrist tattoos if possible!

    With a variety of bands, and price tags ranging all the way from $349 – $17,000, there’s an Apple Watch for everyone. Except, possibly, the heavily tattooed.
    That’s according to a new thread on Reddit which claims that several tattoo-sporting Apple Watch customers are having trouble using the device, because the wearable’s wrist-detection feature gets confused by the way in which tattoos reflect the green and infrared light emitted by the Watch.
    The result? People with tattoos don’t get notifications, unless they move the Watch to an un-tattooed area, or turn off wrist detection. Not exactly ideal for those with full sleeves!
    “I thought my shiny new 42mm [Watch] had a bad wrist detector sensor,” writes one user. “The [W]atch would lock up every time the screen went dark and prompted me for my password. I wouldn’t receive notifications. I couldn’t figure out why especially since the watch was definitely not losing contact with my skin. [A]lso I couldn’t find anything online with people experiencing this issue. I was about to give up and call Apple … when I decided to try holding it against my hand (my left arm is sleeved and where I wear my watch is tattooed as well) and it worked. My hand isn’t tattooed and the Watch stayed unlocked. Once I put it back on the area that is tattooed with black ink the watch would automatically lock again.”
    As a possible explanation, another Redditor writes that:
    “Oxyhemoglobin has several local peaks of absorbance which can be used for pulse oximetry: one green, one yellow, one infrared, etc. Apple uses the ones at infrared and green parts of the spectrum. Now, here’s some key facts. Melanin and ink are both equally good at absorbing frequencies over 500nm, which sadly includes the green. But, melanin’s absorbance falls down so rapidly that by the infrared end of the spectrum its hardly absorbing anything at all. That, combined with the fact that Apple adjusts the sensitivity/light level dynamically means infrared is probably black people friendly. Ink has a much more gradual fall off, so even infrared might not work for them.”
    While it’s possible to turn off the wrist detection feature, this also stops Apple Pay from working. We’ve reached out to Apple to ask if this is a problem that’s been reported elsewhere, and will update this post when we hear back.
    Tattoo-gate, anyone?


  2. lexic macrumors newbie

    Apr 14, 2015
    Not having a problem with mine. I was concerned because under the sensors my tattoos are red-orange and black, but wrist detection works as it should and heart rate monitoring seems okay as well.

    View attachment 546901

    But my tattoo isn't *solid* black.
  3. Robert M. macrumors 6502a

    Robert M.

    Jan 4, 2010
    I don't have a sleeve, just something written on my left wrist. It works fine for me.
  4. whatos macrumors 6502a

    Apr 15, 2015
    Maranello Italy / California USA
    I cannot speak from first hand experience because I don't have one or more tattoos on my wrist. However I've been reading everything I can find about Apple Watch since the very first rumours over a year ago.

    I'm sorry I didn't capture the links, but there's been a couple of very good articles that have been written since Friday the day I got my Apple Watch, as others did. These two articles involved men with both sleeves and very dense tattoos. According to them their Apple watches work just fine unless worn very loose.

    So that's what I know. I hope this helps you...:)
  5. Jonmurgie macrumors member

    Nov 3, 2007
    Cheltenham, UK
    No issues with mine though not solid black either, but seriously I can't believe there would actually be an issue due to the colour of the skin... :eek: ;)

  6. LNYMRKO thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 8, 2010
    Thank you for the people that posted helpful informative replies, much appreciated.

    On the other hand, you can always count on this forum for the half-wit judgemental opinions from people that my personal decisions have no impact on :D I never said it was Apple's problem, was simply asking a question. The "gate" thread title was to gain attention, and not my words anyway (taken from the article).

    I'm going to purchase one anyway, as it looks like it can be resolved by turning off the wrist detection feature. (Apple Pay isn't really used in Australia yet and I assume an update/patch would resolve the issue by the time it is anyway)
  7. TWO2SEVEN macrumors 68040


    Jun 27, 2010
    Plano, TX
    I am in no way a scientist :), but I think it may have to do more with the ink than the color. Perhaps it is similar to not being able to use the touch screen on an iPhone while wearing gloves.

    Again, not a scientist. I probably couldn't be anyway because of my tattoos. :)
  8. LNYMRKO thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 8, 2010
    On that link there were people commenting hoping that the Apple Watch was racist and wasn't going to work on black people properly! Obviously trolling, but still.
  9. jmmo20 macrumors 65816

    Jun 15, 2006
    Nothing to do with skin colour, rather but having an artificially place layer of ink inside your epidermis. It is well known ink reflects UV light in different ways than normal skin melanin therefore it's up to the owner to buy it or not.
  10. bob24 macrumors 6502

    Sep 25, 2012
    Dublin, Ireland
    Touch ID doens't work on my iPhone when I wear gloves. Glove-gate?

    Seriously, IF it doesn't work with heavy tattoos it might be inconvenient to some people, but it is not a "gate" of any sort.
  11. derekshank macrumors member

    Apr 23, 2015
    Tattoo-Gate is already a thing belonging to the Ohio State Buckeye's Football Team.

    Apple can't just swoop in here and steal it.
  12. JerryCooke macrumors regular


    Apr 14, 2015
    Bath, UK
    I've got a small tattoo on my wrist and I was concerned before buying, it sits directly below the sensor and gives me no issues.
  13. Jonmurgie macrumors member

    Nov 3, 2007
    Cheltenham, UK
    Thanks for the clarification :)

    I think there are likely to be more people with issues of wearing it too loose than those with tattoos and not getting accurate readings.
  14. dontwalkhand macrumors 603


    Jul 5, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    Use it on your other arm, or use it with wrist detection off. I don't know if Apple Pay will still work though with that off.
  15. SinkOrSwim macrumors regular


    Sep 16, 2012
    The question is about compatibility between a heavily tattooed wrist and functionality of the Apple watch.
  16. LNYMRKO thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 8, 2010
    Thank you, people seem to be getting more up-in-arms about the thread title itself than the actual content/question.


    What if both arms are heavily tattooed? :D But yes, as mentioned I can use it with wrist detection off, and Apple pay isn't used heavily in Australia yet.. Hoping for an update (if it's possible to fix with software?) by the time Australia gets with the times and introduces Apple Pay everywhere anyway.
  17. bob24 macrumors 6502

    Sep 25, 2012
    Dublin, Ireland
    No offense, but the title is a question (chosen to imply there is a design flaw and attract everyone's attention).
    If you change it to something more neutral it will only attract people who are interested in your actual topic and you will get better answers.
  18. lexic macrumors newbie

    Apr 14, 2015
    Hopefully you won't even have an issue. I don't think there is anything that needs a fix from my experience. For all we know, the person having the issue could be having the problem due to something else.
  19. eoblaed macrumors 68020


    Apr 21, 2010
    He's not asking whose problem it is. He's asking if certain features will work on a heavily tattooed wrist.
  20. lexic macrumors newbie

    Apr 14, 2015
    If you are replying to me, see post #2.
  21. LNYMRKO thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 8, 2010
    I guess so, it looks like the mods have just done so anyway, and cleaned up the silly replies (thanks mods!). I was really just going on the words from the article anyway, and figured people would understand the question at hand.
  22. alhumphrey macrumors member

    Feb 17, 2010
    I don't have any tattoos but as a lighting designer I can only speculate it might be down to the colour of your tattoos. The green leds that are used to detect your heartbeat could have there light wave adversely absorbed if you have a green tattoo or increased of red due to the effect of the wave length of light. Black tattoos would hamper the transmission of light and would give a faint reading but the watch support pages say it can adapt to faint readings.
  23. LNYMRKO thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 8, 2010
    Good point! It certainly seems to be an isolated issue going from the few replies I've seen in here nobody has had an issue with it.. and I assume it would have come up by now if it was more widespread, but I figured it was worth mentioning anyway in case others were having similar issues (and couldn't figure out why).
  24. spaceballl macrumors 68030


    Nov 2, 2003
    San Francisco, CA
    I'm not sure about functionality, but that apple watch sure makes those wrists look better...
  25. Mymosa macrumors regular


    Apr 13, 2015
    SoCal girl living in Jersey

    This took 2 days and 3 Apple techs to figure out, and the only way we figured it out was one guy in the support center had a watch. Just found out about this thread.

    When you set up Apple pay on your watch it makes you have a password to open the watch. That's fine. When I would put my arm down every time it would ask for the password. That got old QUICK. It was okay when I didn't have the password but some other things were a bit glitch like the Watch going to sleep really fast. I also wasn't able to use glances or anything until I put in a password.

    So to make a long story short, All this happened because I have a blue/green tattoo on the wrist I am wearing the watch on!!!!!

    It interferes with the watch in that regards. SO I now have to either not have Apple pay and wear the watch without the password on my tattoo wrist or switch to my non tattoo'd wrist to have everything work right. It will then only ask for the password if I take off the watch and works as normal and lets me do apple pay.

    So now I told them and spread to word that if you have a tattoo on your watch wrist funny things may happen!

    I'm glad its not sensitive to skin tone like it is tattoo's but I guess we would have to hear from someone very dark-skinned to see!

    smh - btw I have the Watch, not sport, with the sapphire
    crystal and the traditional black buckle

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