Apple Watch wrist detection failing with some tattoos, users complain

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited May 2015
Wrist detection on the Apple Watch may not work properly for some people with lower-arm tattoos, as they appear to fool the device's sensors, some early adopters of the device have said.

Image Credit: Reddit user guinne55fan
Image Credit: Reddit user guinne55fan


One owner noted in a Reddit post on Monday that when he wore his Watch on a wrist tattooed with black ink, he couldn't receive any notifications, and the device would lock every time it went dark. Before trying to contact Apple, though, he tested the Watch against his unmarked hand, which suddenly allowed it to work as intended.

Turning off wrist detection entirely was said to solve the problem, but at the expense of features like Apple Pay.

Wrist detection relies on light sensors on the back of the device which also serve as a heart rate tracker through a method known as photoplethysmography. By flashing infrared and/or green LED lights, the Watch can detect blood flow. Dark skin color could theoretically affect accuracy, although Apple states that the Watch will increase LED brightness and sampling rate to deal with tough reads.

The issue could be down to the materials that tattoo ink is made from. Many pigment bases are derived from heavy metals, like mercury, copper, or nickel, which may interfere with the sensors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 214

    Solution: Stop treating your body like a billboard.

     

    I'm sure Apple tested for skin tone, but the chemicals in the ink may be throwing things off.

  • Reply 2 of 214
    monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,182member

    Apple must be racist then.... 

  • Reply 3 of 214
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member

    This is why having a diverse workforce is a good idea. :)

  • Reply 4 of 214
    Of course the right thing to do is contact reddit before contacting the manufacturer of the thing you bought. /s
  • Reply 4 of 214
    thrangthrang Posts: 755member
    I know it's not the point of this article, and I understand it's a personal choice, but why do people mark their body so severely?

    There's almost nothing in life that is permanent, from relationships to interests to style, yet people permanently mark their body with some statement, which, of course, often diminishes in importance, and thus a new tattoo is required...repeat...repeat...repeat...

    Eventually you are left with an ugly pastiche of your past, some or much or which no longer holds the precious importance you believed when you got inked.
  • Reply 6 of 214
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,365member
    Interesting. Come to think of it, I don't think I've seen an ?Watch on a non-white wrist.
    mike1 wrote: »
    Beyonce was photographed with one, right?
    Doh! Right. So was Pharell, and Drake. I was just thinking about those I've seen from actual customers since the launch. No "average" customers wearing one that wasn't white. I'm sure they will turn up though ...

    This does make you wonder what criteria the sensors are using to determine what constitutes a real wrist, and how easy it would be to circumvent.

    But Apple will have to deal with this, a lot of those celebrities from whom they are seeking endorsements have arm tattoos... ;-)
  • Reply 7 of 214
    wurm5150wurm5150 Posts: 763member
    "Apple Watch is racist!"

    - Rev. Al Sharpton
  • Reply 8 of 214
    monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,182member

    I find tattoos so ugly. Pretty girl + tattoo = tramp.

  • Reply 9 of 214
    desuserigndesuserign Posts: 1,316member
    It's unlikely that it's a problem for darker skinned people as Apple surely tested for for that. Dark skin, unlike a dark tattoo, doesn't contain the heavy metals that are in tattoo ink (I'm guessing that this might be the source of the sensing problem.)
    Even in the case of folks with tattoos, I'm sure a simple software adjustment can be made that will solve things.
  • Reply 10 of 214
    Apple must be racist then.... 

    But photoplethysmography is not. /s Remember kids, it's only wrong when Apple does it.
  • Reply 11 of 214
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 628member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DESuserIGN View Post



    It's unlikely that it's a problem for darker skinned people as Apple surely tested for for that. Dark skin, unlike a dark tattoo, doesn't contain the heavy metals that are in tattoo ink (I'm guessing that this might be the source of the sensing problem.)

    Even in the case of folks with tattoos, I'm sure a simple software adjustment can be made that will solve things.

     

    I agree and think the ink is the issue.  From Wikipedia (I know it's not that reliable - see excerpt below) I see that the inks can contain all sorts of things that could interfere with sensors.  Heck, one might set off a metal detector.

     

    I don't really want to get into the tattoo debate (don't care for them but it's your body and free-ish country) but I

     don't think Apple should be reluctant to include a feature just because a tattoo might interfere. Piercings interfere with stuff too.

     

    Pigment bases

    Manufacturers are not required to reveal their ingredients or conduct trials, and recipes may be proprietary. Professional inks may be made from iron oxides (rust), metal salts, plastics.[6] Homemade or traditional tattoo inks may be made from pen ink, soot, dirt, blood, or other ingredients.[3][7]

    Heavy metals used for colors include mercury (red); lead (yellow, green, white); cadmium (red, orange, yellow); nickel (black); zinc (yellow, white); chromium (green); cobalt (blue); aluminium (green, violet); titanium (white); copper (blue, green); iron (brown, red, black); and barium (white). Metal oxides used include ferrocyanide and ferricyanide (yellow, red, green, blue). Organic chemicals used include azo-chemicals (orange, brown, yellow, green, violet) and naptha-derived chemicals (red). Carbon (soot or ash) is also used for black. Other elements used as pigments include antimony, arsenic, beryllium, calcium, lithium, selenium, and sulphur.[5][7]

    Tattoo ink manufacturers typically blend the heavy metal pigments and/or use lightening agents (such as lead or titanium) to reduce production costs.[7]

  • Reply 12 of 214
    kent909kent909 Posts: 699member

    Your mother told you not to get a tattoo. Are you going to listen to her now?

  • Reply 13 of 214
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,804member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Mac_128 View Post



    Interesting. Come to think of it, I don't think I've seen an ?Watch on a non-white wrist.

    Beyonce was photographed with one, right?

  • Reply 14 of 214
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,224member
    Melanin is a natural variation in human skin. Ink is not. Life choices have consequences. Not a judgement. If you enjoy body art, fine. Just don't expect products to account for your choices. On the other hand, it's good that this is known. If true, Apple should make it clear to avoid disappointed buyers.
  • Reply 15 of 214
    adrayvenadrayven Posts: 460member
    SkinGate! : YES!

    Ok, thats sarcasm.. but watch, someone will run with it. heh.

    Fact.. the skin tone isn't as much an issue is the INK thats imbedded in the skin.. Not natural pigment.. but real, physical barrier called INK..
  • Reply 16 of 214

    Can anyone say Version 2?  Thanks to the first generation users -- any issues should be worked out by then.  Though I am still upset that they weren't available where I am living right now...;)

  • Reply 17 of 214
    icoco3icoco3 Posts: 1,456member

    I am sure they might be able to overcome this somehow...

  • Reply 18 of 214
    singularitysingularity Posts: 1,329member
    sog35 wrote: »
    dont want to be judgemental but Apple can't account for people vandalizing their body.
    But going to be judgemental anyway
  • Reply 19 of 214
    Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say Ni at will to those with Tattoos. There is a pestilence upon this land. Nothing is sacred. Even those who design watches are under considerable economic stress at this period in history. :)
  • Reply 20 of 214
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,608member

    I read the title of the article and my coffee squirted from my nose. We have a winner! Tattoo-Gate! Can’t wait for the YouTube videos, the class action lawsuit (you know it’s coming), the outraged diatribes, the EPIC FAIL pronouncements. 

     

    The movie “Idiocracy” was showing on cable this morning. How apropos is that? 

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