Apple owns up to Apple Watch heart rate sensor tattoo interference
Is “you’re wearing it wrong” the new “you’re holding it wrong?” Some new owners of the Apple Watch might find themselves wondering as much, as they struggle to get the smartwatch’s optical heart rate monitor to function in certain cases. Following the wearable’s commercial arrival, some users with tattoos covering their wrists reported that the Apple Watch struggled to get an accurate read through all that ink. Was this the way the smartwatch was supposed to work? Is there anything to be done about it? Now, Apple’s finally acknowledging the matter, though without offering much in the way of a practical workaround.
To its credit, Apple’s always been clear that there are many factors that can get in the way of accurate heart rate sensor performance. Previously it listed issues like an ill-fitting strap or low temperatures as possible causes for inconsistent or unavailable data. To those, it now adds another: “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.”
So, what do you do about that? Wear the Apple Watch on the other wrist – presuming that one’s not similarly adorned? Apple’s suggestion to pair the watch with an external Bluetooth chest strap may represent a feasible alternative, though one that seems like a polar opposite to the convenience offered by a wrist-borne sensor.