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Apple confirms that tattoos aren’t compatible with Apple Watch

Apple's new gadget has issues with your ink.


Mike Wehner


Posted on May 2, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 10:35 pm CDT

Apple has now formally acknowledged what some Apple Watch early adopters already knew: The heart rate sensor built into the backside of the device doesn’t like tattoos. In a new blurb on its Apple Watch support page the company notes that body ink can negatively affect the watch’s ability to accurately read a user’s heart rate.

The first rumblings of a potential issue began on Reddit but quickly spread across other social networks with Apple Watch users reporting that the fancy heart rate sensor couldn’t pick up a steady reading on tattooed skin.

Darker colors appear to be affected the most, though as Apple’s newly updated support documentation notes, any “permanent or temporary changes to your skin” can impact the performance of the device and leave you with a less-than-perfect reading. If your ink is causing your Apple Watch distress, Apple suggests using an external heart rate monitor, such as a chest strap, to keep an eye on your beats while you work out.

The company also notes that while the heart rate reading does help the device calculate your workout, it’s not the only tool the watch has for doing so. 

“Heart rate is just one of many factors that Apple Watch uses to measure your activity and exercise,” the support page reads. “Depending on your workout, it selects the most appropriate inputs for that activity. For example, when you’re running indoors, it also uses the accelerometer.” So even if you don’t feel like using a chest strap to make up for your inked wrist, you’ll still benefit from some of the Apple Watch’s health tracking features. 

Photo via Mike Wehner

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*First Published: May 2, 2015, 9:00 am CDT