The Tattoo Community Lashes Back at the Apple Watch

Tattooed techies will want to think twice before dropping cash on an Apple Watch.

The brand's blockbuster electronic fashion item isn't yet officially available to the public, but some who pre-ordered online have already received theirs. Despite the small sample size of watches in the wild, enough of these users have wrist tattoos that appear to be to blame for the watch's heart rate monitoring function not working properly. Of course, for those who don't own the watch and have made the decision to ink up, the news is hardly troubling.


"I'm sure people who are covered would rather have their tattoos as opposed to owning a [dumb] Apple Watch," Julie, a tattoo apprentice and body piercer out of Brooklyn's Citizen Ink, suggests. "It just sounds like a lot of bullshit."

Here's what’s going on: The Apple Watch uses LED lighting to measure your heartbeat from your wrist. By bombarding your veins with colored light, the watch determines how quickly your heart is beating. Apple's official documentation explains it like this:

"Blood is red because it reflects red light and absorbs green light. Apple Watch uses green LED lights paired with light?sensitive photodiodes to detect the amount of blood flowing through your wrist[…] By flashing its LED lights hundreds of times per second, Apple Watch can calculate the number of times the heart beats each minute — your heart rate."

But black tattoo ink absorbs all light, and this is throwing things off for the Apple Watch's sensors, much to the chagrin of users who spent anywhere from $349 to $17,000 on the device. For now, it's an expensive and permanent mistake.


"These watches are first-generation with plenty of kinks to work through," Luke Wessman, celebrity tattoo artist, says. "But if this, and other wearable technology, becomes as popular as the iPhone, people may start second guessing their ink placement."

Tattoos are already famously restrictive on the wearer's employment, but everyone we asked said this is the first they've heard of tattoos affecting the wearer's personal electronics. For now, those with inked wrists will want to hold off on such a pricey purchase, at least until Apple releases an updated version of its gadget in a year, as it always does.