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'TattooGate': Tattoos on Wrist Cause Heart Rate Sensor in Apple Watch to Malfunction

(REUTERS/Jason Reed)Reuters journalist Matt Siegel checks the Apple Watch heart rate sensor, strapping the device on his tattooed left arm.

Apple Watch recently encountered a major problem that saw people with tattoos extending up to their wrists unable to use the device as the heart rate sensor did not function properly. Others pointed out that their tattoos apparently caused the Apple Watch to lock them out repeatedly and they had to enter a pass code to access the device whenever the screen lit up.

This problem with tattoos was soon classified as "TattooGate" as multiple users started reporting it. As the issue was widely reported, Apple was forced to acknowledge the problem on a support post on its website. However, the company did not provide any solution to the problem and just provided users with a workaround.

That workaround consists of connecting the Apple Watch wirelessly to heart monitors on chest straps to enable the heart rate sensor to function properly.

As for people who have purchased the Apple Watch and have tattoos on both their wrists, they were simply told that some inks used in tattoos do not affect the heart rate sensor.

The problem with the tattoos cropped up because of the type of heart rate sensor used by Apple in its Apple Watch. The device uses infrared and green LEDs to shine green light into the user's skin. When the light encounters blood in the veins, it is reflected back to the sensors and the heart rate is calculated.

Tattoos with dark colored inks, such as red or black, cause the Apple Watch heart rate sensor to stop working. The device then assumes that the wearer no longer has it on their wrist, prompting it to lock the screen and ask users to enter the pass code.

However, the heart rate sensor is not affected by tattoos created with yellow, orange or purple ink, or tattoos with lesser saturation of ink.

People with big scars on their wrist can also experience problems with the Apple Watch heart rate sensor.

Online sources are doubtful that Apple will be able to solve the problem, saying users with tattoos will have to just live with this limitation.

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