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Tech Report: Smartwatches That Hate Tattoos, Apps That Choose Tunes

18 May, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Fitness Tracking Devices, Apps, Take Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

That badass tribal tattoo on your wrist?  The one you got after you did that epic mud run? Too bad it doesn’t impress your brand-new Apple Watch.

According to an article in PC Magazine Online, Apple has publicly confirmed that that inked skin interferes with the smartwatch's built-in heart rate sensor.

"Permanent or temporary changes to your skin, such as some tattoos, can also impact heart rate sensor performance," Apple's support page said. "The ink, pattern, and saturation of some tattoos can block light from the sensor, making it difficult to get reliable readings."

Complaints hit the Web almost immediately upon the product’s release, as tatted-up consumers reported issues with the wearable's lock screen and health features. After conducting a test, iMore reported that tattoos with a solid, darker color—black or red—are more likely to cause a watch malfunction. Lighter tones—purple, yellow, orange—provide slightly elevated miscalculations, but do not impede the timepiece's ability to scan the skin.

The Washington Post, in an article with the brilliantly snarky title of “The Apple Watch, like your grandmother, has a problem with tattoos,” adds that one reddit user has also reported that black ink in tattoos also prevents some notifications from showing up on the watch, though that complaint hasn't been as common.

Apple isn’t the only one who can’t play nice with tats. At least one reddit user with a Fitbit HR, which uses the same technology  to measure heart rate, has reported similar interference that could be tattoo-related.

The article in PC noted, “like HP's webcams, neither Apple nor its timepiece are racist: Naturally dark skin pigmentation does not affect the sensor's abilities like a tattoo or scar tissue might. There appears to be little Cupertino can do, however, to remedy the issue. Watch wearers with wrist tattoos can turn off Wrist Detection in the Apple Watch app to avoid auto-lockout. But it will also disable Apple Pay. If all else fails, slap the device onto a non-inked wrist, or perhaps wear it as a bicep band or anklet.”

New App Senses Stride Rate, Chooses Appropriate Music

As one device registers a fail, though, another one appears on the market. According to Sports One Source, Adidas has partnered with Spotify to launch Adidas Go, the first running app that uses iPhone’s accelerometer to instantly match a runner’s favorite music to their workout.

Adidas go calculates the user’s stride rate to automatically identify and play tracks with matching beats per minute from Spotify’s extensive music library. This, according to the report, brings runners a unique and intuitive way to improve their running experience with the perfect music to match their workout.

Adidas go also allows runners to effortlessly expand their running soundtrack to explore new music on the go. The app intuitively streams Spotify tracks that match the runner’s interests based on their preferred playlists, artists and genres without having to assemble playlists before they head out.

There was no word, though, on how well it interfaces with tattoos.

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