Apple Watch Problems Reported: A Defective Part, Tattoo Interference

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2015-04-30 Print this article Print
Apple Watch, smartwatch, wearables, taptic engine, tattoos

Some Apple Watch owners are experiencing device interference from their wrist tattoos, while reports are also surfacing about a defective taptic engine component in some watches.

Almost a week after being released, the first problems with Apple Watches have been surfacing, with some owners posting online claims of operational interference due to their wrist tattoos, while a defective tactic engine part is causing Apple to slow shipments of the devices.

The tattoo interference issue was noted in an April 29 story on, which said that some Apple Watch owners are finding that the devices aren't working properly when worn over their wrist tattoos.

The problem that has been surfacing for some users is that the ink in the tattoos "appears to interfere with Apple Watch's infrared sensors that enable wrist detection," according to the story, which also can interfere with the Watch's heartbeat-tracking capabilities and transactions using Apple Pay.

One Apple Watch user, guinne55fan, posted on Reddit that his device wasn't working properly until he "decided to try holding it against my [un-tattooed] hand and it worked. ... Once I put it back on the area that is tattooed with black ink the watch would automatically lock again."

Expansive dark tattoo colors appear to be most problematic for complaining Apple Watch users, the story reported, while lighter tattoo shades don't appear to cause problems for users.

To avoid the problems, Apple Watch users can turn off wrist detection so they don't need to enter a passcode, but that makes the device less secure, according to the story.

Apple did not immediately reply to an eWEEK inquiry about the tattoo interference reports on April 30.

Taptic Engine Problems?

Meanwhile, Apple Watch is also being mentioned as having problems with taptic engine components made by a Chinese supplier that are failing after only a short time, leaving the smartwatches without a feature that gives wearers the sensation that they are being tapped on the wrist for notifications.

The defective taptic engine parts were revealed in an April 29 story by The Wall Street Journal. The problem is causing Apple to limit the availability of the watches, unnamed sources told the paper. "After mass production began in February, reliability testing revealed that some taptic engines supplied by AAC Technologies Holdings Inc., of Shenzhen, China, started to break down over time, the people familiar with the matter said. One of those people said Apple scrapped some completed watches as a result."

So far, no watches with defective components appear to have been shipped to customers, and Apple does not plan a recall, the story reported.

Taptic engine components from a second supplier, Japan's Nidec Corp., didn't exhibit the same problems in the testing, so Apple has moved nearly all of its production of the component to Nidec, the story reported. Supplies of the part from the company may take some time to be increased, however.

The taptic engine is an Apple technology that delivers tactile feedback to the wearers to get their attention for notifications, the story reported. "The engine uses a motor to move a small rod back and forth. This motion creates the sensation of a gentle tapping. The taptic engine also powers another Watch feature: the ability to send your heartbeat to others."

Apple Watch just went on sale on April 24, and already the devices are in short supply, with some consumers being told that their watches won't ship until June or July, according to earlier eWEEK reports.

The smartwatches start at $349 for the Apple Watch Sport version, which is available with a silver or space-gray aluminum body and with wristbands in many colors. The standard Apple Watch starts at $549 for a 38mm-wide version or $599 for a 42mm-wide model. Prices for the 38mm version can rise up to $1,049, while prices for the 42mm model can go up to $1,099, depending on the watchband selected. The regular Apple Watch can be purchased with a fluoroelastomer band or one of three different leather bands.

The company's luxury version of Apple Watch is the Apple Watch Edition, with a price tag of $10,000. The most expensive version of Apple Watch, the 18-karat gold Edition version, is priced at $17,000.

Earlier this week, Apple announced its second-quarter 2015 financial results, with global revenue of $58 billion, a 27 percent jump from $45.6 billion in the same period last year, and a net profit of $13.6 billion, up 33 percent from $10.2 billion one year ago. Apple sold 61.2 million iPhones globally in the quarter. The second-quarter figures did not include sales for Apple Watch because it just went on sale to consumers, but that revenue will show up in the company's next quarterly report due out in late July.

The latest quarterly results came three months after Apple's best-ever quarter, when the company posted a record $74.6 billion in revenue in the first quarter of fiscal 2015, which ended Dec. 31, 2014. Apple also posted a record $18 billion in profits in the first quarter, which was fueled by a consumer frenzy of sales of its latest iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones, which debuted in September 2014.



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