Does the latest Apple Watch update improve functionality for tattooed users?

female athlete adjsuting app on smart watch
Users with tattooed wrists have long complained their body art presents a challenge for the wrist detection technology (Image credit: SrdjanPav)

When Apple rolled out details of its latest software update back in June, the tech giants focused on a slew of features that most hikers and runners would likely get excited about such as route planning, topographic maps and a Last Emergency Call waypoint function. Some users who have downloaded the beta version of the update for their sports watches, however, are noticing a surprise niche improvement that might spell better functionality for those with tattoos.

Yesterday morning, one Reddit user shared a photo of their heavily tattooed wrist wearing an Apple Watch Ultra, and noted that it seemed to be working better than before.

"Does anyone know if they tweaked the laser settings or something? My watch is able to detect my wrist now and no other watch has ever detected my wrist before so I wonder if it has anything to do with the new beta software."

Historically, users with tattooed wrists have presented a challenge for the wrist detection technology, a feature that uses sensors to automatically turn on and off the display based on wrist movement. The sensors often struggle to recognise tattooed skin, affecting heart rate sensor performance and heart rate monitoring, making it difficult to get reliable readings, according to Apple support.

Man and woman checking smartwatches after a run

The sensors often struggle to recognise tattooed skin, affecting heart rate sensor performance (Image credit: Getty)

Following the Reddit thread, it's immediately apparent that the problem has been so widespread that at least one user has recently taken to having part of his tattoo removed in order to get a reliable reading, while another user reports never having updated their watch past the Apple Watch 3 to avoid problems.

Apple didn't showcase the new feature when they rolled out the update, but over the past 24 hours, dozens of Apple Watch users have noticed the sensors seem to be working for them following the updates.

If you sport a permanent sleeve, don't get too excited just yet though – several users have also reported that the change seemed to be short lived, with their watch resorting to business as usual after about 10 minutes, so it seems there may be more work to be done.

Though the watchOS 10 beta is available now, it may be better to hold off until September 18, when the update is released to the public, to avoid any glitches.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.