Apple Watch Troubles: Taptic Engine, Wrist Tattoos - InformationWeek
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4/30/2015
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Apple Watch Troubles: Taptic Engine, Wrist Tattoos

The limited launch supply of Apple's wearable has been pinned on a faulty component, and some users report problems caused by their tattoos.

10 Apple Watch Apps For Business, Productivity
10 Apple Watch Apps For Business, Productivity
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Demand for the Apple Watch has clearly outstripped supply during the initial launch period. The small number of wearables trickling out to end-users can be blamed on trouble with the taptic engine, something Apple discovered prior to launch.

Apple also didn't notice at least one issue plaguing the Watch before it reached consumers: Incompatibility with ink.

Apple's quality-testing procedures helped it catch a flaw in the taptic engine before the device shipped, reports the Wall Street Journal. Apple tasked two companies to make the taptic engine, AAC Technologies in China and Nidec in Japan. The taptic engine uses a motor and sliding rod to create gentle taps on the wrist to notify wearers of incoming calls and messages.

Apple's quality assurance metrics found some taptic engines from AAC Technologies were bound to break over time. This forced the Watch maker to cut AAC from its supply chain and shift all taptic engine sourcing to Nidec.

Consumers needn't fear their Watch is defective, according to Re/Code. "I believe no faulty Apple Watches were shipped to consumers," said Patrick Moorhead, founder of Moor Insights & Strategy, in a statement to Re/Code. "I don’t think this is damaging at all."

Losing one of the two suppliers seriously curtailed Apple's ability to manufacture the smartwatch at volume, which has contributed to the limited supply of the device. People placing orders for the Watch on Apple's website today may not see the device ship until June or later, depending on the model.

"Our team is working to fill orders as quickly as possible based on available supply and the order in which they were received," Apple said. "We know many customers are still facing long lead times and we appreciate their patience."

Apple's quality assurance measures apparently missed the boat on tattoos. Apple Watch owners with dark tattoos on their wrists reported problems with the wearable. iMore investigated the issue and agreed there is in fact a problem.

[Apple Watch mysteries revealed? Read Apple Watch Launch: 6 Things We Know Now.]

"Apple uses various spectrums of light to track the blood flow through your skin. Anything that reduces that light's reflectiveness -- ink pigmentation within your skin, for example -- can interfere with that sensor," explained iMore. "Natural skin pigmentation doesn't block light the same way artificial ink pigment or even scar tissue does, so you shouldn't run into a problem if your skin is naturally darker."

iMore's tests showed black and red tattoos were most likely to cause problems, while lighter colors like yellow were less likely to cause problems.

Apple hasn't yet responded to this issue.

Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio

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tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
6/22/2015 | 5:58:27 PM
Re: interesting issues at launch
@Susan: I too do not have tattoos and have tried the Apple watch. Today I bought one at a store which is still a rarity. The device is impressive and will only get better. You are right about the criticism aimed at Apple. In many ways it is because the devices are so expensive and the fanboi cult that has developed. But Apple builds quality products and they know how to make a great user experience. I tip my hat to them.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
5/10/2015 | 1:44:12 PM
Re: interesting issues at launch
tjgkg. I have my doubts this being a real issue precisely because other smartwatches were previously on the market. How come no one reported anything about the sensors? Some people always have something to make up about the Apple products and the rest just repeats what they have heard, or read. I haven't yet tried an Apple watch, and I have no tattoo so probably I will never know the truth about this. -Susan
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
5/10/2015 | 1:34:57 PM
Re: interesting issues at launch
Kelly, I still have my doubts About this being a legit claim about a real issue. -Susan
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Strategist
5/5/2015 | 4:19:18 PM
Re: interesting issues at launch
It did sound strange to me at first (I don't have a wrist tattoo and don't plan on getting one), but the more I think about it, the more it seems like this is something that should have been considered. Apple knows it has a huge, diverse fanbase. If it wants millions of customers to pay $350+ for its watch, it should've done some more digging into how the sensors could be affected.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/5/2015 | 10:59:57 AM
Re: interesting issues at launch
@Susan: The tatoos today are different from the ones I saw growing up (which weren't that many to begin with). Today the tatoos are more like dark shirts. They completely block out the skin. One wonders whether a person could get ink poisoning the pigmentation is that dark. Also the tatoos are quite detailed so that also might interfere with  the sensors. I think Apple should have thought of it. But i do not see any lasting harm - if anything this will probably add to the allure of the watch and build more demand.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/5/2015 | 10:42:16 AM
Re: interesting issues at launch
I agree with you but do not think this will put a damper on sales of the watch. If anything it might spur even more sales because people want the watch so badly. And i think the Apple fanboi's will buy regardless of any issues.
tjgkg
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50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/5/2015 | 10:38:52 AM
Re: interesting issues at launch
Most of the time Apple is the innovator and the one without the experience. This time they are not as other manufacturers have released smart watches before Apple. There really is no excuse for this because they know how the sensors work so they should have devised a test plan that tries to screw up the sensors.
tjgkg
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50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/5/2015 | 10:33:21 AM
Re: the opportunity
The interesting thing is that Apple waited for its competitors to release smart watches first to learn from them! As far  as i know, no other watch has reported these issues.
tjgkg
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50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/5/2015 | 10:31:39 AM
Re: interesting issues at launch
Apple should have anticipated this considering they knew how the sensors worked. And I would figure that some of the Apple employees would have tatoos that could possibly interfere with the sensors. It is not like they rush released this product, they took their time and still screwed it up.
tjgkg
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50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
5/5/2015 | 10:29:24 AM
Re: interesting issues at launch
Apple waited a long time before releasing the watch. THey should have anticipated all possible issues in QA and did not. That is surprising. I think that the watch is still going to sell but a lot of folks will wait for the next version because that will address most if not all the known bugs. Apple is charging a huge premium for this product. The public deserves better.
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