Amidst the irrational fears of flop and flail, it’s not surprising that many Apple Watch early adopters are coming away from the experience feeling a bit burned.
Justin Sluss of Apple Watch Loop (follow him on Twitter @AppleWatchLoop) has assembled complete, comprehensive coverage of a new, mostly unreported phenomenon going around dubbed “Apple Watch Burn.” (Obviously, to preserve Apple’s storied tradition, I will heretofore refer to the matter as “Burngate.”) And what seemed at first to be an unlikely event has turned out to be bigger and more widespread than I’d previously thought. Here’s the first time I ever heard of the issue:
— Just A Watch (@justawatch) July 10, 2015
And here was my prematurely dismissive response:
Looks more like someone's wearing their Apple Watch too tightly. The other mark doesn't seem to line up with the LEDs either. @justawatch
— andy (@ndyfaust) July 10, 2015
But the pictures kept (and keep) coming in from different users, and they all indicate something more serious than a simple skin reaction to Apple Watch’s hypoallergenic materials — nothing is totally allergen free for everybody, after all. Early reports of Band rashes (partly cataloged here) were typical but easily explained away, as sweat and grime and synthetics can sometimes chafe and rub together in a way that sensitive skin doesn’t like. But Burngate is different:
— Paula Cerutti (@PaulaCerutti) July 8, 2015
Sluss has more information on his post, along with his theory about why this is happening. It’s important to note that so far, per lifestyle site Fusion (who was the first notable outlet to report on Burngate),
Apple declined to comment about the burn reports.
That’s not good.
And that means, in my opinion, that this is mostly a manufactory issue. While Sluss believes the problem lies primarily in heavy heart rate monitor use during workouts (which heats up the battery and the bottom sensor’s LEDs), I think that’s only a small part of what’s going on. Rather, I think the chief issue is two-fold:
- Some users are have extreme skin sensitivities.
Thus, a barely noticeable uptick in temperature for most others would be almost unbearable — and skin-reactive — for this minority. So, perhaps coupled with mild allergies they didn’t know they have, they get irritations and burns. But those would generally be temporary, and they certainly wouldn’t lead to the scarring seen in the Tweet above (although a major allergy might).
- This is a wiring defect inside certain Apple Watches.
This is the more concerning component. I’m no electrician, but I’ve had my fair share of battery and LED blowouts where the capacitors failed and too much power discharged, causing intense heat and, sometimes, device failure. (Have you ever burned yourself with a flashlight? I have, right before the flashlight burned itself out.) We all know how complex Apple Watch is, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if — in some cases — the heart rate monitor was exacerbating a borked power setting or gimped control board parameter. Again, I know nothing of the technicalities of all this, but anything involving electricity can also involve faulty discharges. Such cases might be rarities, but I’m pretty sure Apple — even without offering comment — is taking a serious look into this issue.
For complete coverage of Burngate, please visit Apple Watch Loop.