Apple has finally begun deliveries of the long-awaited Apple Watch. While many pre-order customers will have to wait until late May and June to snap it on, other consumers were lucky enough to walk out of Apple retail stores on April 24 proudly wearing what some are calling the game-changer in watches, fitness devices and mobile health technology.
Hopefully, the new owners of Apple Watches don't have to deal with the unexpected health challenges a new wearable can bring — and by the same token, Apple hopefully won't have to face the consumer complaints that hit Fitbit and LG in 2014.
As Apple's own user guide reveals, there is potential for a slew of issues resulting from wearing the Watch. In addition to the usual litany of safety precautions with any sort of battery-operated and electronic device (e.g. injury from a cracked screen, the danger of texting on the Watch while driving), there is a big warning regarding skin condition reactions.
Here's what the guide says under the "skin sensitivities" section:
"Some people may experience reactions to certain materials used in jewelry, watches, and other wearable items that are in prolonged contact with their skin," warns the guide, explaining the reactions could be related to environmental factors, allergies and extended exposure to irritants such as sweat and even soap.
"You may be more likely to experience irritation from any wearable device if you have allergies or other sensitivities. If you have known skin sensitivities, please take special care when wearing Apple Watch."
The guide also advises not wearing a Watch too tightly on the wrist. Users may even want to take advantage of the alert function to remind themselves to take off the Watch periodically so their skin can breath.
And if what happened to more than a few Fitbit wearable users does occur – a skin irritation, a rash, itchiness, redness and overall discomfort from wearing the Watch – then it's time to take off the Watch and get to a doctor before putting it on again.
"Continued use, even after symptoms subside, may result in renewed or increased irritation," states the user guide.
Consumers who buy the stainless steel band for that spanking new Watch Sport should be aware that there's nickel in the band and the watch's magnet. While the guide claims nickel exposure is "unlikely," some users with known allergies should pay close attention upon initial wear. Also, the Milanese Loop, Modern Buckle and Leather Loop bands contain trace amounts of methacrylates from adhesives.
While Methacrylates exposure is "unlikely," customers with known methacrylate allergies should keep an eye out for potential reactions. The user guide, which actually reads more like a potential injury liability statement, notes the materials used in Watch and its bands meet the standards set for jewelry by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, related European regulations and international standards.
In short, Apple Watch users should take a big page from initial Fitbit fitness tracker consumers, as most – if not all – of the noted skin issues in the Apple guide cropped up last year, leading to Fitbit actually recalling one of its products.
Fitbit was prompted by a federal consumer safety agency to recall its Force wristband and dole out refunds to users who did develop skin irritations to the stainless steel casing in the device, the strap and other components. It nearly faced the same situation with its Fitbit Flex, but as complaints were not as numerous or serious, a recall was not stipulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Fitbit did however make changes to that product as well.
Smartphone maker LG dealt with some consumer complaints with its G Watch last year as well. Skin irritation complaints were made due to the corrosion on the pins the watch used to charge the battery. Unlike Fitbit, however, LG only needed to issue a warning to users and did not have to recall any products.
In addition to issues of skin sensitivity, the Apple user guide also notes some other potential health issues that may come into play with wearing the Watch. While most are common sense – don't wear it while charging, don't listen to music so loudly for extended period as it may injure your hearing – others are more serious warnings.
People with pacemakers and defibrillators should check with device manufacturers before wearing the Watch, as it could impede those devices. Also, users shouldn't rely on the heart rate sensor for diagnosing health or disease, as the function is there purely for fitness needs.
"Apple Watch is not intended for use where the failure of the device could lead to death, personal injury, or severe environmental damage," states the guide.