VivaLnk Digital Tattoo Review: An Android's best friend

When we first heard about digital tattoos, the thought of forever bonding one's self with technology that could very well be outdated by the time the art was done seemed... less than appealing. As it turned out, Motorola's first chatter on the next level in the wearables game wasn't quite so permanent. This week we're having a peek at the digital tattoo as created by VivaLnk for Motorola's Moto X.The following review is being conducted over the course of a week. Each temporary application of this digital tattoo hardware is meant to last one week exactly, so we're beginning on August 6th and ending 7 days later. Each day will have an update on how the one tattoo is doing and on how well we're adjusting to unlocking our smartphone with an NFC tag applied to our skin.


VivaLnk has created a piece of hardware that you can apply to your skin. The digital tattoo is akin to a temporary tattoo, attaching to your skin with an adhesive-backed transparent material that traps a coil of metallic components to your wrist.

You can apply the tattoo anywhere you don't have hair, but VivaLnk suggests you place it in the same location their arm model does – just about an inch above your hand on your wrist. There it'll be easy to access and tap with your Motorola Moto X.

For now, this line of temporary digital tattoos only works with Moto X. In the future, it's easy to see how VivaLnk will be able to broaden their range to any number of different applications. Think about opening your door with your wrist – or tapping in to your vehicle.

The design we've been send has a lovely set of ovals encircling one another all inside a perfect circle, all in a bronze tone. Hidden within is the technology we need to unlock the Moto X.


Setting up a Moto X with a digital tattoo is almost exactly the same process as setting up a Motorola Skip. We even compared Motorola Skip to a digital tattoo back in August of 2013 when the device was first introduced.

This video shows our first application of a digital tattoo to a human arm. That's my human arm – your narrator – and you'll notice how I neglect pulling out the tab before holding the tattoo down for 10 seconds. Remember this for later as it may have an effect on how long the tattoo lasts.

Above you'll see the simple set-up screen from Motorola's Skip interface. Below is the sheet of digital tattoos you receive when you make a purchase from VivaLnk.

You'll effectively be teaching your Moto X the unique code included in the NFC tag inside the tattoo. When you do this, whenever you place your (locked) Moto X on your wrist in the correct position (centered on the back), your device will unlock. There's really nothing to it.

Day 1

After the extremely simple application of the device to my wrist, it became apparent that the tattoo wasn't as perfectly flat against my skin as I assumed it would be. The teasers made by VivaLnk and/or Motorola make it appear as though the metal is stuck to your skin when in fact it's held to your skin by an ultra-thin piece of transparent material.

It's not displeasing to wear. In fact I can't really tell that I've got the digital tattoo applied to my skin save the fact that I can see it. I also can't stop looking at it because I don't have any other tattoos and can't quite get used to the idea that I've got something applied to my skin.

Unlocking the Moto X with the tattoo is fun. I feel more in-tune with my phone than I've ever felt before. Almost like the phone needs me to function, rather than just me needing it.

Day 2

And just like that, less than 18 hours later, it's back off again. Once I washed my arm, the tattoo basically fell right off.

Two possibilities are in play here given the fact that this digital tattoo was meant to stay on for a week and it's lasted a bit under a day:

1. This adhesive isn't meant for a person with my lifestyle. I've got a toddler at home, I get my arms wet more often than the average (non-parent) person. I also have my wrists up against a laptop 9+ hours a day. Stuff happens.

2. I didn't put the digital tattoo on correctly in the first place. If you'll have a peek at the video above you'll see I left the tab on where I should have pulled it out right away. This could very easily be the reason the tattoo came off basically the moment it hit water.

I'm certainly willing to give VivaLnk the benefit of the doubt here. I'm putting a second tattoo on now to continue to the review.

As you can see here, I'm also placing this unit slightly further up my arm so my skin doesn't fold around it quite as much. We'll see how it goes.

As for how handy the tattoo has been thus far – it's alright. It's abundantly clear that this is meant to be the first step in a long line of similar projects. For what it's supposed to be, this digital tattoo is perfect.

Day 3

A new tattoo applied, it would appear that our first application simply wasn't strong enough. This second tattoo appears to be lasting through much more of our everyday activities.

Day 4

The second tattoo has lasted through two showers and appears to be going strong through the night. Unlocking the phone works fine, too.

Day 5

Searching for a lost CD under a car seat, the tattoo was ripped off. Don't worry though, anything less than a real tattoo would likely have done the same thing.

Day 6

A third tattoo has been applied and it's become abundantly clear that the limits of this technology are only temporary. While we'll be glad to see a stronger adhesive for the tattoo in the future, for now this'll do.

Stick around the VivaLnk tag portal for more – we're going to be looking at additional tech from this group in the near future!