Motorola announced on Tuesday its newest method for unlocking your phone. If a PIN or a pattern, facial recognition, or even the Moto Skip is too much work, you can now unlock your Moto X with the latest in wearables: a digital tattoo.

The digital tattoo was teased by Motorola’s Regina Dugan at last year’s All Things “D11” conference as a future innovation. To keep things in context, she also spoke of the eerily futuristic “Vitamin Authentication”: a pill which, after being swallowed, reacts with stomach acid to power a battery that creates an 18-bit signal. This effectively transforms the user’s entire body into a password transmitter.

It’s not actually a tattoo in the typical sense of the word. The digital tattoo is, in fact,  a paper thin tag, about the size of a nickel, which adheres to your skin. It’s made of highly flexible materials, and utilizes NFC to unlock your phone by tapping it on the tag. It’s essentially the same technology used in the Skip, but now fastened directly to your body.

They digital tattoo may not have the permanence of an ink tattoo, nor the level of artistry in the latter. But Motorola promises that it will remain attached and functional for about five days, and will survive showering, exercise, and swimming. And they tout the beauty of its design, which, in the opinion of this author (who, by the way, has no tattoos), it’s not bad.

Digital Tattoo_1

In a video presentation included with Motorola’s press release, Deepak Chandra of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group touts the digital tattoo as an efficiency measure. He states that the average user unlocks their phone 39 times a day, spending 2.3 seconds on each unlock. Proclaiming this as unacceptably cumbersome, they offer the NFC-tap on the digital tattoo as a streamlining process improvement.

While it may save time, the digital tattoo certainly is not as cost-efficient as the Skip. You can buy packs of 10 digital tattoos, which constitutes a 50-day supply, from Vivalink, who partnered with Google’s ATAP group on this project, for $9.99. In contrast, the Skip is only a one-time purchase of $9.99.

As of the time of writing of this article, the digital tattoo was only available for the Moto X. But Vivalink’s site states that it they’d like to expand it for use with other phones as well, and even lets interested customers inform them of what phone they’d like to use it with.

Now, we’re all somewhat focused on wearables, and NFC is not new, and is actually a technology that I wish were utilized more.  But I’m not sure how comfortable I feel about technology that’s actually attached to the body. I know it’s not permanent, and can be removed whenever you want. But is this a step towards implanted chips, or perhaps permanently inked bar codes or QR codes?

What do you think? Are you concerned that this is a move towards permanently affixed identification devices? And if so, do you welcome that? Would you like to streamline the process of logging in to your phone? Do you leave your phone unlocked when you go out in public because it’s too cumbersome to unlock. Or is it not even important to you to lock the device. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Website: The Official Motorola Blog
Website: Vivalink


About the author

Fred Scholl

I'm an unabashed enthusiast of all things Android, open-source, and technology in general. I'm also an avid music lover and musician, playing guitar, bass, keyboards, and a host of other stringed instruments.


  • This is the definition of wearables. I know a lot of people think it’s pointless but I wouldn’t be surprised if a permanent tattoo became the norm in the future.