In a strategic move to circumvent a potential US import ban, Apple’s newest watches have temporarily disabled a crucial component—the pulse oximeter. However, these models are not yet on sale.
A recent patent infringement claim led Apple to suspend sales of its latest Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 in the US. While the legal proceedings are ongoing, Apple seems to be proactively eliminating the contentious blood oxygen sensor feature.
Bloomberg has reported that Apple is now distributing watches without the active disputed feature, suggesting a software-based modification rather than a physical alteration. Consequently, the US Customs and Border Protection has determined that these modified watches are exempt from the import ban, clearing them for sale.
These watches have reportedly been delivered to Apple stores, which have been directed to hold off on sales until further instructions are issued. This preemptive measure positions Apple to swiftly transition to the modified version should the legal appeal be unsuccessful. The court’s ruling on the appeal is anticipated shortly, potentially resulting in a ban lasting up to one year.
Apple is believed to be developing a software update that would modify the sensor’s algorithm to sidestep the ban while retaining its functionality. Nonetheless, the immediate solution was to disable the feature.
The implications for existing Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Series 9 users, who currently have access to the functioning feature, remain unclear. Apple has not yet provided guidance, but it appears the company is seeking a long-term resolution to maintain the feature.
Since the ban pertains solely to the importation of new watches, existing devices may remain unaffected. However, there is a possibility that Apple might choose to deactivate the feature across all devices to avoid legal issues. Users who rely on this feature should stay informed about any forthcoming Apple software updates.