Apple Watch abandons blood oxygen feature to evade import ban

Blood oxygen sensors in Apple Watches violated Masimo's patents, led to dislodge of Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 from all Apple stores
The image shows an Apple Watch on a guys wrist. — Pixabay
The image shows an Apple Watch on a guy's wrist. — Pixabay

The blood oxygen feature, offered with the Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2, might not be available anymore.

As the tech giant hasn't itself declared whether this report, published by Bloomberg, it is uncertain if the said feature will stay or move away from the most sold smartwatch in the world.

The publication further noted that the US Customs and Border Protection has nodded to Apple's move to proceed and reestablish its Apple Watch sales without the blood oxygen feature.

Read more: Vision Pro to bring one less feature Apple promised

Due to a patent disagreement with medical device manufacturer Masimo, the Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 faced a ban in the US towards the end of the previous year.

The International Trade Commission (ITC) determined that the blood oxygen sensors in both devices violated Masimo's patents. With the ban set to come into effect on December 26th, 2023, Apple removed the Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 from both its physical and online stores in the days leading up to the enforcement date.

Since then, the tech giant has been exploring ways to alter the functionalities of the smartwatches, relocate its smartwatches on store shelves, and recapture the audience that opted for the competing rivals in the realm of high-end smartwatches.

Customs had the responsibility of assessing whether the modifications proposed by the company were sufficient. According to a letter from Masimo's legal representatives, as reported by 9to5Mac, it seems that all involved parties were in consensus regarding the updated strategy to eliminate the feature from the Apple Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2.

“Apple’s claim that its redesigned watch does not contain pulse oximetry is a positive step toward accountability,” Matt Whewell, director of Global Communications at Masimo, told The Verge via email.

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg correspondent, in a separate report claimed that remodelled watches have already been loaded in the Apple retail stores but with the instructions not to sell them until they get approval from the corporate.

For now, the feature appears to still be active on watches already sold and Apple spokesperson Nikki Rothberg told The Verge via email that the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 would continue to be available with the feature (though she did not clarify how long that would be the case). So, it’s unclear exactly what all this means for Apple Watch owners and prospective owners.