Starting January 18, Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 models in the U.S. will be sold without the Blood Oxygen feature, as reported by 9to5Mac's Chance Miller. This adaptation is Apple's strategy to circumvent a sales ban on these models. The adjustment will be implemented on Apple's online U.S. store from 6 a.m. Pacific Time.
According to the report, these models will retain the Blood Oxygen app, but users will encounter a notification stating the app's unavailability upon opening it, with a redirection to the Health app on the iPhone. Apple is set to release a support document on its website providing further details.
Apple has verified that the Blood Oxygen app will continue to function on Series 9 and Ultra 2 models sold previously. This feature will also remain active on Apple Watches sold in markets outside the U.S., as the ban is only effective domestically.
The ban's origin dates back to last year when the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) mandated a ban on the import and sale of Apple Watch models equipped with the blood oxygen sensing feature. This decision was based on Apple's violation of Masimo's pulse oximetry patents, a feature initially introduced with the Series 6 model in 2020. Masimo has alleged that Apple engaged in unethical practices, including employee poaching and trade secret theft.
Although the sales ban commenced last month, it was temporarily halted after Apple was granted an interim stay. However, the company's request for a longer-term stay was denied, prompting the reinstatement of the ban starting at 2 p.m. Pacific Time.
In response, Apple has deactivated the blood oxygen sensing feature on the new models sold in the U.S. to align with the ruling and minimize customer inconvenience. The company is appealing the decision, expressing strong disagreement with the ITC's ruling and hoping for a reversal by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
In an effort to find a lasting resolution, Apple is reportedly revising the Blood Oxygen app's algorithm to sidestep Masimo's patented technology. The timeline for these updates, and their effectiveness in preventing patent infringement, remains uncertain.
UPDATE: Apple has now updated its website to reflect the removal of the feature.