Apple may have found a way to evade the ongoing Apple Watch ban, and allow the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to remain on sale in the United States. And it reportedly comes down to removing the blood oxygen monitoring feature.
The ban arose after the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Apple had infringed on patents relating to blood oxygen sensing tech — which is owned by Masimo. While it was ruled the infringing technology had been in place since the Apple Watch Series 6, only the latest Apple smartwatches were briefly pulled from sale — though Apple was later permitted to continue sales while it appealed the decision.
It was rumored that Apple would disable the infringing tech via a software update, in order to circumvent the ban and continue selling its latest wearables in the U.S. Now it seems that plan has been confirmed by Masimo (via Bloomberg). The company is reported to have said U.S. Customs and Border Protection have approved the move, deciding “that Apple’s redesign falls outside the scope” of an import ban.
The workaround is software based, meaning that the physical makeup of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 are going unchanged. It’s unclear whether this means Apple Watches sold outside the U.S. will continue to offer blood oxygen monitoring, or if Apple will end up enacting the change on a global scale.
Of course, the change will only be happening if Apple fails to win a longer stay from the U.S. federal appeals court. The company has applied for a stay to cover the entire appeals period, which Apple expects could last a year or more. If successful Apple would be able to continue to sell unmodified Apple Watches unimpeded — as it has been doing since late last year.
If unsuccessful, then the modified watches will go on sale. According to Bloomberg, modified Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watches have already begun shipping to Apple Stores in the U.S., but under strict instructions that they’re not to go on sale until Apple officially gives the go-ahead.
It’s not clear what this means for existing Apple Watch owners, and whether the changes will mean their blood oxygen monitoring features will be left alone or turned off in a future software update. Legal processes take time, unfortunately, so we’re going to have to sit back and wait to see how this one plays out in the courtroom.
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Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.