Apple to disable blood-oxygen feature on watches sold in US

Apple Watch Series 9 or Ultra 2 will no longer have the blood-oxygen sensor available because of a patent dispute

The US International Trade Commission in late October ruled a blood-oxygen sensor in the Apple Watch models infringed on Masimo's patents. AP
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Apple says it will disable a blood-oxygen monitoring feature on its two most popular watches in the US starting on Thursday, to comply with a court-ordered revival of a sales ban stemming from a patent dispute.

The decision to turn off the blood-oxygen sensor for consumers who buy either the Apple Watch Series 9 or Ultra 2 in the US came after a federal appeals court on Wednesday refused to extend an order that had allowed the watches to remain in stores during a battle over the rights to some of the technology.

A temporary stay issued by the US Court of Appeals three weeks ago had allowed the two watch models to return to shops in the US after Apple pulled them from shelves and websites just before Christmas as part of a long-running battle with medical technology company Masimo.

The US International Trade Commission in late October ruled the sensor in the Apple Watch models infringed on Masimo's patents, a finding that Apple is trying to overturn in an appeals court.

But that process could take at least a year, forcing the California-based company to find another way to keep its premium watches available in the US.

In a Monday court filing, Masimo disclosed Apple has won approval from the US Customs and Border Protection on revisions that would remove the blood-oxygen sensor from the watches.

Indicating Apple's confidence of winning the appeal of the ITC ruling, the Series 9 and Ultra 2 models sold in the US starting on Thursday will still come with a blood oxygen icon, but when it's pressed, users will be greeted by a notice telling them the technology is not available.

Those who have already bought the Series 9 and Ultra 2 models in the US will still be able to use the blood-oxygen sensor, which will continue to work on those purchased outside the US.

If Apple had opted to stop selling the Series 9 and Ultra 2 in the US, it could have put a small dent in the company’s annual sales of $383 billion.

Although the company doesn’t disclose the volume of Apple Watch sales, analyst estimate the product accounts for about $18 billion in annual revenue.

Apple's lower-cost watch, called the SE, isn't affected by the changes caused by the battle with Masimo because that model has never had the blood oxygen feature.

But that technology, which Apple introduced into its watch line-up in 2020, has been a key part of the company's effort to position the devices as life-saving tools to monitor users' health.

Updated: January 18, 2024, 11:14 PM