Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 Ban: The Latest and What You Need to Know – CNET

Apple will resume selling the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 in the US, at least for now. The company had stopped selling the wearables because of an ongoing legal battle with health tech company Masimo over the blood oxygen detection feature in those watches. 

The US International Trade Commission, the federal agency that handles trade-related mandates, previously issued an order that would prohibit Apple from importing the Series 9 and Ultra 2. The decision came after a US judge ruled in January that Apple had infringed on Masimo patents related to the technology used in Apple’s blood oxygen sensing system. The order was under presidential review until Dec. 25 and became final on Dec. 26 after US Trade Representative Katherine Tai decided not to reverse the ITC’s decision. 

Apple received a temporary win Wednesday after an Appeals Court paused the ban, allowing Apple to resume selling the devices on Thursday. Apple says that the company expects the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to hear its motion as early as Jan. 15 regarding a stay that would last for the entire duration of the appeal. 

Apple is immediately restarting sales of both watches, and both the Series 9 and Ultra 2 watches became available to purchase on Apple’s website Thursday. According to a Wednesday statement, Apple is also working on changes to the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in order to keep the devices on sale.

“Apple strongly disagrees with the ITC’s decision. In addition to the appeal at the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Apple is vigorously pursuing legal and technical options to ensure that we can continue to provide consumers with Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, including having submitted a proposed redesigned Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 for US Customs approval,” Apple’s statement said.

According to Bloomberg, Apple has been working on software changes to the Apple Watch’s blood oxygen detection feature, and the government is expected to decide on Jan. 12 whether those updates are sufficient. 

The Apple Watch is one of Apple’s most important products and has helped make the company’s wearables, home and accessories business its second-largest product category, behind the iPhone. Apple has previously said the size of its wearables unit alone equals that of a Fortune 150 company. Smartwatches were also among the top products sold during the Black Friday period, according to holiday shopping data from Adobe

Apple began pausing online sales of the affected watches on Dec. 21 and halted in-store sales on Dec. 24. The ITC order specifically applies to sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 through Apple in the US. The watches have remained on sale through Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart and Target. The Apple Watch SE, which does not include a blood oxygen detection feature, is not affected. 

Watch this: The Apple Watch Sales Pause Impacts One of Apple’s Biggest Products

Apple issued the following statement in response to the initial ITC decision.

“At Apple, we work tirelessly to create products and services that meaningfully impact users’ lives. It’s what drives our teams — Clinical, Design and Engineering — to dedicate years to developing scientifically validated health, fitness and wellness features for Apple Watch, and we are inspired that millions of people around the world have benefited greatly from this product. We strongly disagree with the USITC decision and resulting exclusion order, and are taking all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the U.S. as soon as possible.”

Masimo CEO Joe Kiani had said the January decision “should help restore fairness in the market.” 

Can I buy the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 from other retailers?

The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 are both on sale again at retailers in addition to Apple. The ITC order affected US sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 through Apple, but 9to5Mac points out that the order prohibited Apple from importing these watches and selling them to resellers, which could limit the watches’ availability should both watches become restricted from sale at a later date. 

The order only applied to sales in the US, meaning the Series 9 and Ultra 2 were still available abroad. 

Best Buy and Walmart both confirmed that they would continue selling the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2. Amazon and Target did not respond to CNET’s question about whether the affected watches will continue to be sold, but all four retailers continued offering both watches through their websites. 

Which Apple Watch models are affected?

The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 are the only models affected. Since the legal dispute involves the blood oxygen sensing tech used in the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch SE continues to be sold as usual. The Apple Watch SE is the lower-end model in Apple’s lineup, meaning it’s missing some health tracking features like blood oxygen sensing and the ability to take an ECG.

Current Apple Watches with blood oxygen monitoring, which includes any non-SE models starting with the Series 6, also remain unaffected. There is no impact for those who already own the Apple Watch Series 9 or Ultra 2.

What is Masimo and why did Apple halt sales?

Masimo is a medical technology company that creates professional and consumer health products, including a smartwatch called the Masimo W1. The ITC order is the latest development in an ongoing legal dispute between Apple and Masimo, in which the latter accused Apple of infringing on its pulse oximeter patents

What happens next?

Apple said it’s pursuing a range of legal and technical options to permanently resume Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 sales. 

Apple is awaiting the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to hear the company’s motion for a stay on the temporary lifting of the sales ban, which is expected to take place as early as Jan. 15. Apple is requesting that sales be allowed during the entire duration of the company’s appeal.

Apple is also working on a proposed redesign in an effort to no longer infringe on Masimo’s patents, about which the customs office will review and issue a ruling on Jan. 12, according to Reuters

Apple didn’t provide details about what the proposed redesign entails. Ahead of the decision being finalized, Bloomberg reported that Apple was developing a software change that alters how the watches monitor and present blood oxygen levels as a workaround. 

If I can’t buy an Apple Watch Series 9 or Ultra 2, what are my alternatives?

Those with an iPhone who just want a smartwatch for tracking activity, workouts and sleep should consider the $249 Apple Watch SE. While it lacks ECG and blood oxygen monitoring, it can still provide notifications for high and low heart rates and irregular heart rhythms. 

The Apple Watch SE is the best choice for those who are most comfortable in Apple’s ecosystem, but other options work across iPhone and Android, like the Fitbit Versa 4 and Garmin Venu 3.

Those who are specifically looking to monitor blood oxygen levels from home should consider buying a standalone pulse oximeter, said Jennifer Schrack, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

“Consumer wearables are a great supplemental way for people to stay informed about their health, but they are subject to error,” Schrack said over email. “It is important to remember that they are measuring blood oxygen using PPG sensors, which can be affected by things like skin tone.”

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