Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 may be back on sale in the US soon – with a catch

Apple Watch Series 9
(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Apple is reportedly readying a workaround to the US ban on the sale of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 – by removing the ability to read your blood oxygen levels. 

In case you missed it, Apple can no longer sell the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 (its latest and best Apple Watches) in the US due to a patent dispute with health tech company Masimo. The dispute centers around the watch’s blood oxygen sensor, which Masimo claims infringes on its copyright. 

9to5Mac reports that Apple has proposed a redesign of the Series 9 and Ultra 2 that would allow it to continue selling the watches without the pulse oximetry features. US Customs found on Friday, January 12 that the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2’s redesign, sans-pulse-oximetry features, “falls outside the scope of the remedial orders in the ITC Investigation underlying Apple’s appeal”, according to a filing from Masimo’s legal team. 

This means the watches can be sold again in the US, as long as they do not have those features. Masimo’s lawyers’ filing goes on to state that “In Apple’s request under 19 C.F.R. Part 177 (in a portion it did not identify as confidential), Apple explained ‘that its Redesigned Watch Products definitively (i) do not contain pulse oximetry functionality…’”.

We’ll hear more about the US Customs’ decision in due course, but existing owners should rest assured that if you’ve already bought a Series 9 or Ultra 2, you’re not going to be affected by this decision. 

 Analysis: Big hardware alterations? 

It sounds like Apple has caved in order to get its watches back on shelves as fast as possible, and redesigned the watches to remove the functionality entirely. This is very different from simply removing the option to access the feature, which likely could have been reversed if the legal battle ended up going Apple’s way. 

Apple is still keeping the details of the redesign confidential for the moment. There’s a lot of speculation, and we don’t even have a concrete date for when Apple will resume selling its Apple Watches in the US. In the meantime, you can still snap one up at stores like Best Buy, which is offering Apple Watch Series 9 at a $70 discount right now

However, be warned: if you need a repair or replacement to your existing watch, you may be affected by Apple's required changes to its repair and replacement plan. This isn't just for new watches: this will affect historic models as far back as the Apple Watch 6.

If you don’t live in the US, there is no change to the way things are done: Masimo’s patent claim only applies to watches in the US. For UK, European, Asian and and Australian buyers, life goes on and you can still snap up a watch from Apple as normal. 

Update 15/01/2024: TechRadar has been sent a statement from a Masimo spokesperson, stating the following:

"Apple's claim that its redesigned watch does not contain pulse oximetry is a positive step toward accountability. It is especially important that one of the world's largest and most powerful companies respects the intellectual property rights of smaller companies and complies with ITC orders when it is caught infringing. "

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Matt Evans
Fitness, Wellness, and Wearables Editor

Matt is TechRadar's expert on all things fitness, wellness and wearable tech. A former staffer at Men's Health, he holds a Master's Degree in journalism from Cardiff and has written for brands like Runner's World, Women's Health, Men's Fitness, LiveScience and Fit&Well on everything fitness tech, exercise, nutrition and mental wellbeing.

Matt's a keen runner, ex-kickboxer, not averse to the odd yoga flow, and insists everyone should stretch every morning. When he’s not training or writing about health and fitness, he can be found reading doorstop-thick fantasy books with lots of fictional maps in them.