Update: Apple won a reprieve on December 27, 2023, after the US Court of Appeals granted a stay to the ban. The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 are set to return to the Apple Store on December 28. The International Trade Commission will likely appeal early next month.
This is a dramatic and unusual situation in the world of tech, and we’re sure Apple Watch owners and prospective buyers of the best Apple Watches have lots of questions about it, so here’s an FAQ to break down everything we know so far.
Why are Apple Watches being taken off shelves in the US?
Apple is taking steps to comply with an order from the International Trade Commission, or ITC, due to a “technical intellectual property dispute pertaining to Apple Watch devices containing the Blood Oxygen feature,” according to a statement from the company. A patent battle between Apple and a company called Masimo over the blood oxygen sensor in the Apple Watch has led to the ban, as Apple and Masimo dispute over the sensor’s usage in Apple products.
Will the Apple Watch I ordered still arrive in time for Christmas?
If you’ve paid for your Apple Watch already for delivery or collection before Christmas, you should receive it as planned, with no disruption.
How long can Apple keep selling Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2?
Online, Apple can keep selling these models until 3pm ET / 10am PT on December 21, 2023 in the US. Physical US Apple Store locations can keep selling the models until December 24, 2023. If you order online for collection in an Apple Store, you’ll be able to collect your order until December 24, 2023.
I’ve bought an Apple Watch Series 9 or Ultra 2 to collect in-store. Can I still get it?
Yes, until December 24, 2023.
What about Apple Watch SE?
The current Apple Watch SE 2 is not affected at all, because the patent that Apple has been ruled as infringing applies to the blood oxygen sensor of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2, and the Apple Watch SE does not have this sensor.
What about older Apple Watches, like the Apple Watch 8 or 7, or original Apple Watch Ultra?
Though these three devices do have the same blood oxygen sensor as the newer models, Apple has told TechRadar that the features and functionality will not be affected for anyone who already owns these devices.
Will the Apple Watches still be on sale outside of the US?
Yes, this ban affects only the US.
Which retailers are affected?
Apple stores, both online and bricks-and-mortar, will stop selling the affected watches as soon as the ban comes into effect. Retailers such as Best Buy and Target will not have to stop selling devices they already have in their possession, but Apple will not be able to sell them any more stock after December 25, 2023. So while these retailers can sell the devices, once they run out of stock, no more will arrive until the ban is lifted.
When will Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 be back on sale?
We don’t know. Apple has said it is “preemptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand”, and we’ll know more after the Presidential Review Period ends on December 25, 2023. Apple has plans to appeal the ruling.
What happens to the watches in stores now?
Retailers other than Apple will be able to sell the stock they have even if the ban begins as expected on December 25, 2023. We don’t know what will happen to the stock in Apple Stores – we expect Apple will hold onto it in the expectation of overturning the ban in 2024.
Who is Masimo?
Masimo, according to its website, is a "global medical technology company that develops and manufactures innovative noninvasive patient monitoring technologies". Masimo develops technologies and sensors to monitor health metrics both in hospitals and at home, developing specialist hospital equipment as well as consumer stuff like – you’ve guessed it – watches with blood oxygen sensors in them.
Could Apple lose this battle?
Historically, it’s unlikely. Apple is facing several legal challenges at the moment and has faced them in the past before, although we can’t recall ever seeing sales of Apple products being halted before. Back in Feb, we examined the history of these kind of challenges and did note that President Obama vetoed an important ban on iPhones and iPads, which led to a key victory and allowed Apple to keep selling its products. But there’s always a first time…
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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.