The next Apple Watch may be missing a headline health feature

Apple's Jeff Williams unveils the Apple Watch Series 6 in September 2020.
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple’s very public dispute with health device maker Masimo has got tongues wagging over the possibility of the Apple Watch – one of the best smartwatches in the world – being banned in the US. As a result, Apple has had to disable blood oxygen monitoring features on its devices – and that could have serious implications for other planned features.

As Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman notes in his latest Power On newsletter, sleep apnea tracking – a key feature that’s rumored to be coming to the next Apple Watch later this year – might be at risk.

Why? Well, Apple’s conflict with Masimo all comes down to patents Masimo holds regarding blood oxygen monitoring. Apple has recently been ruled to be in violation of those patents, and the company was forced to implement a software fix that disabled the feature in any new Watches it sold.

Gurman believes that being able to keep track of blood oxygen is vital for sleep apnea monitoring, and that if Apple is barred from implementing any kind of blood oxygen feature in its wearables, that would have a knock-on effect on its sleep apnea plans, and potentially other upcoming new features as well if they also rely on checking blood oxygen levels.

The Apple Watch X is in the crosshairs

the blood oxygen app on the apple watch 6

(Image credit: Apple)

This wouldn’t be a problem if Apple is able to quickly resolve its patent dispute with Masimo. But at the moment, that doesn’t seem likely.

That’s because Apple has appealed the ruling. Appeals can be lengthy processes, and Apple’s is expected to take at least a year. That means the next Apple Watch (due out this year) might have to go without Apple’s flagship sleep apnea feature.

It’s terrible timing for Apple, since the 2024 Apple Watch will be the company’s tenth anniversary model. According to the rumor mill, it’ll be branded the Apple Watch X and could come with a slate of special features to mark the occasion. Thanks to this patent quarrel, it looks like at least one major addition will be missing.

It’s possible that Apple will be able to include this feature by some other means. But the company doesn’t have a lot of time to come up with a solution, considering how long the testing, design and manufacturing processes all take. If you’ve been hoping for sleep apnea tracking in the next Apple Watch, you’ll have to keep your fingers crossed for better news over the coming months.

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Alex Blake
Freelance Contributor

Alex Blake has been fooling around with computers since the early 1990s, and since that time he's learned a thing or two about tech. No more than two things, though. That's all his brain can hold. As well as TechRadar, Alex writes for iMore, Digital Trends and Creative Bloq, among others. He was previously commissioning editor at MacFormat magazine. That means he mostly covers the world of Apple and its latest products, but also Windows, computer peripherals, mobile apps, and much more beyond. When not writing, you can find him hiking the English countryside and gaming on his PC.