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Apple Disables Blood Oxygen App in New Apple Watches

Remember this headline from late last year: “Apple to Stop Selling Two Apple Watch Models in the US Due to Import Ban” (18 December 2023)? The drama has continued, with a US federal appeals court agreeing to Apple’s request to pause the ban in late December while it determined if the company’s proposed changes would avoid two patents granted to medical device maker Massimo. The court has now reinstated the ban, denying Apple’s request that it remain paused until there’s a final ruling. That doesn’t mean Apple has lost its appeal, just that the court felt the ban was appropriate during the hearings.

Nonetheless, Apple will continue selling the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2, but without a functional Blood Oxygen app. The US Customs and Border Protection agency ruled that the software change of removing the blood oxygen feature was sufficient to sidestep the International Trade Commission import ban.

In a statement to 9to5Mac, Apple wrote:

Pending the appeal, Apple is taking steps to comply with the ruling while ensuring customers have access to Apple Watch with limited disruption. These steps include introducing a version of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the United States without the Blood Oxygen feature. There is no impact to Apple Watch units previously purchased that include the Blood Oxygen feature.

So, if you’re buying a new Apple Watch, you won’t be able to use the Blood Oxygen app until Apple settles with Massimo or comes up with some other workaround. Those who already own an Apple Watch with the blood oxygen sensor can continue to use the app.

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Comments About Apple Disables Blood Oxygen App in New Apple Watches

Notable Replies

  1. Do we know for sure about the nature of this disabling?

    If someone has a unit today with a working SpO2 sensor, will it be disabled by a future update?

    And when Apple resolves their dispute (I assume by agreeing to some kind of patent royalty payment), will a software update be able to enable it?

    I’ve also read that this ban is just on imports to the US. So if someone were to buy a Series 9 elsewhere (Europe, Japan, Australia, etc.), will they get a working sensor? And will it remain working if the software detects (through configuration or GPS) that it’s being used in the US?

    I’m sure all this will become obvious in a few days, but I am curious.

  2. I’m wondering about repairs to existing units. I was shocked when the ban first went into effect before Christmas that repairs of existing watches wouldn’t be possible (since they aren’t really repairs but exchanges). So what happens if you’ve got a working oxygen sensor on your watch 9 now and have to get it “repaired” – does the replacement unit come with sensor disabled?

  3. No, but I’d put money on it all just going back to normal once Apple resolves the situation.

  4. Apple’s statement to 9to5mac says that only units sold beginning today will have the feature disabled. If you have a watch that can read blood oxygen now, it will not be disabled.

    “Pending the appeal, Apple is taking steps to comply with the ruling while ensuring customers have access to Apple Watch with limited disruption. These steps include introducing a version of Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the United States without the Blood Oxygen feature. There is no impact to Apple Watch units previously purchased that include the Blood Oxygen feature.”

    I am 100% sure that Apple would re-enable this feature for watches sold from today if they either win their appeal (which seems doubtful based on judicial statements so far) or they reach agreement with Masimo. Let’s hope Apple comes to their senses and begins negotiating this ASAP.

  5. I’m going to guess that “repaired” units will also have blood oxygen disabled, but I don’t think that Apple hasn’t said so one way or the other. The issue is that Apple doesn’t repair units - they exchange units - and the import ban should apply to all items imported, including those for exchanges.

  6. Maybe not. Apple replaces damaged watches with the same model, probably imported with the original batch. So, they’re already in the country. When my Model 6 was replaced after the Model 7s were current, it was with a Model 6 with OS current when the Model 6 was introduced. I needed to upgrade the OS before I could successfully migrate my settings to it.

  7. The prices are the same. The hardware is still there; the feature will likely be allowed at some point

  8. Right, but when the original import ban was imposed, Apple announced that they could not do non-warranty “repairs” of the infringing units, including Series 6, 7, and 8. So they likely already imported enough to cover warranty repairs of Series 8, 9, Ultra and Ultra 2, plus maybe units still with AppleCare+.

    Again, I don’t think Apple hasn’t said if it’s the same yet. We’ll see.

  9. I believe its new watches sold from the 18th on, that have the O2 sensor. I submitted questions to several sites and got left to right answers. Reason was, I was to get an Ultra2 and then found an open-box that the staff said, would not be affected; only new product being sold. Guess I wait till it arrives and test. If O2 is disabled, then back in the box to return.
    Funny thing is, a neighbor (younger than me and had quad-bypass) had a Garmin that he like for the cardio features. His spouse upgraded her iPad with Verizon and so there was some feal for a free Apple watch (activation fee not included) so he has one now. He still prefers the Garmin, except that his is a Cellular-active Apple Watch and he left his phone in his truck, but was still able to get a call and messages so. Ces’t la vie!
    UPDATE:
    I received my Open Box Ultra 2 and it has Blood O2 working! So far so good. Oh look, Watch OS update, Sonoma Updates… off to … update!
    Last update: Did the Watch OS to 10.3 and confirmed, O2 works. :+1:

  10. There is confirmation from someone on Reddit.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/AppleWatch/s/RTTOKHeD6K

    This is only for people in the US, of course. I’d also be interested in warranty and AppleCare replacements. When the models were first restricted last month, and you couldn’t get repairs of broken Series 6 and later non-SE watches, this didn’t apply to warranty or AppleCare replacements.

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