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Apple disables sensors to circumvent ongoing Apple Watch ban

The tech world is closely watching Apple’s recent legal tangle involving its latest Apple Watch models. With the smartwatches banned in the US, then temporarily unbanned, Apple is having to get creative to keep its flagship wearables available long-term. Here’s the lowdown on the latest twists in the story and what it means for consumers.

The story so far

Last year Masimo, known for its medical devices, accused Apple of swiping its pulse oximetry technology to power the blood oxygen sensors in Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2. After a U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruling in favor of Masimo, these watch models are facing an import and sales ban in the U.S.

Apple filed an emergency request with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. They scored a temporary win, halting the ban and bringing the watches back on sale, for now. But this pause is just a temporary breather as the court mulls over a longer-term verdict. Meanwhile, Apple is still banned from importing any new stock, so its reserves are limited.

Apple’s workaround

Apple is reportedly planning to disable the blood oxygen sensor feature on these models, effectively skirting the ban and allowing new units to be imported for sale. Apple’s hoping this tweak will keep the Series 9 and Ultra 2 on shelves in the U.S. when existing stocks run out – but it’s far from a perfect solution.

It’s important to understand that this change only affects new Apple Watch units entering the U.S. market; watches sold in other parts of the world will retain all their features. For now, at least.

What it means for you

For consumers, this means that while current stocks of the Series 9 and Ultra 2 are available for purchase with all features intact, any new units brought into the U.S. market will have the blood oxygen sensors disabled.

If you’re in the market for a new Apple Watch, it might be wise to grab one ASAP. Be sure to confirm with the Apple Store exactly what you’re getting, too. Another option would be to wait until September when Apple is likely to announce upgrades to both banned models. Depending on how the next months shake out, we’d expect Apple to either resolve its legal battle or find a new type of blood oxygen sensor that doesn’t infringe any intellectual property.