Apple Watch ban set to be lifted, but you could lose one important app

Apple has found a way to get round the Apple Watch import ban, but not without sacrifice

Apple Watch Ultra 2
(Image credit: Rik Henderson / Future)

One of the most significant features of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Watch Series 9 could be about to go away, so that Apple can resume selling the device in the US.

Apple has proposed a workaround that will mean removing the blood oxygen sensing feature from the device so that shipments can restart.

Apple is embroiled in a legal battle with US medical-tech firm Masimo, which claims that Apple infringed its patents regarding blood oxygen sensing – a feature that's been in Apple Watches since the Series 6.

In October 2023, the US International Trade Commission ruled that there was a case for Apple to answer, and that Apple could not import the Apple Watch Series 9 nor Ultra 2 if it continued to offer blood oxygen sensing.

Its removal therefore would satisfy the US Customs and Border Agency, which controls imports into the country, and mean that affected Apple Watch models will be allowed to remain on store shelves.

However, Apple is yet to introduce the workaround while an appeal process is underway – it told the Wall Street Journal: "The blood-oxygen feature would continue to be available on the watches for now."

What happens now with the Apple Watch import ban?

And so all eyes are on the US Court of Appeals, which will decide whether or not Apple can continue to sell the Watch without any changes, as it appeals against the US trade ban.

If the Court finds in Apple's favour, Apple will be able to carry on as normal while it fights the case. But, if the Court finds against Apple, Apple will have to implement the workaround and remove the app. 

And, as the full appeals process is expected to take more than a year, it potentially means that Apple Watches could end up without one of their key selling points for the next 12-months.

What we don't know yet is what effect, if any, the workaround would have on current Apple Watches and Apple Watches sold outside the US.

It seems that the workaround isn't a case of removing the feature from watchOS but possibly a hardware tweak too: PC Magazine says that Apple has already begun shipping sensor-changed watches in boxes to retailers "with instructions not to open or sell the devices unless instructed to do so by Apple's corporate offices".

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).