Apple Watch goes on sale without oxygen monitoring – but existing owners aren't affected

The Apple Watch will be sold in the US from today with its blood oxygen monitor disabled. The one on your wrist won't be downgraded

Apple Watch Ultra 2 displaying Training Peaks workouts
(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

As we reported yesterday, Apple has come up with a workaround to deal with the US import ban on the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 – and just hours later, it implemented it. From today both versions of the Apple Watch will be sold in the US with their blood oxygen monitoring feature disabled. 

That's good news for would-be Apple Watch buyers, but there's also good news for existing owners and for non-US purchasers. Apple isn't removing the app from existing watches, and it won't be disabling the feature outwith the US. So both the Series 9 and the Ultra 2 will work as Apple always intended unless you're buying them from today in the USA.

We knew this was coming – Apple has been shipping boxes containing tweaked Apple Watches to retailers "with instructions not to open or sell the devices unless instructed to do so by Apple's corporate offices", so it clearly expected it would have to remove the feature from models it sells in the US.

The app is being removed because med-tech firm Masimo claims that the Apple Watch oxygen sensor infringes on two of its patents; the US International Trade Commission believes there is a case to answer here, and has told Apple to stop selling the potentially infringing models for the foreseeable future.

How Apple is getting around the Apple Watch import ban

The news of the tweaked Apple Watches comes via 9to5Mac writer Chance Miller, who has been in contact with Apple and who got the confirmation that existing and non-US watch buyers won't be affected. "There is no impact to Apple Watch units previously purchased that include the Blood Oxygen feature," Apple says.

The affected models will still ship with the blood oxygen app, as it's one of the stock watchOS applications. But US buyers will have slightly tweaked firmware that means they will get a message when they try to use the app: “The Blood Oxygen app is no longer available. Learn more in the Health app on your iPhone.” The Health app will then redirect them to the Apple Support website.

New US buyers may have to wait a while for the Apple Watch to regain its oxygen tracking: Apple has previously said that the appeals process could take over a year to work its way through the courts, and that means the workaround is likely to be in place for as long as that process takes. 

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. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (