Every product is carefully selected by our editors. If you buy from a link, we may earn a commission.

An Apple Watch Ban Is Looming. Here’s Why and What Happens Next

Apple is facing an unprecedented ban of its two newest smartwatches. Here's what it means for you.

apple watch ban
Tucker Bowe

Editor's note: This story is fluid and subject to change if the import ban gets vetoed or Apple rolls out a software fix. We'll update the story accordingly as news breaks.

As of December 21 at 3PM EST, Apple has stopped selling the Series 9 and Ultra 2 from its online store.

There's a lot of Apple Watch drama right now.

If you haven't heard, news broke earlier this week that Apple is going to stop selling its two newest smartwatches, the Series 9 and the Ultra 2, in the US. As of December 21st, both have been removed from Apple's online stores — they're "currently unavailable" — and they'll be removed from all other Apple retail locations after December 24th.

The reason has to do with the blood oxygen sensor — commonly referred to as the SpO2 sensor — that's integrated in both the Series 9 and the Ultra 2 (as well as every Apple Watch that's Series 6 or later, excluding the SE models). Here's everything you need to know.

Why does Apple have to stop selling these two Apple Watches?

In October, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that Apple had infringed on the medical technology company Masimo's patents. And thus, starting on December 26th, the ITC will impose an import ban on both smartwatch models.

There is a small chance that President Biden could veto such an import ban — President Obama did so for the iPhone and iPad back in 2013 — but most sources believe this is unlikely. Apple is planning to appeal the import ban if no such veto comes, of course, but such a process is anything but quick. As of December 20th, the ITC denied Apple’s request to stay the ban during the appeal (meaning they would've still been able to sell both smartwatches during the appeal process).

According to Bloomberg, Apple is working on a software fix that would either work around Masimo's patent or disable the blood oxygen sensor entirely. If disabled, Apple would theoretically be able to start selling these Apple Watch models in the US again.

a watch on a wrist
Every Apple Watch Series 6 or later — except for the SE — has a blood oxygen sensor, but only the latest Series 9 and Ultra 2 will be effected by the ban.
Tucker Bowe

What is the blood oxygen sensor even used for?

The blood oxygen sensor enables some pretty niche wellness features on the Apple Watch. It checks your oxygen levels throughout the day — it can also give you on-demand readings via the Blood Oxygen app on your Apple Watch — which can give a better idea of overall health.

If you have a low blood oxygen level, it could be an early indicator that you're getting sick, for example. It can also be used with sleep tracking to tell you the quality of sleep you're actually getting. As Apple has emphasized over the years, the Apple Watch has "wellness" not "health" features. It's in no way meant to replace a doctor, but instead give you a better idea of your general health and if something comes up, it could indicate whether you might want to see a doctor.

That said, the reality is that the vast majority of Apple Watch wearers probably don't take advantage of its blood oxygen sensor.

Is my old Apple Watch going to be affected?

Apple has integrated the blood oxygen sensor in every non-SE Apple Watch that's Series 6 or later. So if Apple does roll out a software update that limits or disables the blood oxygen sensor, you might assume it could affect your older Apple Watch as well.

However, this doesn't appear to be the case.

The ITC ruling only targets the Series 9 and the Ultra 2 and thus should not affect the functionality of the older Apple Watches, including the original Ultra, Series 8, Series 7 or Series 6.

If you bought a Series 9 or Ultra 2 this year, those models could be affected should Apple roll out a software update.

Which Apple Watches will still be sold after Christmas?

After Christmas, the only Apple Watch you'll actually be able to buy from Apple is the entry-level Apple Watch SE (2nd-generation), which was released in 2022 and lacks this blood oxygen sensor.

You will be able to buy the Series 9 and Ultra 2 from third-party sites like Amazon or Best Buy if they already had possession of them before the import ban took effect. This means there will be a finite number of models being sold by them. You'll also still be able to order older Apple Watch models, which Apple doesn't sell.


Apple Watch Series 9

$329.00 (18% off)

Apple Watch Ultra 2


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below