Apple’s Strategic Move: Disabling Blood Oxygen Feature on Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 in the US

Strategic Maneuver: Apple's Pre-Emptive Move to Disable Blood Oxygen Feature Amid Patent Dispute

In a tactical response to a patent dispute, Apple successfully resumed sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 in the US by deactivating the blood oxygen feature, months after having an update prepared for this purpose.

Context of the Dispute:

  • In January 2023, a US court ruled that Apple violated Maximo’s pulse oximetry technology patent.
  • The ITC affirmed the court’s decision in October, leading to a ban on Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 sales in the US.

Apple’s Strategic Move:

  1. Apple appealed the decision but faced rejection, prompting the removal of the pulse oximeter technology in the US.
  2. Apple remotely updated a system file managing health feature availability by region, specifically disabling the blood oxygen feature for models identified as “LW/A.”
  3. New versions of Series 9 and Ultra 2, without the blood oxygen feature, are now available for purchase in the US.

File Update Timeline:

  • The file blocking the pulse oximeter feature for “LW/A” Apple Watch models was uploaded to Apple’s servers in October 2023, coinciding with the ITC’s ruling on patent infringement.

Future Implications:

  • The dispute between Apple and Masimo is ongoing, with the appeals process potentially lasting over a year.
  • Apple’s strategic move affects new US purchases, not existing devices, providing continuity for current users.

Apple’s Statement:

  • Apple’s US website now clarifies that “Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 no longer include the Blood Oxygen feature.”
  • Despite the current status, the update suggests that Apple has prepared for potential contingencies in advance.