The Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 are two of the best smartwatches you can buy in 2023. Unfortunately, you soon won’t be able to buy them from Apple. On Monday, December 18, Apple confirmed it will stop sales of both Apple Watch models beginning December 21.
In a statement sent to 9to5Mac, Apple confirmed it is “pausing sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 from Apple.com starting December 21, and from Apple retail locations after December 24.”
It’s a sudden and shocking announcement, but it also comes with a big question: Why?
This all boils down to a ruling from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) as part of a dispute between Apple and Masimo — a medical technology company based out of Irvine, California. Masimo’s been after Apple for years. It filed a lawsuit against Apple in January 2020, claiming that Apple stole trade secrets and infringed on 10 patents from the company. Masimo took things a step further in June 2021 when it requested the ITC enact an import ban on the Apple Watch Series 6.
This past October, the ITC upheld a previous judge’s ruling that Apple did infringe Masimo’s patents — specifically patents relating to blood oxygen sensing on Apple Watches. The ruling has been sitting in a “Presidential Review Period” ever since, where President Joe Biden has the option to veto the ruling. The veto option expires on December 25, so while Biden still has time to make that choice, Apple’s clearly operating under the assumption that it won’t happen.
Another part of Apple’s statement reads:
“A Presidential Review Period is in progress regarding an order from the U.S. International Trade Commission on a technical intellectual property dispute pertaining to Apple Watch devices containing the Blood Oxygen feature. While the review period will not end until December 25, Apple is preemptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand.”
Come this Thursday, Apple will stop selling two Apple Watch models: the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2. The Apple Watch SE 2, which Apple also sells, is not affected as it doesn’t have blood oxygen sensing technology.
Similarly, older Apple Watch models with a blood oxygen sensor — including the Apple Watch Series 6, Series 7, Series 8, and the first-generation Ultra — also aren’t affected.
That’s the background of the dispute between Apple and Masimo, but what does all of this actually mean for you?
Beginning at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, December 21, Apple will stop selling the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 from its website. Then, on December 24, physical Apple retail locations will also stop selling the smartwatches. It’s important to note that this sales ban only applies to Apple’s online and retail stores. Third-party retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and others will continue to sell the Series 9 and Ultra 2 like normal.
However, that could change. Imports of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 into the U.S. will be banned after December 25. If and when that happens, third-party retailers would also have to cease sales of the smartwatches.
As for existing Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 models you may already own, they’ll continue to function normally. This ruling from the ITC is specifically focused on sales of new watches, and does not affect the functionality of existing ones.
This is a big issue Apple needs to deal with, and there’s a very real chance it’ll impact your holiday shopping. However, there are still a lot of ifs that need to be dealt with.
Biden could still veto the ITC’s ruling and stop the sales ban from happening. Apple has also confirmed to 9to5Mac that it plans on appealing the ITC’s decision on December 26 if President Biden doesn’t veto it. Even if that appeal happens, though, the sales ban would still go into effect as planned.
There’s a lot that could happen over the next few days, but for now, it all boils down to this. If you were planning on buying an Apple Watch Series 9 or Apple Watch Ultra 2, you should probably do so sooner rather than later.
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