The Apple Watch 9 and Ultra 2 were launched this fall but have now been removed from Apple’s virtual store shelves in compliance with the International Trade Commission’s (ITC) import ban. The ban also impacts service replacements for older, out-of-warranty Apple Watch models that feature a blood oxygen sensor.
Apple is complying with the ITC ban, which is set to be effective from December 25, by removing the devices from its online store and will remove them from physical US Apple Stores on December 24. Third-party retailers like Target, Amazon, and Best Buy can still offer the available supply of Apple’s latest smartwatches until inventory runs out.
Now, Apple will also stop replacing out-of-warranty Apple Watch models with the blood oxygen feature covered by the patents in the ITC ruling. This will affect the Apple Watch Series 6, 7, 8, and Ultra, all of which have been sold since 2020.
The problem is that Apple tends to issue replacement units to customers with a damaged watch instead of attempting repairs due to the Apple Watch being a compact and complex device. Now, customers with a physical issue won’t have access to the assistance they need from Apple, as the company told employees they can only help with software issues.
The news comes after Apple sent a memo to its customer service departments explaining this, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. In the memo, Apple employees are instructed to advise customers who need an affected watch replacement that they will be contacted once the hardware parts are allowed again.
The Apple Watch 9 and Ultra 2 ban came after the ITC ruled that Apple infringed on two of Masimo’s patents. Masimo is a medical technology company claiming that the blood oxygen sensor technology in these Apple Watch models infringes several patents. Once the ITC ruled in favor of Masimo, Apple was banned from importing and selling the Apple Watch 9 and Ultra 2 in the US as of December 25.
The ITC’s decision is subject to a 60-day Presidential Review Period where the Biden administration could veto the ruling, but the White House has yet to take action. Apple said it’s working on a software update to work around the issue.
The order doesn’t affect the Apple Watch SE and allows Series 9 and Ultra 2 purchased before December 25 and within the one-year warranty period to be serviced or repaired.