The Apple Watch ban is a surprising first for the company

Apple Watch Series 9
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple surprised many people this week by halting sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the US. It's the first time I can recall that the tech giant has frozen sales of new products just months after their release.

The move is the result of a patent dispute over the devices' light-based blood oxygen feature. The final outcome of that dispute has yet to be decided, but it seems that Apple is preparing for the worst (see our guide to the Apple Watch generations for alternatives).

Apple Watch Ultra 2

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the newest version of Apple's most rugged smartwatch (Image credit: Apple)

Back in October, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) issued an order in favour of the medical technology company Masimo, which claims that Apple infringed on its patent for the tech behind its bloody oxygen sensor. The order is being reviewed by US president Joe Biden, but unless the government decides to veto it, Apple will be banned from importing the Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 to the US from 26 December.

Apple said it was taking steps to comply with the ruling now in case that happens. It says it will pause Apple Watch 9 and Ultra 2 sales on its website from Thursday (21 December) and from Apple retail stores from 24 December. Older models and the Apple Watch SE do not include the disputed blood oxygen sensor so are not affected. The Series 9 and Ultra 2 will be able to remain on sale in other countries and at other retailers in the US.

Despite coming at the peak time for season shopping, third party retailers are likely to have a large enough Apple Watch inventory for it not to affect end-of-year sales. That means the impact will potentially start to be felt in the traditionally slower months of January and February.

Apple is reportedly exploring several potential solutions to get the watches back on sale. It could reach a settlement with Massimo or it could deactivate the technology in question. But it seems it might also be hoping to find an escape by tweaking the software. Bloomberg has reported that Apple's engineers are making changes to the algorithms used to determine oxygen saturation and to how the data is presented. However, Bloomberg also said that Apple has been sending new signage to shops that promote the Apple Watch without photos of the Series 9 and Ultra 2. Longer term, it may be that Apple has to develop new hardware if it wants to include blood oxygen monitoring on future Apple Watches.

If you're looking to get around the pause on sales, see the best prices on Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 at different retailers below. And see our roundup of the best Apple Watch SE 2 prices if you're looking for a more economical option.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.