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Apple to halt sales of some Apple Watches in US

Dec 18, 2023, 11:05 AM

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks onstage during a product launch event at Apple's headquarters in Cupertin...

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks onstage during a product launch event at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California on September 10, 2019. (Josh Edelson, Getty Images)

(Josh Edelson, Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CNN) Apple plans to stop selling some versions of the Apple Watch in the United States as soon as this week to get ahead of what could be one of the most momentous patent disputes in years.

The company confirmed to CNN it will no longer be selling its Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, starting Thursday on Apple.com and from retail locations after December 24.

The decision to take one of its most popular products off the shelf follows an ongoing dispute with medical maker Masimo over its blood oxygen feature. Apple has routinely marketed its smartwatch as a life-saving device, which has helped launch the Apple Watch into the stratosphere, making it the most popular watch sold around the world. But its skirmish with Masimo threatens to undermine that.

Apple said a review period is in progress with the International Trade Commission related to Apple Watch devices containing a blood oxygen feature.

“While the review period will not end until December 25, Apple is preemptively taking steps to comply should the ruling stand,” the company said in a statement.

It added: “Apple strongly disagrees with the order and is pursuing a range of legal and technical options to ensure that Apple Watch is available to customers.”

The company said, if the order stands it will “continue to take all measures to return Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 to customers in the U.S. as soon as possible.”

Apple only launched its Series 9 phone a few months ago in September.

The Series 9 features a custom S9 chip for faster processing and promised the use of a hand gesture to control the watch.

A new control called Double Tap allows users to tap their index finger and thumb together twice, to answer or end phone calls, play and pause music, or snooze alarms. The hand gesture can also scroll through widgets, much like turning the digital crown.

The company said this is enabled by an enhanced neural engine that processes data from sensors and machine learning.

“It will become one of those magical experiences you rely on everyday,” the company said at the time.

A similar hand tap was slated to be used to control the Vision Pro mixed reality headset when it launched next year, a debut that it now likely on hold.

Other Apple Watch Series 9 updates include the ability for Siri to take requests, such as asking it to start a workout, and a new edge-to-edge display that double the brightness than the Series 8 watch.

Impact on sales

David McQueen, an analyst at ABI Research, said the decision to leave the watches available for purchase in stores until December 24 should help soften the financial impact of the blow of the pause, giving shoppers a few days left to buy the devices ahead of Christmas.

“While Apple is the lead player in the sector with around a 24% market share, it may not actually affect its business too much if it can boost sales in these final few days, assuming there is available stock,” he said. “It may be able to ride out the holiday season without too much of an impact on sales.”

It’s also not the first time Apple has been in trouble with Masimo. “It will be interesting to see how long the dispute will last, or when Apple opens its wallet, and when the ban will be lifted,” he added.

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Apple to halt sales of some Apple Watches in US