Recently, Apple faced a significant challenge in the United States with its latest smartwatch models, the Series 9 and Ultra 2. The company had to temporarily halt sales due to a patent issue related to the blood oxygen monitoring function in these models. The import ban on these Apple Watches, which are manufactured abroad, came into effect on December 21 on their website and will extend to retail stores starting December 24.
The International Trade Commission (ITC) declined Apple's plea to prevent the sales ban of the Apple Watch. This decision means that, starting December 25, 2023, Apple will no longer be able to repair out-of-warranty Apple Watch units in the US. Typically, Apple Watch repairs involve swapping out a damaged unit for a new one rather than repairing a single component. However, with the import ban, replacement watches are not readily available.
Apple does not offer repair services for out-of-warranty watches in the USA
Apple communicated this development in a memo to retailers, as reported by Bloomberg. The memo stated that "Product replacement programs aren’t available in the United States for the watches below: Apple Watch Series 6 or later, Apple Watch Ultra or later.” Consequently, consumers owning an Apple Watch with a blood oxygen sensor, including the Apple Watch Ultra and models 6 and later, won't be able to replace their devices if they are no longer under warranty. Software-based fixes will remain accessible, but hardware replacements will have to wait until new hardware is released.
However, Apple Watches still under warranty, including those with the standard one-year guarantee and those covered by AppleCare, will be eligible for replacements. After the ban takes effect, customers won't be able to return or exchange their Apple Watches, but band and accessory replacements will still be available.
Despite these challenges, the Apple Watch SE remains on sale, and the affected models will still be available in independent stores like Best Buy, Target, and Walmart, subject to stock availability.
Amidst these developments, Apple is reportedly exploring alternatives to circumvent the ban, potentially involving modifications to the algorithms used in the blood oxygen saturation measurement.