U.S. Apple Watch Ban Begins, Repairs Stop on Older Models

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The ban on sales of the latest Apple Watch models has started in the U.S., while the ban also extends to barring the company from repairing out-of-warranty models. This is not a good situation for Apple right now.

According to a recent memo to Apple’s customer service teams, the company will no longer replace models dating back to the Apple Watch Series 6, reports Bloomberg. This decision leaves customers unable to get hardware issues, such as broken screens, fixed by Apple. However, the company will continue to offer software-based assistance, like reinstalling operating systems.

The ban, imposed by the US International Trade Commission, stems from a ruling that Apple violated two health-technology patents held by California-based Masimo Corp. These patents are related to blood oxygen sensing, a feature included in the latest Apple Watch models since 2020, including Series 6, 7, 8, Ultra, and the current 9 and Ultra 2. The Apple Watch SE models, which lack the sensor, are not affected by this ban.

Customers who purchased their watches before December 25, the date the ban takes effect, and those with models still under warranty, are exempt from the replacement bans. Apple typically offers a one-year warranty for its devices, with the option to extend this period through AppleCare.

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After December 25, Apple will also be unable to exchange watches bought before the ban for different colours or sizes during the usual return period. While product swaps will not be allowed, Apple will continue to replace accessories like bands and accept returns for refunds.

Apple employees have been instructed not to inform customers that the Apple Watch remains available at third-party retailers due to the legal order. The watch is expected to continue being available at retailers like Best Buy and Target until existing U.S. supplies are depleted. Apple will be unable to import more watches, which are manufactured overseas, until the commission’s order is lifted. Heck, Americans should just come buy their Apple Watches in Canada for a discount, as the ban doesn’t apply here.

The ban will remain in effect until Apple reaches a licensing agreement with Masimo, obtains a federal reprieve, or resolves the patent issue. Apple is reportedly working on a software update to mitigate the problem.

As of writing, Apple.com is showing “currently unavailable” on its homepage for Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra. This is a rare time that the latest Apple Watch products are unavailable for purchase during the holiday period. It will be interesting to see what happens in this fight between Masimo and Apple.

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