Apple plans to remove a blood oxygen monitoring feature from two flagship Apple Watch models in the United States amid a legal battle over patents on the technology behind the feature.
The feature, marketed for fitness purposes, could take a year to resolve. Analysts had expected Apple to strike the feature rather than remove devices from sale in one of its biggest markets.
The company said Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 models without the feature would go on sale on its website and stores starting at 6 am Pacific Time on Thursday.
Apple shares closed 0.5% lower at $182.68 after the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled on Wednesday the company could no longer sell the models at the centre of a legal battle with medical technology company Masimo.
In December, Masimo secured a decision from the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to halt imports of Apple Watches which, according to Counterpoint Research, comprise about a quarter of the global smartwatch market.
In a statement, Joe Kiani, Masimo’s founder and chief executive, said the court ruling on Wednesday “affirms that even the largest and most powerful companies must respect the intellectual rights of American inventors and must deal with the consequences when they are caught infringing others’ patents.”
Apple said it “strongly disagreed” with the ITC decision and resulting orders and they should be reversed, Reuters reported.
Existing Apple Watches are not affected by the orders, nor are devices sold outside the US.
Series 9 and Ultra 2 models sold in the US from Thursday will still have an app icon for the blood oxygen features. But when users tap those icons, they will informed the features are unavailable.
Ben Bajarin, chief executive of analyst firm Creative Strategies, had expected Apple to disable the blood oxygen features on its Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watch models in the US rather than stop selling the wearable devices.
Apple’s watches, which accounted for $39.84 billion of its overall $383.29 billion in sales for fiscal 2023, accounted for 42% of its overall revenue from North America, despite its smaller sales figures compared to its flagship iPhone.