The Apple Watch could get blood oxygen monitoring back through software changes — court documents reveal hardware still at large

Apple Watch Series 9 Review
(Image credit: Future)

If you have recently bought one of the best Apple Watches, only to find a key feature is missing, there’s a chance it will come to your device in the future — but you may be waiting a while. 

Back in January, after a lengthy patent dispute over the blood oxygen monitoring feature in Apple Watches that saw the two top models pulled from shelves, the wearable line went back on sale without the offending feature. 

As originally spotted by ip fray, newly-published court documents reveal how exactly Apple has complied with the Apple Watch import ban ruling, confirming that all the requisite hardware for blood oxygen monitoring is still featured in the Apple Watch. 

As part of the ongoing agreement that lets Apple continue selling the Apple Watch Ultra 2 and Apple Watch Series 9, Masimo, the company with the original patent, has to be able to test the fix Apple has employed to remove blood oxygen monitoring from the models. 

Masimo discovered that you could enable the blood oxygen monitoring feature with a jailbroken iPhone and a newly issued Apple Watch. Despite the fact Massimo could technically access the feature, this was not deemed sufficient enough a reason to stop the sale of Apple Watches as it required significantly changing the device. However, it does tell us something interesting about these Apple Watch models.

What does this mean? 

As Apple didn’t take the physical components out of the device, it could opt to allow them to work again in the future through a simple software update. 

Apple could potentially appeal Massimo’s patent dispute allowing the feature to work on Apple Watches. If this doesn’t work, it could wait for Massimo’s patent to expire in August 2028 to push out an update. By this point, we would likely be running up to the launch of Apple Watch Series 14 and iPhone 20, if current naming conventions prevail. In the same article from above, ip fray “believes Apple has at least a 30% chance of a successful appeal, and may adjust that number when briefing is complete”. 

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James Bentley

James is a staff writer and general Jack of all trades at iMore. With news, features, reviews, and guides under his belt, he has always liked Apple for its unique branding and distinctive style. Originally buying a Macbook for music and video production, he has since gone on to join the Apple ecosystem with as many devices as he can fit on his person. 

With a degree in Law and Media and being a little too young to move onto the next step of his law career, James started writing from his bedroom about games, movies, tech, and anything else he could think of. Within months, this turned into a fully-fledged career as a freelance journalist. Before joining iMore, he was a staff writer at Gfinity and saw himself published at sites like TechRadar, NME, and Eurogamer. 

As his extensive portfolio implies, James was predominantly a games journalist before joining iMore and brings with him a unique perspective on Apple itself. When not working, he is trying to catch up with the movies and albums of the year, as well as finally finishing the Yakuza series. If you like Midwest emo music or pretentious indie games that will make you cry, he’ll talk your ear off.