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Apple Watch blood oxygen sensor disabled after repair? Here’s why.

Some Apple Watch users have been surprised and frustrated to discover that their blood oxygen sensor becomes disabled after sending their watch in for battery replacement. This seemingly innocuous repair can remove a valuable health monitoring feature, especially for those who rely on it for conditions like asthma or heart disease. Lots of comments in forums and social media discussing possible workarounds.

The reason behind this lies in an ongoing patent dispute between Apple and Masimo, a medical technology company. Masimo alleges that Apple’s blood oxygen sensor technology infringes on their patents. As a result, a court ruling mandated that Apple disable the blood oxygen sensor on all new Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 models sold in the US. This came into affect a few months ago.

But here’s where the plot thickens. When you send your Apple Watch to an Apple Store for battery replacement, they often don’t actually replace the battery itself. Instead, they swap your device for a refurbished one. Since this replacement watch falls under the category of “new” in the US market, it adheres to the court order and has the blood oxygen sensor disabled.

To make things simple to understand:

  • Retail sales: All new Apple Watches sold directly to consumers in the United States must have the blood oxygen sensor disabled through software due to the ongoing patent dispute.
  • Warranty or Apple Care replacements: Apple Watches sent for repair under warranty or Apple Care can retain their blood oxygen sensor functionality, as these don’t fall under the category of retail sales.
  • Out-of-warranty repairs: If an out-of-warranty Apple Watch requires a whole unit replacement (often the case with battery issues), the replacement unit is considered a new retail sale. Therefore, the blood oxygen sensor in the replacement watch must be disabled.

A breakdown of your options

So, what can you do if you need your battery replaced and value the blood oxygen sensor? Users on Reddit have been discussing the pros and cons of each of the following:

  • Keep the original watch: If your current watch has a functioning blood oxygen sensor and the battery issue isn’t critical, consider holding off on the replacement. You can monitor the battery health and weigh the benefits of the blood oxygen sensor against the drawbacks of a weakening battery.
  • Explore third-party repair shops: Some independent repair shops might offer battery replacements without disabling the blood oxygen sensor. However, proceed with caution. Third-party repairs can void your warranty. Also, make sure to research the reputation and expertise of the repair shop before going down this route.
  • Upgrade to a newer model (outside the US): If your watch is nearing the end of its lifespan and you prioritize the blood oxygen feature, consider upgrading to a newer model. However, this solution only applies if you’re located outside the US, where the blood oxygen sensor ban is currently in effect.

Our takeaway

So it’s clear. Outside of the US its business as usual.

And while a third party solution may seem tempting for those living in the country, it is worth noting that beyond voiding your warranty there is another issue. During the manufacturing process, Apple uses specialized machines to apply water-resistant adhesives with extreme precision. Third-party repair shops lack the same level of accuracy. So after repair the water resistance may never fully match the original factory standards. Take your watch to one of these and they will warn you is that your watch may lose its water resistance and ask if you are willing to continue based on that.

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The legal battle between Apple and Masimo is ongoing. The outcome of this dispute will determine whether the blood oxygen sensor function is reinstated in future Apple Watch models sold in the US, even for replacements.

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

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