Top Stories: Vision Pro Pre-Orders, iOS 17.3 Release Date, Apple Watch Blood Oxygen Ban

After years of rumors and months of waiting following its unveiling, Apple’s headset is finally just about here, with pre-orders going live in the U.S. ahead of an early February launch.

While Vision Pro was the biggest news of the week, there were also big developments in the ongoing Apple Watch blood oxygen patent dispute, with Apple being forced to start selling Series 9 and Ultra 2 models with the sensor disabled for the time being.

We also got a release time frame for upcoming iOS 17.3 and associated updates, while Apple is now begrudgingly allowing developers to offer non-Apple Store payment options for in-app purchases, so read on below for all the details!

Apple Vision Pro Now Available for Pre-Order

Apple is now accepting pre-orders for the Apple Vision Pro, the company’s first spatial computing device. Orders are live in the U.S. online store ahead of the February 2 launch date with the Vision Pro limited to the United States for the time being, although shipping estimates for new orders quickly began slipping into March.

Alongside the start of pre-orders, Apple shared some additional details about the Vision Pro, including full tech specs such as storage options up to 1TB, AppleCare+ pricing, available accessories, and more.

Apple Begins Selling Series 9 and Ultra 2 Watches Without Blood Oxygen Feature in U.S. Amid Dispute

Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 models sold in the U.S. no longer have a functional Blood Oxygen app starting this week, allowing Apple to sidestep a sales ban on these models. Previously-sold watches and models sold in other countries are not affected.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) last year ordered an import and sales ban on Apple Watch models with blood oxygen sensing after ruling that Apple violated Masimo’s pulse oximetry patents. Masimo has accused Apple of stealing trade secrets and poaching employees.

As a longer-term solution, Apple is reportedly working on changes to the Blood Oxygen app’s algorithm in an attempt to avoid Masimo’s patented technology, but it’s unclear when these changes will be ready.

Apple Releasing iOS 17.3 Next Week With These New Features

In its press release unveiling a new Black Unity Sport Band for the Apple Watch, Apple confirmed that iOS 17.3 will be released next week.

The software update includes a few new features and additions for the iPhone, including Stolen Device Protection, collaborative Apple Music playlists, the ability to connect an iPhone to select hotel room TVs via AirPlay, a Unity Bloom wallpaper for the Lock Screen, and more.

U.S. Developers Can Now Offer Non-App Store Purchasing Option, But Apple Will Still Collect Commissions

In adherence with a U.S. court ruling, Apple is now allowing App Store apps to feature a single link to a developer website that leads to an alternative payment option for in-app purchases, but Apple plans to continue to collect a 12 to 27 percent commission on content bought in this manner.

This change comes after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear both Apple’s and Epic Games’ appeals in their trial related to App Store rules, and Apple now wants Epic to pay its legal fees.

Kuo: Apple Vision Pro to Launch Internationally Before WWDC

Apple supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes the Vision Pro will launch in additional countries beyond the U.S. by WWDC 2024 in June.

Apple previously announced that the Vision Pro would be released in additional countries later this year, but it did not list any specific countries. Canada, the UK, and other English-speaking nations are reportedly among the places where the headset is likely to launch next.

Apple Vision Pro Virtual Keyboard Blasted As ‘Complete Write-Off’

Vision Pro’s keyboard floats in mid-air, allowing you to input text in your spatial computing environment while wearing the device.

However, anyone planning to ditch their physical keyboard may want to hold onto it for a little while longer. According to Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman, the virtual keyboard experience in visionOS 1.0 is “a complete write-off,” and most people will want to use a Bluetooth keyboard instead.

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