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Is my phone about to explode? Here’s why the EU is right to mandate removable batteries

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For a long time now, smartphones have had glued-in non-removable batteries that you have to recharge, and it kind of sucks. I’m sure a lot of young people have never even had a smartphone with removable batteries. You might not even know how great it once was to be able to use a phone until it dies, pop-off the back, take a fresh battery out of your wallet, pop-in the new one and be back to fully functional in less than 2 minutes (including boot time). Even my fastest-charging 120W Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra takes 24 minutes to fully recharge. Sure, that’s a lot faster than the hour or 3 hours it takes to charge an iPhone, but it’s still a lot longer than the 60-second battery swap we used to be able to do.


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One of the earliest Smartphones back in 2002, the XDA 2 from HTC, actually came with a docking station that had an extra slot for charging a spare battery. So I could keep one battery fully charged, and whenever the phone’s battery died, I could just take it out of the phone, put the fully charged one into the phone, and put the dead battery on the phone dock’s charger so it would be ready to go the next time I needed it. It was so easy and convenient. Why you would want a sealed-in battery when the removable types are so much better, makes no sense.



What if it explodes?

Anyway, being more convenient isn’t the biggest advantage for removable batteries… the biggest advantage is that you can replace them before they start to bulge and ruin the phone completely… or worse, start a fire.

Back in 2020, the Google Pixel 3 had a lot of bad press for the swollen battery problem, and Samsung devices sometimes explode, but the same bulging issue happens all the time with all sorts of devices.


My old barely-ever-used iPhone has been a brick for some years now due to the battery bulge that’s pushing the screen out from the edges, even though Apple says that their products are made to last.

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Above is a Motorola G8 Power with a huge case bulge that looks like it’s about to explode.

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My Huawei Mate 20 Pro tore itself apart with a battery bulge after less than a year of usage. Huawei nicely replaced it since this happened way before the warranty was up.

This problem has happened on dozens of my smartphones and tablets over the years!


The Microsoft Lumia 950 that I have had the issue as well, but guess what… that phone has a user-removable battery, so all I had to do was get a new battery and the phone is still working fine today.

By 2027 they’ll all need to be removable!

Back in 2023, the European Union passed a law mandating that all phones should have user replaceable batteries by 2027. See: Council adopts new regulation on batteries and waste batteries – Consilium (europa.eu) That gives manufacturers enough time to redesign and re-engineer their hardware to be more repair-friendly and consumer-friendly.

Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, and many other veteran smartphone manufacturers were always pretty good at making devices with removable batteries especially during the first decade of this century. It makes a lot of sense. Sure there were a few sealed-battery devices in 2002 or so, but the industry figured out the advantages of removable batteries pretty quickly.


That is until Apple came along and made glued-in non-removable batteries acceptable with the extremely well-marketed iPhone that appeared in commercials everywhere after 2007. That made it ok for other manufacturers to ignore good design and seal their batteries in too. This not only saves on engineering & design costs, but it also makes the phones disposable, which means people will have to buy a new one within a couple of years, thus guaranteeing a consistent income for the manufacturers.

Apple doesn’t want to follow the rules

Of course, Apple seems to be the one that’s most vocal about the EU’s mandate for removable batteries.

On Orbit’s YouTube Channel, we see John Ternus, senior VP of hardware engineering at Apple, say, “you can sometimes make an internal component (like a battery) more repairable by having it discrete and removable, but that inherently adds a potential failure point to the overall product.” Ok, but making it non-removable definitely adds a failure point to the overall product.


Another thing Apple thinks may be an issue with user-replaceable batteries is the water resistance capabilities. That sounds like a reasonable argument since removable batteries would need a door or cover to open, but plenty of other electronic devices have been made waterproof while still having removable batteries and even removable memory cards.

I have a cheap waterproof camera that does this. You might say, “but what about smartphones?” Well, Samsung has done it too. The Samsung Galaxy S5 was waterproof, dustproof, AND had an easily removable battery cover for replacing batteries on the fly. It’s 100% perfectly possible to do removable batteries and waterproof casing correctly.

On the other hand

On the other hand, there is the issue of using badly made batteries in devices. Some battery manufacturers may not build them to the proper safety standards so that they can be sold for lots less money. That’s certainly something to consider, but I say that being able to remove a bad battery instead of it being stuck in the device until it explodes is a much smarter way to go. We just have to remember not to buy crappy batteries and stick with the safety-tested brands.


Conclusion

Personally, I am definitely looking forward to having smartphones with removable batteries back on the market. The advantages were immense, not only for longevity, extended usage times, sustainability, and the environment, but also for safety; removable batteries are easier to replace before they explode and injure someone.

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