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Easily replaceable phone batteries may be back, and I’m all for it

Recently I went through a bag full of old technology – I mean, Real old technology – I was trying to convince myself to finally get rid of phones that I hadn’t used in about 10 years when I came across a battery. One of the batteries I always had with me in case my phone ran out of power.

You see, smartphones once had replaceable batteries. Instead of lugging around a portable charger or desperately searching for an outlet to charge your faulty phone (assuming you have a power cord with you), you can pop the back of your phone off, replace the old one -power battery with a fully charged battery, and hit the road happily.

This 2012 Samsung Galaxy Note phone had a back cover that opened easily to allow access to a removable battery.

At some point, however, manufacturers (and perhaps most consumers) decided they wanted their smartphones to be as light and thin as possible – so thin there was no room for a battery that wasn’t glued in place. They also wanted to add water and dust resistance, and that’s a lot harder to achieve with a device that’s easy to open. So slowly but surely the replaceable battery disappeared and we all learned to carry chargers or cords for just-in-case scenarios (especially if your phone’s battery started to age).

I must admit that the first time I bought a phone without a replaceable battery I felt a little annoyed. It was probably similar to what a music lover feels when they buy a phone with great audio but no audio jack: you can adapt to the change, but you wish you didn’t have to.

Now, though, there’s a chance I might one day adapt. In 2020 there was a proposal from the European Parliament for new laws regarding battery regulations, which included a clause that demanded, “Portable batteries incorporated into devices must be readily removable and replaceable by the end user or independent operators during the life of the device.” (Other regulations have covered batteries for various vehicles and industries.) In September 2022, the EU has reached a provisional agreement to continue with those laws. And on June 14, 2023, the European Parliament approved itwhich issued a press release explaining that portable batteries should be designed “so that consumers can do it themselves easy to remove and replace them” (emphasis theirs).

Comments have been made on the interpretation of the phrase “easily removable and replaceable”

There’s still a final vote to come, but given that this month’s approval was passed by 587 votes to nine and 20 abstentions, I’d say that’s pretty much a foregone conclusion. The section on battery replaceability will come into force three and a half years after the final vote.

This means that in a few years, every phone sold in Europe will have to be designed so that the battery can be replaced by the owner. And that any manufacturer doing business in Europe will have to decide whether they want to make completely different phone models to fit that market – or come up with phones that can also be sold in other parts of the world. Like the US.

Since this news hit, there has been much debate about the exact interpretation of the phrase “easily removable and replaceable”. Kevin Purdy makes some good points in his Ars Technica article in which he notes that batteries are actually replaceable now if you have the know-how (and courage) to get through the glue that holds your phone together and keeps your battery in the phone. Of course, it’s a bit hard to argue that this would be classed as “easily removable” by the average user. But what does it do? Using specialized tools to get to the battery – so that “replaceable” means inserting a new, semi-permanent battery? Just unscrew the back of the phone? Or go back to how it was and just pry it off with your fingernail?

I must admit I am very curious how this will turn out. Chances are, it probably looks different from the replaceable batteries we had 15 years ago. It’s probably more about extending the life of your device, not a few extra hours of use before you need to charge it. Still, I like to daydream that I can shrug my shoulders again and change a battery in less than a minute when my phone is running low. I could get used to that again.

Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.