Should batteries in portable electronics be replaceable?

Batteries in mobile phones, both "non-smart" and smartphones, used to be built in a way that would let the user easily replace them.

In 2007, Apple released the first iPhone, and its battery could not be replaced. In the mid-2010s, all major smartphone vendors followed suit by switching from easily replaceable to non-user-replaceable batteries.

Similarly, laptop vendors have switched to difficult-to-replace batteries in the 2010s.

Batteries should be replaceable edit

Arguments for edit

  •   Argument for - The battery is the shortest-lived part inside portable electronic devices such as smartphones and laptops. No matter how well it is treated, it will lose strength and capacity over time and eventually stop working.
  •   Argument for - The battery can be replaced without causing damage to the device. Forcibly opening the sealed back cover of a smartphone with non-replaceable battery causes the seal to be damaged, hence a previously water-resistant smartphone will not be water-resistant anymore.[1]
  •   Argument for - Non-replaceable batteries are a slippery slope. They leave manufacturers possibilities to make batteries even more difficult to replace. Whereas the iPhone 4 from 2010 could be disassembled using a screwdriver to access the battery, the battery in more recent iPhones is only replaceable by breaking a seal, and batteries may be serialized, meaning associated to the smartphone with a serial number so the phone refuses to run or disables some functionality with a replaced battery.[2]
  •   Argument for - An empty battery can be replaced with an externally charged battery, so the charge can be renewed within minutes.
    •   Objection - Replacing a battery on the go is uncomfortable.
      •   Objection - Walking in public while the smartphone is attached to an external battery pack ("power bank") is uncomfortable as well.
    •   Objection - Some smartphones with replaceable battery covers can not be opened with the finger but require a screw to be turned. An example of this is the Samsung Galaxy Xcover series.
      •   Objection - A screwdriver is lightweight to carry and takes less room than a power bank.
      •   Objection - Even with a battery cover that requires screws to open, it takes at most a few minutes to perform a battery replacement.

Arguments against edit

  •   Argument against - A sealed design is necessary to make a smartphone water-resistant.
    •   Objection - Water-resistant smartphones with replaceable batteries such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Sony Xperia V exist.
    •   Objection - It is possible to isolate the battery in a way that even if water leaked into the back cover, it could not get to the delicate internal electronics of the phone. Smartphone vendors already did the same with USB charging ports, for example Samsung starting with the Galaxy S5 mini and S7, and Apple with the iPhone 7. Their charging ports need no cover to be water-resistant thanks to being isolated internally.
    •   Objection - The water resistance of a sealed smartphone is lost after a battery replacement, since it requires breaking the seal.[1]
    •   Objection - Even a sealed design does not guarantee water resistance.[3] Should water have entered the device, a replaceable battery can be removed to cut off electricity and prevent further damage to the components.
  •   Argument against It takes more physical space to build a replaceable battery cover, so a sealed design allows for a larger battery in the same physical space, allowing for thinner smartphones.
    •   Objection - The capacity benefit is only temporary due to the battery wearing down.
    •   Objection - People purchase smartphones for their functionality, not their thinness. The purpose of a smartphone is to get work done, not to be as thin as possible.[4]
    •   Objection - It could be argued that a vehicle oil tank should not be openable in order to save space. However, oil will expire and need replacement.
  •   Argument against One can get the battery replaced at an electronics repair shop.
    •   Objection - A phone repair shop could potentially invade the privacy of a client by looking into the user data. This has happened in the past.[5]
    •   Objection - Lockdowns during pandemics could cause repair shops to be difficult to access, whereas an easily replaceable battery allows purchasing reserve batteries in advance and storing them at home.
    •   Objection - Repair shops are far away from some peoples' location of residence, making them difficult and time-consuming to access.
    •   Objection - A battery replacement at an electronics repair store takes far more time, whereas a user-replaceable battery is changed within minutes, sometimes less than a minute, visiting an electronics repair store and waiting for the repair to finish can take hours.
  •   Argument against - A user-replaceable battery makes products less economically viable for the vendor. Vendors who make batteries replaceable would earn less money because their users would buy new batteries instead of completely new devices.
    •   Objection - An universal outlaw of non-replaceable batteries would "level the playing field" between manufacturers, so no manufacturer would suffer competitive disadvantages.
  •   Argument against - The computer or smartphone can be shipped with the battery inserted so it can be booted immediately out of the box.
    •   Objection - Inserting the battery on the day the device is unboxed takes less than a minute, which makes no difference in the long term compared to the impending expiry of a battery that can not be replaced without great difficulty.
    •   Objection - Nothing prevents a manufacturer from inserting a replaceable battery in advance.
    •   Objection - The shipped battery might not be charged.
  •   Argument against - Wireless charging can be built right into the phone.[6]
    •   Objection - Nothing prevents a wireless charging battery cover from being shipped within the scope of delivery, and attached to the phone so it has wireless charging out of the box. That wireless charging battery cover can also be made compatible with multiple wireless charging standards.
  •   Argument against - A sealed battery is necessary for a premium unibody design with a glass or metal back.
    •   Objection - Many people apply protective cases to protect their smartphones from damage. The case covers up the "premium" design, making it irrelevant.
    •   Objection - The materials that are considered "premium" by some people, glass and metal, are more susceptible to damage. Glass can crack after falling to the ground, and metal is vulnerable to bending.[7]
    •   Objection - A "premium" design is irrelevant to the functioning of a smartphone, whereas a functional battery is essential.
    •   Objection - A "premium" design could distract from productive work.
    •   Objection - Even to people who don't wear a case on their phones, a glass back ceases to look good as soon as it is by fingerprints, and is slippery, increasing the chance of the phone falling to ground.
    •   Objection - A metal back interferes with wireless power transmission, making wireless charging impractical and potentially weakening other wireless signals.
  •   Argument against - A replaceable battery allows a thief to disable anti-theft tracking software by pulling out the battery.
    •   Objection - Smartphones can typically be force-reset by holding a combination of buttons for a few seconds. This combination of buttons varies among devices.
    •   Objection - A thief could disable tracking apps by waiting until the battery has drained. The draining of the battery could be accelerated by letting the screen stay on and by opening the camera application.
    •   Objection - The existence of thieves does not justify making devices difficult to repair. If thieves cause devices to be difficult to repair, thieves have won in the way that they have reduced the life expectancy of devices nearly every person uses every day
  •   Argument against - People can activate power saving mode to extend the life expectancy of the battery.
    •   Objection - Power saving mode leads to a deteriorated user experience and slower performance. Why spend money on an expensive smartphone if one is not going to use all of its processing power?
    •   Objection - Even with power saving mode, the battery will wear down and need replacement, even though later.

See also edit

References edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Wit Rigs (28 September 2016). Can a repaired S7 still be waterproof?. Retrieved 26 September 2023.
  2. Craig Lloyd (2019-08-07). "Apple Is Locking iPhone Batteries to Discourage Repair". iFixit. Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  3. Sharda, Adit (2014-05-15). "Is the Sony Xperia Z2 Really Waterproof?". DroidViews. Retrieved 2023-09-30.
  4. Arun Maini (2019-08-10). Your Smartphone is too thin. Here’s why. Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  5. Malcolm Owne (2021-06-07). "Apple pays millions to end customer's explicit images leak lawsuit". Apple Insider. Retrieved 2023-09-26.
  6. Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2015 – Livestream (Replay) (Video). 2015-03-01. Archived from the original on 2021-11-17. Retrieved 2023-09-26. (at 27 minutes and 55 seconds)
  7. Lewis George Hilsenteger (2014-09-23). iPhone 6 Plus Bend Test. Retrieved 2023-09-26.