New European rules mean that all smartphone batteries must be easily replaceableincluding iPhone batteries. The European Parliament has approved new rules governing the durability of batteries. We already reported on these rules, which were in preparation 6 months ago for removable batteries in high-tech devices, and which now seem to be taking shape.
These rules are stricter in terms of recycling efficiency, disposal, etc., but the bottom line is that batteries for portable appliances are now user-replaceable. This includes phones, but applies to all portable gadgets. Does this mean we’ll be returning to the days of thick handsets and battery doors that open on their own? No, but it will still make a lot of noise.
Battery replacement brings design problems to current models
” It will be interesting to see how this plays out and which devices will be included in the rule. MacBooks could easily accommodate interchangeable batteries” said one Apple user. It will be harder to make tablets and phones “feasily removable “without changing the design philosophy. Inexpensive electronics will be the most difficult, cost-wise, as many of them are currently simply thrown away. No more tiles with single-use batteries, for example.
The new rules state that the user (you or me) must be able to remove and replace batteries from their gadgets. But it’s unlikely to change much on the outside of our phones. Rather, it’s on the inside that the changes will occur.
The EU considers a battery to be ” easily removable “if it can be removed using commercially available tools and ” without requiring the use of specialized tools, unless provided free of charge with the product, proprietary tools, heat energy or solvents to disassemble the product.” .
We can already see a flaw in this paragraph. Can’t specialized tools be commercially available? Even so, the main obstacle to replacing an iPhone battery is not the strange Pentalobe screws that Apple uses to make access to the phone more difficult (which were once considered specialized tools, but are now well and truly commercially available).
The problem is practically dismantle the whole phone to access the batteryand risk breaking the screen and many delicate components and wires in the process. What the EU wants, it seems, is not to put an end to the use of fixed internal batteries. It simply wants to make it possible for an ordinary human being to replace one without breaking his phone..
” The iPhone 14 already opens from the back, but this luxury doesn’t exist on the Pro models. In my opinion, the biggest obstacle to compliance with these new regulations could be correcting the considerable amounts of adhesive Apple uses to secure the battery itself, as well as the frame and shell to waterproof it” writes technology observer Nick Heer on his Pixel envy blog.
Facilitating replacement can also save time for brand departments and third parties.
Making battery replacement easier is also a good thing for Apple, as its in-store technicians can replace batteries in minutes instead of hourswhile probably charging the same price for the new unit. And it’s also incredibly important both for users and for the world. Most phones and gadgets are thrown away after just a few years, not because they’re broken or obsolete, but because the batteries have died.
EU rules use the term ” device “It’s hard to imagine how this will be interpreted. Are the AirPods affected? Opening one of them seems to require a box cutter and a hammer, and Apple might not even be able to make them small enough if the batteries had to be removed. But the law has always limited and guided technology, whether it’s making seatbelts compulsory in cars or imposing building regulations. It’s up to technology companies to develop solutions that comply with these rules.
Let’s just hope that big tech companies like Apple don’t manage to evade this obligation through a carelessly unraveled loophole.