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Benefits of user-replaceable batteries

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🔋 This page documents the benefits of user-replaceable batteries in portable consumer electronics such as mobile phones and portable computers, and the problems associated with non-replaceable batteries.

This article explains how non-user-replaceable batteries, also known as non-removable batteries, severely restrict the freedom and convenience of many users of said products, and how the freedom of choice has increasingly diminished during the 2010s decade down to a point where nearly every newly released mobile phone has a battery that is not replaceable by the end user.

Although much of this article applies to other devices such as laptop computers as well, this article mainly is focussed on mobile phones due to their heavy reliance on a portable power source, significance and versatility as a highly portable device and due to their greater affliction by the design trend of non-user-replaceable batteries.

Definition[edit]

Contrary to popular belief, tablet computers can have user-replaceable batteries. This one uses a slider mechanism to lock the battery in.

A battery only qualifies as user-replaceable if the device meets the following design conditions:

  • No glue is used to hold the battery in place.
  • No solder is used to connect the battery terminals.
  • The user is able to access the device's battery compartment without:
    • using a heat gun or soldering iron,
    • damaging any part of the device such as breaking seals,
    • exposing delicate internal components such as the device's main board,
    • or need for proprietary tools such as a proprietary screw driver.

Laptop computers with user-replaceable batteries and dedicated cameras and camcorders commonly use a slider interlock, while mobile phones with user-replaceable batteries use a removable back cover fastened using jigsaw-shaped locks, and the bottom of the battery compartment to hold the battery.

As described in § Instant swap, some rugged mobile phones also use screws to reinforce the rear cover's fastening.[note 1][note 2]

History[edit]

The great usurpation of user-replaceable batteries

With the release of the Apple iPods and iPhones in the 2000s decade, the great usurpation of user-replaceable batteries in mobile devices has commenced.

Until the early 2010s, nearly all mobile phones that were not Apple iPhones had a battery cover that could simply be opened by the end user.

Over time, other phone vendors slowly started succumbing to the slim fragile unibody(euphemism) design trend set by Apple, who successfully marketed it as a cool status symbol to the world, possibly with the help of massive astroturfing and shilling in online technology forums and support by members of the Apple cult.

Mobile phone vendors other than Apple increasingly degenerated and released mobile phones with non-user-replaceable batteries such as:

  • Sony Xperia S and P[1][2] (early 2012)
  • LG/Google Nexus 4 (2012) and Nexus 5 (2013)
  • Sony Xperia Z and ZR (early 2013)
  • HTC One M7 (early 2013)
  • Samsung Galaxy A3, A5, A7 (late 2014)
  • Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge (early 2015)[note 3][note 4]

As an outcome, user-replaceable batteries have increasingly been usurped to a point where the vast majority of mobile phones released since 2015 until at least late 2020 have batteries not replaceable by the end user.

In laptops

This design trend has also affected laptop computers, albeit not as strongly.

After the popularization of Apple Mac Book laptop computers, others with internal battery compartments are increasingly emerging.

The batteries in several laptop series such as the large MSi GT gaming desknote series are increasingly more difficult to access, requiring the full removal of the bottom cover.

While many bottom covers can be removed after opening several screws, some bottom covers and batteries are glued in, making a battery surgery without damaging near components from prying it off especially difficult.

The problem: Planned obsolescence[edit]

Non-replaceable batteries are downright hostile against consumers.

The battery is an evanescent component. In portable electronics, some of the most frequently used tools in everyday life, it is the component with by far the shortest life expectancy, thus supposed to be modular and replaced like brakes and wheels on vehicles upon expiration.[4][5][6][note 5][7]

Like defective crucial components in machines, a defective supply of electricity to a device such as an expired battery in a mobile phone cripples its operation.

Difficult repairs or even having to replace an entire device because of one failing component is wasteful of resources and efforts.

Battery aging[edit]

Over time, with normal usage, a rechargeable battery wears down and eventually loses both capacity, performance, as well as efficiency with the cell's increasing internal resistance.

Each charging and discharging cycle adds to the weardown and brings the battery closer to its demise. It is as if a fuel tank slightly shrank on each refill and during usage.[8]

On devices powered by Lithium-Ion batteries, the most common battery type in portable electronics, the battery performance's decline usually becomes increasingly noticeable after two years of moderate usage or just one year of heavy usage.[9][10] Although the battery should have around 80% of its original performance at that point, it means that it is already past half its lifespan.

As the battery gets weaker and comes closer to being a deadweight, its remaining life span expires faster due to constant user demands causing an increased usage relative to battery power and energy capacity.

Another noticeable sign of battery degradation is a rashing battery indicator, which gives a false appearance of faster charging due to the battery terminal voltage raising to its ceiling faster.

This causes unadapted software not programmed to take battery degradation into calculation overestimate the energy, while the battery is actually storing less energy.

Towards the end of its lifespan, the performance and endurance of the battery starts to plunge.[11][12][13][14][15]

Power starvation[edit]

A geriatric battery may compromise device functionality and cause unexpected power-offs.

Unexpected poweroffs[edit]

At one point after enough weardown from usage, a battery is weakened by its age so much that the voltage risks falling below a threshold (e.g. 3.0 Volts for mobile phones) during normal operation, unexpectedly causing poweroffs. The battery is considered to be expired and have reached the end of its useful (functional) lifespan at that point.

After further usage of a senescent battery, it will eventually no longer be able to power the device for beyond a few minutes.

Limited performance[edit]

Due to the low performance of aged batteries, a device has to artificially limit its processing power to avoid overwhelming the age-weakened battery. Colder environmental temperatures that slow down the chemical reactions inside the battery and lower charging states decrease the output power limit even further.[16]

This is the reason behind the infamous iOS 9 performance throttling scandal on the 2011 iPhone 4s, where a late 2015 operating system update deliberately throttled the device's processing speed to prevent overwhelming decrepit non-replaceable batteries.[17]

To prevent this power starvation effect, the device would have to be connected to an external power source such as a wall charger/power supply or a power bank, from where it should be able to draw power in abundance, provided that the power source works as intended. During free movement however, the ergonomy of a mobile phone is restricted while connected to a power bank.

iPhone battery weakness[edit]

Battery weakness has especially been a historical problem on iPhones because their batteries had a low capacity to begin with, meaning that the same tasks demand a higher C-rate, which is the battery current relative to its capacity.[17]

Because smaller and more aged batteries are weaker, powering the same tasks and charging at the same absolute speed induces more stress onto the battery cell due to higher power requiremnts relative to the battery's strength.[18][17]

Vulnerabilities[edit]

Plating[edit]

Lithium-Ion batteries might suffer from a destructive chemical reaction known as plating if charged during freezing temperatures, discharged below 2.5 volts (usually caused by self-discharging after long non-usage) and trickle-charged.[19]

Dendrite hazard[edit]

Dendrites infesting a Lithium-Ion battery

Over time, Lithium-Ion batteries develope so-called dendrites from normal usage. These are whiskers of lithium that infest the battery internally over time, causing the capacity and performance to degrade over time, and the internal resistance to increase.

Dendrites develope faster at higher charging speeds and at higher temperatures. Too many dendrites could cause an internal short circuit in the battery by drilling through the polarity septum, which is a safety hazard and may pose a risk of fire.[20]

Removal when inflated[edit]

The result of prioritizing slim “premium” design over safety and functionality.

In the unlikely event of a mobile phone battery visibly inflating, it can be removed from the device immediately if the rear cover is removable, minimzing damage.

But if a non-replaceable battery visibly inflates, the mobile phone will self-destruct like a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, whose infamous disaster mainly is the result of an aggressively slim design that failed to house the battery with a moderate capacity of 3500 mAh properly, damaging it from squishing.[21]

Video recording[edit]

The photography capabilities and especially video recording abilities of mobile phones has improved to a point where such devices are able to serve as the main camera to the majority of people.

But mobile phone batteries with less than 10 Watt-hours are considerably too weak to power 2160p (4K) and high frame rate (e.g. 1080p@120fps, 720p@240fps) video recording, thus will degrade quickly when used for powering such tasks.

The usage of video recording modes on newer mobile phones released towards the end of the 2010s decade, with even higher pixel rates, such as 2160p@60fps, 1080p@240fps and continuous 720p@480fps demand even more battery power.

New higher video resolutions such as 3240p 6K and especially 4320p 8K on devices released since 2020, such as the Samsung Galaxy S20 and Note 20 models, ravenously demand battery power and produce significant heat.

Here is a comparison of battery capacities with several known mobile phone models that support at least 2160p 4K video recording at 30fps, as a reference:

  • Apple iPhones
    • iPhone SE (2016): 6.0 Wh
    • iPhone SE (2020): 6.7 Wh
    • iPhone 6s (2015): 6.3 Wh
    • iPhone 7 (2016): 7.2 Wh
    • iPhone 8 (2017): 6.7 Wh
    • iPhone X (2017): 10.3 Wh
    • iPhone XR (2018): 10.8 Wh
    • iPhone XS (2018): 9.8 Wh
  • Samsung Mobile
    • Galaxy S5 (2014): 10.3 Wh (replaceable)
    • Galaxy S6 (2015): 9.4 Wh
    • Galaxy S6 Edge (2015): 9.6 Wh
    • Galaxy S7 (2016): 11.1 Wh
    • Galaxy S7 Edge (2016): 13.3 Wh
    • Galaxy S8 (2017): 11.1 Wh
    • Galaxy S8 Plus (2017): 12.9 Wh
    • Galaxy Note 3 (2013): 11.8 Wh (replaceable)
    • Galaxy Note 4 (2014): 11.9 Wh (replaceable)
    • Galaxy Note 5 (2015): 11.1 Wh
    • Galaxy Note 10 (2019): 12.9 Wh
    • Galaxy Note 10+ (2019): 15.9 Wh
    • Galaxy S20 (2020): 14.8 Wh (8K video)
    • Galaxy S20 Plus: 16.6 Wh (8K video)
    • Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G (2020): 18.5 Wh (8K video)
  • LG Mobile
    • LG G Pro 2 (2014): 11.8 Wh (replaceable)
    • LG G3 (2014): 11.1 Wh (replaceable)
    • LG G4 (2015): 11.1 Wh (replaceable)
    • LG G5 (2016): 10.3 Wh (replaceable)
    • LG V10 (2015): 11.1 Wh (replaceable)
    • LG V20 (2016): 11.8 Wh (replaceable)
  • HTC Mobile
    • HTC One M9 (2015): 10.5 Wh
    • HTC 10 (2016): 11.1 Wh
  • Sony Mobile
    • Sony Xperia Z2 (early 2014): 11.8 Wh
    • Sony Xperia Z3 (late 2014): 11.1 Wh
    • Sony Xperia Z3 compact (late 2014): 9.6 Wh
    • Sony Xperia Z5 compact (2015): 9.9 Wh
    • Sony Xperia M5 Aqua (2016): 9.6 Wh
  • OnePlus
    • OnePlus One (2014): 11.4 Wh
    • OnePlus 2 (2015): 12.2 Wh
    • OnePlus 3 and 3T (2016): 12.5 Wh
    • OnePlus 5 (2017): 12.2 Wh


If a device you think is worth listing is not listed here yet, feel free to add it.

Freedom[edit]

Sense of ownership[edit]

Justin Denison glorifyingly announcing that the battery of the Samsung Galaxy S6 is non-replaceable, heavily disappointing their core customer base. (Keynote on March 1st 2015.)

Knowing that one is able to easily and quickly replace the battery at any time is a liberating feeling.[note 3]

In contrary, the thought of one non-modular, trapped component with a short lifespan having the potential to render the entire device near-useless upon expiration could exert inconvenient subconscious saliency on a user.

The possible dependence on external help robs users of the sense of ownership and control over their device. Even the existence of manual repair toolkits does not nearly provide the certainty of user-replaceable batteries.

This sense of confinement could be a nuisance during the usage of advanced device features such as high charging speeds, discouraging the use of such.

Certainty[edit]

The degree of difficulty for a battery surgery, a property not listed on specification sheets, may vary up to where the entire circuit board needs to riskily be removed before the battery[22], while user-replaceable batteries provide one the assurance of safe and convenient future replacements.

Significance[edit]

Why it matters.

Due to the tremendous versatility, practicality and portability of mobile phones[23], these devices have become an essential part of user's lives and are therefore heavily relied upon. It is a digital swiss army knife.

To many, the mobile phone is the most steadily accessible toolbox, electronic companion and digital portal. It is what connects them to the Internet and other people from anywere, captures fleeting moments with its built-in cameras, records stunning footage with its camcorder feature, illuminates the dark when needed with its built-in LED lamp, acts as a digital note book, and much more.

For portability, all of this functionality relies on a portable power source, namely the mobile phone battery. If said mobile phone battery ceases to function properly however, namely because of its old age, its failure disables the normal operation of the device, making all of said functionality unuseable and ineffective.

Weardown from heavy usage[edit]

While battery technology has improved, the performance demands from customers are increasing to power new functionality such as faster recharging, 5G connectivity, high resolution video recording and wireless discharging, all of which imposes additional stress and weardown on the battery.

Fast charging speeds and full, deep charging cycles (i.e. charging a battery up to 100% and discharging down to 0%) reduce the life span of the battery faster, while deliberately limiting the charging speed and using power saving settings is a sacrifice of convenience, deterioating user experience.

High charging currents relative to the battery size put enormous stress on the battery cell.

The heat produced during fast charging speeds, wireless charging and high usage of the CPU and GPU further accelerates the wear & tearing of the battery.

Heavy usage not only heats up the device but also drains the battery faster, speeding up consumption of the limited recharge cycles. This includes:

Power appliances
Multimedia
  • High resolution and/or framerate video recording and playback
  • 3D gaming
  • Mobile video editing
Display and user interface
  • High screen brightnesses[note 6]
  • High screen resolutions (e.g. 1440p, 2160p)
  • High refresh rates (e.g. 90 Hz, 120 Hz)
  • Visual effects such as blur
  • Haptic feedback
Tasks
  • Video telephony
  • Usage of split-screen and multi-window functionality
  • Frequent switching between applications
Connectivity
  • Usage of cellular networks like 4G and especially 5G.
  • Usage of Miracast (screen mirroring)
  • Usage of WiFi direct (file transfer, hotspot FTP server, Internet hotspot)
  • Over-the-air synchronisation and backup using cloud, FTP and similar.
  • Poor signal strengths
Location-dependent services
  • Smart Lock
  • Navigation
Camera operation

Another undesirable potential effect of power saving settings is its possible negative impact on camera performance such as its launching speed.

This increases the likelihood of it failing to capture volatile moments, which may significantly be disadvantageous to those relying on their mobile phone as most frequently used camera.

This performance loss gets magnified if poorly engineered camera software causes further delays.

Usage as power bank[edit]

Mobile phones with USB-OTG (USB on the go) support allow outputting power through the USB port, although with limited discharging speeds and power losses from voltage boost conversion from the mobile phone's internal battery voltage to five volts required for USB power output.

Wireless discharging[edit]

In the late 2010s, the first mobile phones with wireless discharging abilities appeared on the market, such as the Samsung Galaxy S9 (released early 2018) and Samsung flagship phones released since then, of whose this feature has been branded PowerShare.[24] Wireless discharging is also known as “reverse wireless charging” at Huawei.[25]

Wireless discharging allows the mobile phone to act as a wireless charging station and provide wireless power to other devices. If the PowerShare host, the phone providing the wireless power, is not connected to a wired charger itself, entirely the mobile phone's internal non-user-replaceable battery is used to provide the power necessary for wireless discharging.

Criticism of wireless discharging[edit]

Although potentially practical in emergency situations, wireless discharging is a ravenous, squanderous waste of the limited recharge cycles of the host device's non-user-replaceable battery due to the inefficiency of wireless power transmission (electromagnetic induction over the air) and the high amounts of transmitted power relative to a mobile phone's battery size.[note 7] The heat caused by said inefficiency (energy loss) adds to the battery's weardown.

The usage of wireless discharging is advertised, thus endorsed by Samsung[26][24], among other vendors.[27]

Sacrifice of convenience and mobility[edit]

In order to extend the battery's life span and somewhat delay its inevitable demise, users would have to sacrifice convenience by keeping the battery charging state between approximately 25% and 75%, avoid excessive heat (above around ≈30°C), restrict the device's performance by enabling settings for power saving, refrain from extended usage, and deactivate the convenient fast charging feature (or limit charging speed by using less powerful chargers[note 8]), which negatively affects the user experience.[28][8]

Some mobile phone vendors implement aggressive power saving measures in their operating system. As result, power saving settings may interfere with the normal operation of third-party software, especially such required to run in background to fulfill its purpose.

Thanklessness[edit]

Not only do these measures of frugality decrease user convenience, but they put the manufacturer's implementation of a device's potential capabilites to waste.

For the sake of postponing the anyway inevitable expiry of a part that is technically supposed to be replaceable, many users seldomly or never use fast charging, deliberately throttling the charging speed by deactivating it or using a weaker power supply and/or higher resistance (lower-quality/longer) cables, as commonly advised on battery life span guides.[30][31]

While not diminishing practicality for overnight charges, where abundant charging time is available, it could significantly diminish usability for advanced usage during the day, and is dismissive of the efforts electrical engineers spent on these technologies supposed to enrich users.

In addition, battery nursing measures such as using slower charging speeds and only partial charging cycles would sacrifice the mobile phone's mobility because it would be dependent longer and more frequently on external power input to keep working.

Battery health care measures that involve limiting device performance and used capacity actually simulate an already degraded battery.[note 9]

The dilemma[edit]

With a non-user-replaceable battery, the user is forced to decide between convenience or battery lifespan.

With a replaceable battery in comparison, one can blissfully charge fast, use the battery's entire capacity with full charging cycles, run full overnight charges without timer switches and wake up to a full battery, and do power-intensive tasks such as high-resolution and/or framerate video recording, without bothering with battery care, power saving modes or feelings of guilt and misery in advance knowing that the limited battery lifespan could be a dead-end, or at least a significant burden for the entire device upon expiration, if it were not replaceable.

It has even come to a point where timed switch gadgets with the single purpose of preventing full charges exist![32][33]

Instant swap[edit]

Some devices, especially dedicated cameras and camcorders, but also many laptops and most non-Apple wireless computer mice[note 10] and keyboards, have an easily accessible battery compartment, which allows the instant replacement of a discharged battery with a charged one, a benefit known from memory cards.

While the device operates on the charged battery, the discharged battery can be recharged using an external charger, to be immediately ready for usage as soon as the other battery is discharged again.

This argument is less of a concern for mobile phones with fast charging technology, because they can be recharged very quickly on the go anyway using powerbanks that support fast charging.

In addition, some mobile phones with replaceable batteries have screw-mounted back covers that need to be opened with the help of a screwdriver instead of only by hand. Such devices include the Samsung Galaxy Xcover outdoor/rugged phone series.

Although such back covers make the battery less accessible on the go, they can provide more reliable and stronger protection against water and dust ingress while still allowing the replacement of an expired battery (that has reached the end of its lifespan) within minutes at home.

Some mobile phones such as the Caterpillar (“CAT”) B15 and B15Q use a back cover slider interlock.[34][35]

Replacement anticipation[edit]

With the degrading battery functionability over time, a user may subconsciously get somewhat used to the deterioated battery performance.

With a simply interchangeable battery, a user can look forward to its next replacement because it allows being appreciative of the imminently noticable energy and performance boost given by new battery after becoming used to those of the previous, degraded battery, all without the replacement being a significant burden, in addition to its detrimental effects on usability in advance of inevitable battery demise.

Battery variants[edit]

Users' ability to replace batteries allows to cycle between different variants of batteries as necessary, such as rear-protruding higher-capacity variants of laptop batteries which may hold

A possibility for vendors is offering the user power cell and energy cell variants of batteries, of which the former prioritizes recharging speeds and output performance[note 11], while the latter is built with maximizing energy density in mind.

Forced replacement (battery surgery)[edit]

Botched iPhone battery replacement job

Phone repair shop[edit]

A forced battery replacement of a sealed battery (i.e. battery surgery) by a mobile phone repair shop usually costs at least five times as much as a replacement battery, may take hours instead of less than two minutes, and possibly irreversibly damages the water resistance seal.[36]

In addition, instead of easily manually replacing the battery at home within a minute with certainty of success, one has to trust ones device to a repairman with the hope that he successfully performs the battery surgery without damaging any delicate parts of a device that was never built to ever have its battery replaced.

Such a battery surgery, depending on the build of the device, may rely on high-precision work with a heat gun and with a hot soldering iron in proximity of delicate hardware components, as opposed to risk-freely opening a back cover with ones hand and a screwdriver if necessary.

If internal parts are stuck together using glue and the battery terminals are soldered, repairs are especially difficult and might cause unintended damage to components.[37]

Manual battery surgery[edit]

Although tool kits for performing the battery surgery manually exist (e.g. those by iFixit), the usage of those usually demands intense patience and dexterity (fine motor skills), more or less depending on the device's physical construction, while user-replaceable batteries provide users the certainty of trouble-free future replacements in advance.

There is a risk of botching replacements, rendering a device unuseable, which has reportedly happened to several attempters.[38][39]

This option may not even be available or tied to restrictions, if the vendor implements software locks that disable inofficial repairs, like Apple is doing on iPhones since 2019.[40]

Services by vendors[edit]

Some vendors offer users a servce to deposit their device through (physical) mail for a battery replacement. In that case, the user has to trust that their posted device does not get lost or damaged anywhere in the delivery, and that the vendor does not secretly apply additional unsolicited modifications to the device.

Accessibility of battery surgery[edit]

In addition, users located in remote places such as smaller valleys might have to wait days for their device to arrive back at home.

Access to mobile phone repair services tends to be restricted in remote places and during a pandemic outbreak such as Coronavirus 2020.

Spare replacement batteries however can be purchased by the user any time in advance in any needed quantity, and replaced like a vehicle's tire with a spare tire.

Anti-replaceable-battery arguments debunked[edit]

This section debunks the myths and arguments in favour of non-user-replaceable mobile phone batteries, some of which are applicable to other battery-powered devices as well.

The arguments mentioned in the following list include respective variations of them.

Water irresistance myth[edit]

“User-replaceable batteries make water-resistance impossible!

A common argument invoked against a design with user-replaceable battery is it allegedly excluding water and dust resistance.

However, devices including the Samsung's Galaxy S5[41][42] (including “Active”, “Sport” and “Mini”[note 12] variants), Galaxy S4 Active, Galaxy Xcover series, Sony Xperia V, Sony Ericsson Xperia Active, Cat B15 and B15Q were water-resistant while being equipped with a user-replaceable battery. Even the robust GoPro sports cameras are designed with user-replaceable battery.[43]

In comparison, a battery surgery leaves permanent damage. Even if water resistance is claimed to be preserved, the risk of leaks increases significantly.

Water resistance seals in phones with slimmer, subsequently weaker bodies, all the more if used without protective case, are especially prone to weardown from physical stress.

“Replaceable batteries limit water/dust resistance.”

This can be compensated by making the rubber isolation thicker, deeper, and/or multi-layered.

Both mobile phones without and with user-replaceable batteries can have reliable water resistance if implemented properly[41][42], and vice versa.

In fact, the water resistance of several premium, non-replaceable sealed battery phones such as the Sony Xperia Z[37] and Z2[44][45] has been disputed.

Argumentum ad Apple

The first day in history since which Apple users appear to be caring about water protection in mobile phones is September 7th, 2016.

It happens to be the same day the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple's first officially water-protected mobile phones, were unveiled.

Slim design argument[edit]

“Users prefer thinner phones!”[46]

Not only is functionality the original purpose of mobile phones, but millions of Apple cult members appear not to be bothered by the >8 millimeters of thickness on all three iPhone 11 variants[47], the same thickness those hypocrites criticized earlier Samsung mobile phones for.

This iSheepocrisy (or iPocrisy) suggests that the criticism, much of it presumably from Apple iShills and cult members, solely purported for mocking the competing mobile phone vendors.

In addition, the Samsung Galaxy S4 with user-replaceable battery is only 7.9mm thick, which is slimmer than iPhones released in the years towards 2020.[48]

“Mobile phones with user-replaceable batteries never sold well!”
“Noone wants a boring polycarbonate back!”

Samsung Galaxy flagship mobile phones of 2010 to 2014 sold tens of millions of times each, making the Galaxy S4 the most sold Android-running mobile phone of all time with more than 80 Million sales.[49]

In addition, at the same screen size of 4.7 inches, the 6.7-mm-thin Samsung Galaxy Alpha's user-replaceable 1860 mAh battery has a greater capacity than both the non-replaceable batteries of the 6.9mm thin Apple iPhone 6 and the 7.1mm 6s, which only have 1810 mAh and 1715 mAh repectively, meaning that the Galaxy Alpha houses both a larger and user-replaceable battery despite being 0.2 millimetres thinner at the same screen surface size! And at the same time, the Samsung Galaxy Alpha weighs less than both the iPhone models![50]

Comparison overview
Device→
Feature↓
Samsung Galaxy Alpha Apple iPhone 6 Apple iPhone 6s
Release date 2014-08 2014-09 2015-09
Screen size 4.7 inches
Battery capacity 1860 mAh 1810 mAh 1715 mAh
Battery user-replaceable? Yes No
Thickness 6.7mm 6.9mm 7.1mm
Weight 115 g 129 g 143 g
2160p (4K) video recording[note 13] Yes No[note 14] Yes
[50][note 9]

The millions of members of the Apple cult evidently submit to any design trend Apple throws at them. Had Apple produced an iPhone with user-replaceable battery[note 15], countless members of the Apple cult would have purchased it, solely because of the brand name “Apple”, not its functionality.

Technological advances argument[edit]

A common argument almost invariably hurled by form-over-function advocates is that progress in battery technology make(subjunctive) up for the replaceability of batteries.[51]

At the same time however, both user demands and power-guzzling device functionality have increased, as described in § Weardown from heavy usage.

Wireless charging argument[edit]

“Wireless charging is not possible with user-replaceable batteries.”

Several devices with user-replaceable batteries such as the Galaxy S3, S4, S5, Note 2, Note 3 and Note 4 allow attaching a special wireless charging back cover that does nearly look identical to the original back cover.

The power is delivered through dedicated contact pins under the back cover.[note 16]

Manufacturers could, if they wanted, include such a back cover into the scope of delivery in the original box in which the main unit is shipped.

Bulk argument[edit]

“Non-replaceable batteries are bulkier!”

While they indeed need slightly more physical space for the same capacity due to a need for protective casing necessary for protection during handling and minor drops, that space compromise is one many users would happily accept in return for freedom from planned obsolescence, including 100% of the voters here and the vast majority of voters on a big technology forum[52]. Here is another poll where 100% voted for user-replaceable batteries over bezel-less displays, and an independent poll by Android Authority revealed that the majority of mobile phone users wishes new mobile phones with user-replaceable batteries.[53][54]

In addition, the deterioration of the battery over time nullifies the alleged physical space benefit anyway due to diminishment of the effective battery capacity, thus deterioation of effective energy density.

In other words, the amount of energy held by the battery decreases over time while it stays the same physical size.

Eventually, as described in previous sections, the battery will expire and degenerate into a deadweight.

Many users put their mobile phones in protective cases anyway, defeating the “premium materials” and “sleek design” arguments commonly invoked by form-over-function advocates and Apple shills.[55]

The same applies to adapters on which form-over-function advocate users of minimalistic Mac Book computers appear to depend as heavily as elderly people on mobility and medical aids (plural of aid, in German: „Hilfsmittel“).

See also: Benefits of expandable storage § USB-OTG argument

Ironically, this adds more bulk, which precisely is what many form-over-function advocates complain about on user-replaceable batteries, even though the bulk added by a replaceable battery design is marginal compared to the aids (plural of aid) relied on for many tasks by minimalistic devices.[note 9]

Restricted availability[edit]

“…then just go get a phone with user-replaceable battery!”

That mere option (freedom of choice) has sadly been heavily limited since the mid-2010s.[56]

The few new phones released with replaceable batteries are of a low or moderate specification class, often limited to mediocre charging speeds and mediocre 1080p@30fps video recording, which the Galaxy S2 was already capable of in 2011.

Even laptops are increasingly suffering from this restrictive and despicable Apple-made design trend, with fewer remaining options to choose from as more with non-replaceable battery usurp those over time.

Subsequently, existing and emerging devices with a user-replaceable battery may have other unrelated functional shortcomings undesirable to a user.

Rogue spare parts argument[edit]

“But users might purchase spare parts from questionable vendors!”

In the same way, a user might submit the device to a questionable phone repair shop that might fail to repair the phone properly and add damage in the process.

It is the user's responsibility to purchase spare parts from trustable vendors.

This also applies to other devices and machines such as data storage devices (including MicroSD cards for mobile phones), computers and vehicles, both for spare parts and repairs.

In addition, mobile phone manufacturers could print a notice on the device's package box that encourages users only to purchase spare parts from trustable vendors.

Power bank and battery case arguments[edit]

“Just use a powerbank!”[57]

Although it is beneficial and safer to carry a power bank regardless of the mobile phone's battery capacity, this argument appears mainly to be invoked by the same people who purchase mobile phones, laptop computers and other devices that prioritize form over function, i.e. slim design (a few millimeters thinner) and light weight (a few grams lighter) over battery capacity.

To advoate carrying a power bank that usually weighs multiple times as much as the mobile phone itself, and/or a battery case that adds significant thickness while complaining about the alleged bulk of mobile phones invariably is a double standard.

Being connected to a power bank may restrict the device's mobility and ergonomy, especially during camera usage.

When the battery expires and becomes a dead weight, the mobile phone will permanently rely on an external power source to prevent unexpected shutdowns from voltage starvations.

“But what about battery cases?”

Those in favour of non-user-replaceable batteries argue that the existence of battery cases renders user-replaceable internal batteries unnecessary due to the interchangeability of the battery case

Battery cases, in a nutshell, are power banks in the form of phone cases. They provide electricity to the phone through an integrated charging plug or wireless charging.

Incompatibility

Although a creative idea and a useful accessory to many, battery cases are not useable in combination with other phone cases that have special features such as strong protection and an integrated horizontal kickstand.[58]

The thickness double standard from form-over-function advocates described above especially applies to battery cases.

Slot block argument[edit]

Another argument cited in favour of irreplaceable batteries is the ability to access the SIM and SD card slots without having to remove the battery.

However, a battery blocking the SIM and SD card slots can only be the result of deliberately poor design from their mislocation. One example is the Sony Xperia V.[59]

On non-replaceable battery phones, the SD and SIM card is housed in the same tray, opened with the help of a usually precluded, dedicated non-sharp needle inserted into its pin hole, disconnecting both at once. Some mobile phones have the software limitation of requiring a reboot upon detecting an insertion or removal of the SIM card.

In comparison, the rear cover of most mobile phones with user-replaceable battery is removable by hand, not depending on a pin-hole needle.[note 17]

Alleged personal experience[edit]

“My last mobile phone'e battery lasted 3 years without issues!”

With current battery technologies, these high battery life expectancies are only achievable with frugality and sacrifice of convenience.

Many users however do neither wish to limit themselves to inconvenient slow charging speeds and limit the used capacity range of the battery to between around 25% and ~75%, nor to sacrifice processing speeds using power saving mode, or dismiss functionality of their device that demands much battery power.[60]

Device replacement argument[edit]

The argument “But I replace my phone every 1 to 2 years anyway!” does not change the fact that irreplaceable batteries are planned obsolescence by definition.[61]

One is also supposed to purchase a device out of appreciation for its functionality, not because one failing part that is hardly replaceable rendered the entire previous device near-useless and highly dependent on external power input (“wall hugging”[3]).

Many users prefer to keep using their device for well beyond 2 years because it could still fulfill its purpose and get its work done. But that device might not work as intended anymore due to battery failure.

Previous phones could also serve as surrogate/backup devices and/or have some functionality and compatibility to established software, which more recent devices may lack.

In addition, data portability on devices with locked bootloaders (which is the default state) is heavily restrained.[62]

Feature creep argument[edit]

“Replaceable batteries are feature creep!”

Not only does “feature creep” appear to be a buzz word selfishly invoked by form-over-function advocates to devalue any functionality they do not use themselves or their devices lack, but a user-replaceable battery does not fulfill the merits of so-called feature creep, namely obstruction.

It does not obstruct operation or usage of the device, even to overwhelm-prone[note 18] minimalist users.

Progress argument[edit]

Form-over-function advocates argue unibody(euphemism) designs be a natural part of the progress, and a “step forward”[note 3] in the development of mobile phones, setting more recent ones apart from earlier ones.[63]

While it does indeed set them apart, it does certainly not do so in the favour of newer mobile phones.

It is a negative change, regarding that, as described in other sections, non-user-replaceable batteries are abysmal in terms of practicality, convenience and consumer-friendliness.

Lesser common situations[edit]

This section addresses situations that are rather unlikely to occur to non-clusmy users.

Anti-theft argument[edit]

Those who oppose replaceable batteries argue that software that helps to remotely supervise and potentially find a lost or stolen mobile phone could be rendered ineffective by thieves removing the battery.

However, mobile phones also usually can be forced into power-off with a hard-reset button combination.

In addition, since Android 9 Pie, Google heavily restricted the ability for anti-theft software to remotely monitor a lost device. There is no official user option to manually grant trusted applications such access.[64]

Such restrictions could only be circumvented by manually granting so-called root access to the anti-theft software. Google officially discourages granting root-access to any third-party app. Unofficially however, they actively non-verbally solicit users to root their devices by imposing heavy restrictions onto their operating system in an unmodified state.

Water damage migitation[edit]

In case a device with non-replaceable battery that is not water-resistant accidentially gets soaked, the battery can not be removed. Therefore, the battery still provides electricity to the soaked components, which could lead to physical heat damage on the components from short circuits caused by the water.

Water damage may also occur on mobile phones built initially water-tight, which became vulnerable afterwards due to leaks caused by physical damage such as dropping, or manufacturing carelessness[note 19][45]

If the battery is replaceable, it can be quickly removed to reduce or ideally prevent any damage.

Summary[edit]

This article in a nutshell, with shortcuts to the respective sections for details.

(Jump to table of contents)
  • History: During the 2010s decade, most mobile phone vendors transitioned from user-replaceable to non-replaceable batteries, succumbing to a design trend set by Apple.
  • The battery is the single component of mobile phones, laptops and other portable electronic devices with the shortest lifespan, thus technically supposed to be modular and interchangeable.
    • Non-replaceable batteries render devices near-useless upon expiration.
    • Thus, non-replaceable batteries are planned obsolescence by definition.
    • Non-replaceable batteries cause much unnecessary electronic waste.
    • Batteries are vulnerable to heat and so-called “plating” that can be caused by trickle charging.
  • The so-called dendrites caused by battery weardown are a potential safety hazard.
  • User-replaceable batteries provide significant convenience and freedom and certainty to users:
    • Postponing the inevitable demise of a battery involves frugality (e.g. restricting performance by enabling power saving mode; recording video at lower resolutions and framerates), battery care (e.g. avoiding full charging cycles and fast charging) and thus sacrificing convenience.
    • Non-replaceable batteries pose users a dilemma between inconvenience and early battery death.
    • Renouncing fast charging is disrespectful and unthankful against the electrical engineers who developed the technologies, wasting their efforts to enrich users of mobile devices.
    • Frugality actually simulates an already degraded battery.
  • Mobile phone vendors encourage accelerating battery weardown with wireless discharging, a squanderous waste of the scarce recharging cycles.
  • Forced replacements of non-replaceable batteries (battery surgeries) include working in proximity of delicate hardware and could lead to other side effects described in the article.
  • Even if one purchases a new device yearly or faster, one's previous devices could still serve as secondary and substitute devices, if not disabled by battery failure.
  • A mobile phone can be designed with both water resistance and user-replaceable battery, as has been done in the past already (see this section for example devices).
  • The physical space benefit of non-user-replaceable batteries is short-term only due to the battery weardown.
(Jump to table of contents)

Trivia[edit]

Did you know?
  • The euphemistic term unibody is thought to have originated in 2008, as a term coined by guess who.[65]
  • On older devices and devices with less sophisticated battery monitoring (such as digital cameras and navigation devices), the battery percentage meter is more prone to miscalibration which is mainly caused by battery aging (loss of capacity; more voltage deflection). Battery meters in newer devices however are less prone to miscalibration due to more sophisticated algorithms for monitoring battery parameters and calculating the battery percentage.

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Very few mobile phones such as the Samsung S5670 Galaxy Fit have a rear cover that slides off (similar to the front/rear-insertable cover part of a pocket calculator) rather than pulled from a lid to open. Another deviant design is the LG G5's sideways-removable modular battery (branded as Magic Slot), where the slot allows using several optional accessories such as a camera grip.
  2. Special cases are pocket calculators, clocks and watches. Although many have an easily accessible battery compartment, they can usually last years on a single battery charge, or even indefinitely with solar/dual power.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 On the Galaxy S6 keynote “Samsung Unpacked 2015 – Episode 1”, Justin Denison said on stage:

    “You may have noticed a major change here: The battery is built-in[= Hiobsbotschaft]. Now, ~ , we refused to do this for some time[Who asked?]. That's because we didn't want to have a built-in battery until we were absolutely sure that users would feel confident about charging their phones.”

    But in reality, non-replaceable batteries cause the exact contrary: they strongly diminish said confidence.
  4. For their predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung has proudly advertised its interchangeable battery in their “Wall Hugger” commercial.[3] Just one year later, Samsung has hypocriticized their own advertisement film with the release of the Galaxy S6.
  5. A dedicated German term for parts prone to weardown is „Verschleißteil“.
  6. High display brightnesses especially with white backgrounds on AMOLED displays is a significant waste of battery power.
  7. Charging smaller accessories such as smart watches and wireless earphones (also known as “EarBuds”) demands far less power than other mobile phones.
  8. One might also limit the charging current by using a longer USB wire with accordingly higher ohmic resistance. This however might not restrict changing speeds on mobile phones that use elevated voltages for fast charging, if connected to a supported charger.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Form-over-function advocates and Apple worshippers B.T.F.O.!
  10. Not only does Apple's Magic Mouse 2 have a non-replaceable battery, but the charging port is located on the bottom surface, making one unable to plug in the power cable (which obviously has a proprietary Lightning connector) during usage, meaning that without surrogate units, one is stuck when its battery runs empty.
  11. A high output performance may be necessary for the few most power-guzzling features such as wireless discharging.
  12. The USB port of the Galaxy S5 Mini is protected from the inside, meaning that it does not require a flap to cover it externally for water resistance like it does with the standard Galaxy S5 variant.
  13. Included as a rough reference for camera and chipset performance.
  14. The 3264×2448 image sensor width is insufficient for 4K video, which requires 3840×2160 pixels (and 4096×2160 for the lesser common DCi 4K).
  15. Although this is an obvious oxymoron, it just describes a hypothetical situation.
  16. The Galaxy Note 3, S5 and Note 4 also used such pins for detecting the attachment of S View Cover and LED cover (Note 4 only), while S4, S6 and other Samsung devices detect it entirely through their hall sensor.
  17. The MicroSD card compartment of few mobile phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Ace GT-S5830i and Galaxy Fit GT-S5670 is located externally on the side. While this makes accesing it the easiest, it discourages safe removals which are not required by dedicated cameras. See also: Benefits_of_standalone_cameras § Storage_and_battery.
  18. Low threshold before being overwhelmed from unused user interface elements.
  19. German term: „Flüchtigkeitsfehler“.

See also[edit]

Related navigation boxes: ElectronicsMobile phonesData storageUser experience and user interfaces

Citations[edit]

  1. Sony Xperia P promotion video mentioning the euphemistic U-word.
  2. One-minute film by Sony about Xperia P craftsmanship: “Precision crafted, full-aluminium unibody
  3. 3.0 3.1 Samsung Galaxy S5 commercial film: “Wall Hugger” (airport lounge) (2014)
  4. Top [10 ways] for making your laptop battery last longer (August 5, 2015; original source disputed) (“Contrary to popular belief, laptop batteries are consumables – like printer ink. Batteries aren’t designed to last the lifetime of the laptop, and that’s why – if you check the small print on the warranty statement – you’ll probably find that the battery isn’t covered, or is guaranteed for a shorter period than the laptop.”)
  5. Cristina Perkins. "How To Increase Laptop Battery Capacity – 7 Amazing Tricks In..." (1984) Available at: Cristina Perkins. "How To Increase Laptop Battery Capacity – 7 Amazing Tricks In..." (Christina Perkins, 1984-07-19) (original source disputed) (“Contrary to popular belief, laptop batteries are consumables, like printer ink.”)
  6. Laptop battery saver software for Windows 7
  7. "Latest alleged 'iPhone 7 Plus' packaging pic suggests option of bundled wireless 'AirPods' [u]". AppleInsider. 2016-09-01. Battery may eventually need replacement. — Apple themselves admits in plain sight that batteries are expiring parts.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Video: Stop Charging your Phone Overnight! by Linus Tech Tips (2018-05-10) – Includes other battery saving measures involving sacrifice of convenience.
  9. Video: The Shocking Battery Life of One Year Old Smartphones - Kevin Muldoon (2018-07-26)
  10. Video (German): Kapazitätsmessung Samsung Galaxy S4 Akku nach 650 LadezyklenJamesKnopfSelbst
  11. Battery University: BU-808How to prolong [the lifespan of] Lithium-based batteries.
  12. Why batteries lose their charge - RAVpower Blog (2017-12-08)
  13. Typixal Lithium-Ion technical data – IBT Power
  14. Video: 6 Signs You Need A New iPhone Battery [03:41] by iFixit (2018-09-06)
  15. "Battery Q&A - Lenovo Support US". support.lenovo.com.
  16. Video of iPhone 6 battery failure situation due to coldness. (German)
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 TheGuardian report about poor battery performance of Apple iPhones (2015-09-24)
  18. “Why smaller batteries have a shorter lifespan — the vicious aging cycle of tiny iPhone batteries.”
  19. Lithium-ion batteries: Phenomenon of 'lithium plating' during the charging process observed (2014-09-03)
  20. Strands of lithium are proving to be a nuisance for next-gen batteries – October 20, 2016 by Jeffrey Bausch
  21. Here’s why the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 batteries caught fire and exploded by Matt Swider (TechRadar; January 23, 2017)
  22. "Ulefone Armor 2 battery replacement" (Video). 2019-01-12.
  23. A list of 15 devices within the feature range of mobile phones. (2017-10-01, original title: “15 Devices That Our Smartphone Has Replaced In Our Lives, Making It A True All-In-One Gadget!”)
  24. 24.0 24.1 Samsung Galaxy S10 commercial for PowerShare
  25. “How to use reverse wireless charging on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro” – Android Authority
  26. “What is wireless PowerShare?” article on Samsung's official web site
  27. "iPhone 12 Models Might Support Reverse Charging of Future Apple Accessories According to FCC Filing". MacRumors. 2020-10-27.
  28. Video: Top 5 Things That Could Kill Your iPhone, published by BoxDesire on September 26, 2014
  29. https://DontKillMyApp.com/problem
  30. "Charging habits to maximize battery life". Android Authority. 24 July 2019.
  31. Stephen, Lauren (11 November 2019). "13 tips to extend the lifespan of your phone battery". Medium.
  32. "Chargie - limit phone's nighttime charging to extend battery lifespan". Chargie.
  33. "USB Charger 2-Port + Countdown Timer". LINK2HOME.
  34. Cat B15 pictures – GSM Arena
  35. Cat B15 Q pictures – GSM Arena
  36. A Galaxy S7 after battery surgery does not last 20 seconds underwater.
  37. 37.0 37.1 “Wie wasserdicht ist das Sony Xperia Z wirklich?” – AndroidPIT Germany – 2013-08-05 (criticism of the design of the 2013 Sony Xperia Z)
  38. Data Recovery from Botched Battery Replacement — Thread by user BDub-Hay on MacRumors.com on February 25, 2015
  39. [Help]Botched iPhone battery replacement? — Reddit user td4k on 2020-08-06 in /r/iPhoneRepair (“So I got a new battery for my se and put it in. After a few seconds it turned on and I was able to get to the home screen. But I accidentally knocked it out of the connector as I haven’t finished closing it yet. But after put it back in it won’t turn on again.”)
  40. Lloyd, Craig (2019-08-07). "Apple Is Locking iPhone Batteries to Discourage Repair". iFixit (in Deutsch).
  41. 41.0 41.1 Video “Ultimate Samsung Galaxy S5 Water Test!” (2014-04-06) by TechSmartt: Samsung Galaxy S5 successfully surviving water resistance tests: Submerged at 1m (3.3ft) of depth for 1 hour and being washed in a washing machine for 50 minutes
  42. 42.0 42.1 "Samsung S5: 6 Stunden auf dem Elbgrund - Traumflieger.de". www.traumflieger.de. 2014-08-04. Retrieved 2020-11-15. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help) &endash; Story of a Samsung Galaxy S5 surviving a six-hour submersion in a 2.50 metre deep lake, well beyond its IP67 rating for 30 minutes at 1 metre.
  43. "How to Change Battery GoPro 7 Black" (video). 2019-12-01.
  44. Video (German): Sony Xperia Z2 Wassertest - Defekt!
  45. 45.0 45.1 Sharda, Adit (2014-05-15). "Is the Sony Xperia Z2 Really Waterproof?". DroidViews. Retrieved 2020-11-20. &endash; the sealed IP58-rated device failed a one-minute water test in a fish tank.
  46. User-replaceable battery or slim design – Which is more important to you in a mobile phone? – Post #19 by user UTR
  47. Compare Apple iPhone 11 vs. Apple iPhone 11 Pro vs. Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max – GSMArena.com
  48. Samsung Galaxy S4 (GT-i9505) – Full phone specifications – GSMArena.com
  49. "The 20 bestselling mobile phones of all time". The Telegraph. August 6, 2017. Archived from the original on July 15, 2017. Retrieved August 12, 2017. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  50. 50.0 50.1 "Compare Samsung Galaxy Alpha vs. Apple iPhone 6 vs. Apple iPhone 6s - GSMArena.com". www.gsmarena.com. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  51. Vitré, Pièrre (2017-06-20). "No, you don't need a smartphone with a removable battery". NextPit. Battery technological advances
  52. Would you rather have a replaceable battery or slim design? – Linus Tech Tips forums
  53. Removable batteries: A must-have, or don’t care? (Poll of the Week), January 15, 2020, Jimmy Westenbergm Android Authority
  54. We asked, you told us: Most of you miss the removable battery – January 18, 2020, Jimmy Westenberg, Android Authority
  55. How Apple shill tech journalists at “The Vergeattacked Samsung in 2013.The article “Galaxy Note 3 first phone to feature ugly new Micro USB 3 port was probably written by the same hypocritical Apple shills who once owned an iPhone 4 or 4s with an SD-card-sized charging port.
  56. https://poal.co/s/LostFeatures/156028
  57. Gordon, Scott Adam (2016-05-22). "Seriously, why do you want a removeable battery?". NextPit. Retrieved 2020-11-20. Dimensions Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  58. Example phone case with practical built-in kickstand and a design of high robustness and good grip (AliBaba item number 32623529289).
  59. Redaktion, inside digital (2013-01-30). "Test des Sony Xperia V". inside digital (in Deutsch).
  60. “Non-replaceable batteries are necessary” debunked. – Poal.co /s/LostFeatures
  61. Video: “Non-Replaceable Batteries: This Trend Has to Stop.” (+ Tim Cook investor letter) by Right-to-Repair-advocate Kevin Muldoon (2019-01-07)
  62. Criticism of poor data portability with locked bootloader.
  63. Wong, Raymond (2018-01-01). "Smartphones with removable batteries are never coming back". Mashable. (The article compares user-replaceable batteries with technically obsolete PS/2 ports and floppy disks.)
  64. Google restricts background access to camera, microphone and device sensors for alleged privacy protection.
  65. First known mention of the term “unibody”: MacBook Pro presentation 2008.

External links[edit]