New EU legislation could bring back replaceable batteries in smartphones

New EU legislation could bring back replaceable batteries in smartphones

A few years ago, popping the battery out of a device and putting it back in was a quick fix for some problems. As phones became more complex and waterproof, they stopped coming apart at the seams. Now, lawmakers in the EU want to mandate that people can remove and replace battery cells from their devices.

The EU is taking steps to protect consumers. First, they’ve agreed to force smartphone makers to provide third-party app stores starting in January 2024. Then they’re requiring that portable electronics have user-replaceable batteries, starting at the end of 2024. Now, the EU has reached a provisional agreement which will require device manufacturers to redesign their production and supply of batteries. To do so, they have 3 and a half years to accomplish this goal. On Friday, the European Parliament and Council reached an agreement with the EU on these new rules – so it’s already happening!

As part of the European Union agreement, almost all sizes of batteries are covered, including portable batteries, Starting, Lighting, and Ignition batteries for vehicles, Light Means of Transport batteries, Electric Vehicle batteries, and even industrial batteries.

A smartphone’s battery can be replaced by the user, but these days they are becoming increasingly rare. With the common bar form factor, that should be an easy adaptation – even dust and water resistance is possible, as Samsung’s recent Xcover phones demonstrate.

In the EU, the push for user-serviceable or user-replaceable batteries would mean better repairability of electronic gadgets. A removable battery would also help users extend the life of their phones without incurring expensive battery-related repairs — most LiPo and Li-ion batteries are irreparable anyway at the service center level.

In order to ensure that batteries are produced sustainably in the future, the EU states that at least 16% of the cobalt, 85% of the lead, 6% of the lithium, and 6% of the nickel should come from recycled sources. In order to ensure that companies don’t run out of materials to recycle, lawmakers have set recycling and product collection targets. End users shouldn’t have to pay additional fees for recycling and product collection, regardless of the waste batteries they offer.

However, companies may need to rethink battery sourcing, partnerships with recyclers, and long-term supply chain strategies in order to avoid affecting consumers.

At least by a user, smartphone batteries are not serviceable or replaceable today. The only way to get your smartphone repaired if your battery starts to show signs of aging (quick discharge, slow charging, swelling) or if it is just dead is to take your entire smartphone to the nearest service center.

In the case of entry-level smartphones, where the cost of repairs after the warranty period has expired is often high enough to discourage customers from repairing the phone.

Even after phone brands switch to replaceable batteries, it is unclear if these new changes will come to India. Unlike the decision of USB Type-C ports coming to the iPhone, the battery issue may not affect a lot of Android smartphones that have all their production in Europe and other regions. Brands like Xiaomi may leave Asian markets unaffected by this change.

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