Home Science & Technology New European Union legislation could bring back replaceable batteries in all smartphones

New European Union legislation could bring back replaceable batteries in all smartphones

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A few years ago when life was simpler and we could quickly reboot phones that were stuck in a boot loop or experiencing battery issues by simply removing the battery and inserting it back. Time passed, and smartphones were assembled with the requirements of waterproof phones glued from the factory. After successfully passing laws to make USB-C mandatory for smartphone charging, lawmakers in the European Union now want smartphone batteries to be removable and replaceable in the interest of sustainability and repairability.

The EU is in a position: first it will force smartphone makers to open up their devices to third-party app stores from January 2024, then it will make USB-C mandatory for portable electronics starting in late 2024, now it has reached an interim agreement requiring that portables devices had user-replaceable batteries. The authority gave the companies 3.5 years to reschedule the production and supply of batteries. On Friday, the European Parliament and the Council reached an agreement with the EU on new rules, so it is already in motion.

The European Union agreement covers batteries of almost all sizes, from portable batteries, starting, lighting and ignition batteries for vehicles (SLI batteries), light vehicle batteries, electric vehicle (EV) batteries and even industrial batteries.

User-replaceable batteries used to be commonplace for smartphones, but are now very rare. For a conventional panel form factor, this should be a relatively easy adaptation – even dust and water resistance are possible, as evidenced by recent Samsung Xcover phones and similar devices.

The push for replaceable or user-serviceable batteries may seem like a step backwards, but it will lead to better repairability for electronic gadgets, at least in the EU. A removable battery will also help users extend the life of their phones without the need for expensive battery-related repairs – most LiPo and Li-ion batteries are not repairable at a service center anyway.

To promote sustainable battery production in the coming years, the EU states that at least 16% of cobalt, 85% of lead, 6% of lithium and 6% of nickel must come from recycled sources. Lawmakers have set collection targets for used products for companies to ensure they don’t run out of recyclable materials. Recycling and collection of products should not cost end users a penny, regardless of the amount of battery waste they offer.

It is clear that such drastic changes cannot happen suddenly, even in the technological space. However, the changes may require companies to rethink battery sources, relationships with recyclers and long-term supply chain strategies to ensure consumers are not affected.

Today, smartphone batteries are not serviceable or replaceable, at least not by users themselves. If your battery is starting to show signs of aging (fast draining, slow charging, swelling) or is simply dead, your only option is to take the entire smartphone to the nearest service center and have the device repaired.

All this is too much for many consumers who just decided to buy a new smartphone. This is especially true for entry-level smartphones, where the cost of repairs once the phone is out of warranty is often high enough to discourage customers from repairing the phone.

Even after phone brands start replacing sealed batteries with removable ones, it remains unclear if this change will take place in India. Unlike the iPhone USB Type-C port decision, the battery issue may not affect many smartphones on the Android side that share a common manufacturing process for Europe and other regions. Brands like Xiaomi, for example, are known to produce separate phone models for different regions and may leave their Asian market product lines untouched by this change.

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