Why Replaceable Batteries are Obsolete (And a Pain)

In the early days of the iPhone – Android war, Android manufactuers would tout their replacable battery. The iPhone was sealed, and users couldn’t remove or replace the battery on the fly. This was considerably different than any phone that came before it, all of which had user replaceable batteries. It was easy for Android manufacturers to tout their replacable batteries as a positive thing, as users didn’t see a better way to extend their phone’s life without plugging it into a wall. Samsung still does this, advertising it’s user replaceable battery as though it’s a benefit. There’s just one problem. Today, user replacable batteries aren’t a benefit at all. In fact, they could be detrimental.

To replace a battery on a phone, you have to turn it off, take the battery out, and put a charged one back in the device. You then have to restart the phone. The process of shutting down and then powering up a cellphone in 2004 took less than a minute. However, modern smartphones can take over a minute to power down, and a minute or more to power back on. This cycle is an annoyance, and one every smartphone user replacing batteries must go through.

Another issue with the user replaceable batteries is the design the phone has to take. Typically, these phones have a cheap piece of plastic on the back that slides and clicks into place. It’s a mechanism that can become worn out over time, making the back cover of your phone come off easily. Anyone who has ever dropped on of these phones and watched it “explode” knows of this frustration. The back case pops off, the battery flies out, and now you have to wait to restart the phone. Sealed phones don’t have this problem. The latch mechanism also leads to a small amount of extra bulk on the phone. It also means that your expensive smarphone’s innards are protected by nothing more than a thin piece of plastic.

Then, there’s the batteries themselves. These smartphones don’t come with multiple batteries or external battery chargers. As such, you still have to charge your batteries in your phone. If you’re preparing for a trip, you’re going to want to start early, because you’ll have to fully charge your phone, replace the battery, and fully charge it again. Repeat this process until you’ve charged all of your spare batteries. Doing more than one thing at a time is a great time saver, but you can’t do that with replaceable batteries unless you find a dedicated battery charger for your particular battery.

There’s another issue with the battery, and that’s carrying them around. Lithium ion batteries are fragile, and, if punctured, bent, or otherwise damaged, a lithium ion battery can smolder, even ignight or explode. It’s not safe to carry them around without some form of protection. In fact, many of the stories involving exploding smartphones come from manufacturers that have replaceable batteries. If something gets under the case, or a damaged battery is used, it can ignight.

Finally, when you go to replace your phone, your old batteries will become obsolete. There is no standard battery size or shape, and manufacturers often not only differ from each other, but also from previous models of their own devices. Frankly, if you have replaceable batteries, you’re going to not only need to replace your phone every two years, but also your batteries. That makes this option more expensive, and also creates extra waste.

So replaceable batteries are bad, what’s a viable solution? External battery packs, like those made by Mophie or Phonesuit. With an external battery pack, users don’t have to shut their device off to fully charge it, they don’t have to charge the batteries seperately, the phone can be charged at the same time as the battery pack, the pack is a safer way to carry lithiumm ion batteries, and a battery pack can fully charge a phone multiple times before requiring a recharge itself. They’re usually more expensive than secondary batteries, but because they’re compatable with more devices, can be used longer, have greater storage, and can be charged seperately, they’re worth the price. They’ve also enabled phones to be completely closed, made of better materials, and more durable. There are many different types of battery packs, from ultra portable ones to large ones capable of recharging tablets and phones, to ones placed in a case, so your phone always has a source of juice. These are far better than carrying around multiple small, fragile batteries, and having no way to charge them without plugging them into your phone. Battery packs are also universal, often capable of charging any USB device. This means that when you buy a new smartphone, you can keep your battery pack. It’s reusable, and therefore less wasteful and more cost efficient.

Since user replaceable batteries are such an antiquated idea, one replaced by the far more viable battery pack, why haven’t manufacturers stopped featuring them? Because they have found that it’s still a good marketing tool. Many people haven’t realized how much better it is to use an external battery pack, rather than spare batteries, and therefore, are still attracted to phones that feature user replaceable batteries. This is still something companies should move away from though, to make their phones look better, more durable, and to reduce waste from extra batteries. As long as Samsung can continue to market their phone with a replaceable battery, they will, even if it is wasteful and bad for the environment. Samsung won’t do the right thing if it’s not profitable, something other companies would never think to do. Other companies, like HTC, have started to see the benefit of locking the battery in the phone, and other Android and Windows phone manufacturers are following suit. Eventually all smartphone manufacturers will go with this route, so you might as well get an external battery pack now. Did I mention they make great gifts?

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