EU's newest tech goal: bringing back removable phone batteries - The UpStream

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EU's newest tech goal: bringing back removable phone batteries

posted Saturday Jun 24, 2023 by Scott Ertz

Over the past few years, the European Union has created a number of new regulations that have had a global effect on technology. Most notably, the EU is the reason that almost all technology (excluding some products from Apple) uses a standard charger. And even Apple will need to come into line soon. Now the EU is looking to enhance the mobile technology experience with another regulation that will require a feature we once had - removable phone batteries.

The scourge of sealed tech

In the early days of the modern electronics industry, devices all had removable batteries. It didn't matter if it was a camera, laptop, or smartphone. It was common for smartphone and laptop owners to carry an additional battery in their bags to extend the life of their devices. It was a wonderful time to be a tech user.

Then, one day Apple decided to participate in the industry again and everything changed. The iPod was introduced, and it was a sealed device. If your battery died, you had to get Apple to help because of the weird ways they closed and sealed their devices. The iPod was a problem, but it was mostly ignorable because there were plenty of other options with replaceable batteries.

However, the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 created a whole new trend. The iPhone followed its predecessor in being a fully sealed device, meaning there was no way to replace the battery yourself - at least not easily. Users hoped that it was going to be limited to Apple, but unfortunately, it was not. Many manufacturers began to follow suit, including Nokia, who had resisted the trend until the very end but eventually gave in.

Eventually, this trend moved out of just phones to all electronics. In fact, I write this article on a laptop without removable batteries - something that annoys me every day. Now, phones, tablets, laptops, and more are less repairable and less maintainable than they could be.

The EU steps in

Similar to its move to universalize chargers across devices, the EU is now looking to universalize repairability. Or, at the very least, expand access to repairability for devices. It will require manufacturers of products like phones, tablets, and cameras will be required to make the batteries in these devices easily accessible and replaceable to users.

This will be a big change from the standard operating procedure of sealing the battery away and requiring specialized tools and occasionally special software to be able to replace the battery in a device. For many people this will become a huge benefit, as battery life is questionable at best on some of these devices, and a replaceable battery could be a lot better than having to carry a full portable battery charging system around with you.

This new regulation is likely to go into effect beginning in 2027 and will certainly shake up the industry. Expect companies, especially Apple, to look for loopholes (like they tried with chargers) or to try to fight the regulation before it becomes official.


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