Apple locked in a battle with the European Union

Apple, already locked in a battle with the European Union over a proposed law to standardize the charging port on the phone, could find itself having to defend against bringing back user-replaceable batteries in smartphones.

No doubt many of you remember the days when if your phone’s battery was getting low, how you’d pop off the back cover, dig out the battery, and replace it with a fresh, fully battery.

Now it seems that the EU is getting ready to unveil a proposal — possibly as early as March — that would for force manufacturers selling smartphones within the EU to have user-replaceable batteries.

Good.

While it’s likely that manufactures such as Apple will drag their heels over this, just as they have done with the proposals for a unified charging (after all, Apple rakes in millions of dollars every year from licensing the Lightning connector to third-parties), from an environmental perspective and a consumer point of view, it’s a great idea.

In fact, it makes more sense than the unified charging port. After all, if you put breakages aside, worn out batteries are the number one reason why people get rid of old smartphones. Sure, most companies offer a battery replacement program, which, for a charge, will replace the battery. But giving users the ability to replace the battery themselves would keep many millions of perfectly functional smartphones out of the recycling centers — or, as is still the case, landfills — and in use.

Could manufacturing titans such as Apple and Google come up with smartphones that have removable batteries and still keep the handsets thin and light and water- and dust-resistant? Sure they could. But right now, the incentive isn’t there, since the current system means that people are buying new handsets because getting the battery replaced is costly and a hassle.

I’d like to see this proposal go further and make it easier to replace batteries in all devices, from laptops to Bluetooth earbuds. The current state of manufacturing, where little thought is given to repairability, is disgraceful, doubly so when it’s being done by companies who are otherwise boasting about their environmental credentials.

So far, the natural lifespan of lithium-ion batteries has been a convenient excuse for manufacturers to push products into the market that have a limited lifespan. The fact that this is a manufactured issue needs to be highlighted, and I hope that the EU is able to bring this to the attention of consumers.

It’s 2020. A device really should be designed to make consumable parts such as batteries easy to replace, not be using their finite life as a way to drive sales.

Making products with batteries hard to replace is planned obsolescence.

That said, I don’t hold out much hope. Making the battery easy to replace would massively prolong the lifespan of smartphones, and that would undoubtedly have a negative effect on sales.

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