Why our approach to smartphone batteries is misguided


Is this the stupidest idea the mobile industry ever came up with? That is, installing batteries into smartphones so that they can’t be replaced without expert knowledge. All comprehensible, reasonable arguments from the customer’s point of view clearly speak against doing this. Nevertheless, there is no longer a high-end smartphone with a replaceable battery and fast-charge technologies and power banks offer little consolation.

A few weeks ago, reports circulated that users were finding temperature-related errors in the fast-charging system in the Pixel 2 XL. We picked up this story and found a lot of comments had hit the nail on the head, “It’s not my fault if manufacturers don’t replace batteries and force users to recharge their smartphones outside in the cold.”

The battery is obviously the weak point, if not the breaking point, for smartphones. Devices have to recharged almost without exception every day and age so quickly that they’re ultimately unable to survive a complete working day by the time a contract ends, and sometimes even at the end of the warranty period.

AndroidPIT lg g5 friends 0352 The LG G5 marked the end of the replaceable battery in the high-end market. / © AndroidPIT

It was possible until 2014 to replace the batteries in a number of top-range devices, including those made by Samsung and LG, and now this is no longer an option in new smartphones. The last top smartphones with replaceable batteries, the LG G5 and the V20, have left the market.

Customers aren’t confronting this disgrace

It seems paradoxical that the greatest and most obvious design flaw in all the products of an industry doesn’t seem to have any influence on sales. If it really mattered, the LG G5 would have done much better than the Samsung Galaxy S7 and its built-in battery. But of course, the G5 flopped and a year later was replaced with the LG G6 that came with a build-in battery, the first in the series since the LG G2.

Even if the problems that built-in batteries have caused in energy-hungry devices like smartphones appear obvious, they cannot be solved by supply and demand alone. Customers prefer to replace their old device with a new one in order to get the new features along with the addition of a fresh battery. Thanks to contract extensions, this is still somewhat affordable, at least in the short-term.

qualcomm iaa 03 Qualcomm sees smartphones only as a training platform. In the future, Quick Charge will also be used to quickly load electric cars.  / © AndroidPIT

Quick Charge, powerbanks and nonsense

Built-in batteries have led to absurd trends. Every smartphones manufacturer now has its own quick-charging standard or relies on Qualcomm’s Quick Charge or at least on the advantages of a Type C connection. Individual companies are able to generate additional revenue through licensing agreements and findings that they then later use to make profits in the electric car industry.

Powerbanks are batteries meant to charge other batteries on the road. If someone had told me ten years ago that people would need them to use their cell phones normally, I would have laughed. But here we are.

Not only are smartphone batteries difficult to replace, they are also too small. And instead of making smartphones a bit more resilient, they are built with exactly one day of battery life. In this case, an ideal has been established that makes no sense at all. Think of it this way: our cars don’t come with fuel canisters that carry three or four more times the capacity of the actual tank.

And if the fast-charging technology doesn’t start at temperatures below 20°C, it will bring me to tears.

This needs to be regulated somehow

Since consumers have proved to be incapable of holding manufacturers accountable, there needs to be some other way for this to change. We need incentives for repairs, a more accessible spare parts market, and above all, an easily accessible battery. What is your view on the subject of replacement batteries and built-in batteries? Let us know in the comments!

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