Another redesign on the cards for iPhone as EU rules call for removable batteries
They're changing it wrong, aren't they Apple?
The European Parliament has voted yes to replaceable battery legislation, putting Apple on a path to a second redesign just over a year after USB-C charging ports were mandated in the bloc.
Unlike the USB-C redesign, which has a 2024 deadline, the "portable battery" rule will come into play in 2027 at the earliest. That rule, by the way, covers all appliances and will mean that if you own the gadget, you should be able to remove and replace its battery yourself.
Smartphones designed by Samsung and most other makers on the market already include USB-C ports, but for almost all of them the battery news will mean a redesign and a look at how they're going to engineer connections and mounts internally when the unit is meant to detach.
Is it realistic, though? The statement from the Commission last week claims the new law takes into account technological developments and future challenges in the sector – but the sector has moved further and further into sealed units, especially Apple, which over the years has received criticism for being tricky to repair. The iPhone maker, we should note, now has a self-repair program – although it's Apple parts only.
James Seear, co-founder of secondhand tech marketplace Spring, told The Register: "This is a big step from the EU and another string to its growing bow of sustainability commitments. The single biggest factor contributing to the rise of e-waste, of which smartphones are a large part, is the longevity, or lack thereof, of devices. When repairing smartphones that we input back into the circular economy, we often see the battery is the first component to degrade. Making this easier to repair will have a real impact.
Critics also claim that the water and dust resistance consumers have come to assume will be present in their mobiles will be hit hard – a sealed unit isn't just a deterrent for techies after all.
Seear noted: "It does pose significant questions for the manufacturers as smartphones have moved to increasingly sealed chassis to achieve waterproof ratings and general durability. "
Not like the makers were going to offer to do it
Seear added: "We expect the news to create significant positive shifts for the long-term prospects of the industry, considering both the continued over-mining of rare earth metals and the control it gives back to consumers for their ownership of devices. The ruling is enforcing further change that's needed and is one that's unlikely to be proposed by the manufacturers themselves.
What do you think, readers? Good thing? Unintentionally bad thing?
We're quite sure sales of iFixit's spudger won't suffer as you've still got to prise the battery out with something, and that butter knife trick is how at least one reader's boss's efforts ended up being shared on techsupport subreddit in the first place, right? What! Sometimes one has to share the pain with someone.
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The new rules approved by European Parliament last week also include a requirement for a "digital battery passport" for industrial batteries with a capacity above 2kWh and EV batteries; a due diligence policy for all economic operators, except for small and medium biz; and much stricter waste collection targets for portable batteries, ramping up to 73 percent by 2030. They'll also set minimum levels of recycled content from manufacturing and consumer waste for use in new batteries. Eight years after the regulations have come into force, the bloc expects 16 percent for cobalt, 85 percent for lead, 6 percent for lithium and 6 percent for nickel, with the targets rising after five years have elapsed.
iFixit stabs batteries – for science – so you don't have toREAD MORE
Three and a half years after the legislation has become law, portable batteries in appliances must be designed so that consumers can easily remove and replace them themselves – with the best guess that this means around 2027 for the rules to come into action. That's if the major manufacturers don't apply to a extension on that deadline. We have asked Samsung and Apple if they plan to do so.
Spring's Seear expressed concern for smaller makers over the changes: "The powerful players in the market including Samsung and Apple will have the resources to achieve the changes but there will be debate about the viability for the smaller players in a market that already have lower profit margins in the budget and mid-range segments."
If the legislation does go through on the timeline envisaged, be ready to hear a certain vendor chime in with: "You're changing it wrong" if anything goes awry. We've asked Apple, Samsung, and iFixit for comment. ®