Removable or replaceable batteries in smartphones: what does the EU really want?

Contrary to a widespread interpretation in the media, the recent directive of the European Parliament does not necessarily aim to impose removable batteries in all electronic devices, but rather promotes a modular design facilitating the replacement of the battery by the user, thus marking a step towards a circular economy in the electronics industry.

Last week, the European Parliament took a big step towards creating a circular economy in the electronics industry. The new directive, widely publicized, stipulates that consumers must be able to intervene themselves on the devices they have acquired, including to replace the batteries of electronic devices. The purpose of this directive is not limited to the question of the battery. It also includes measures to promote recycling.

From, part of the press spread the idea that the EU was going to impose removable batteries for all electronic devices. That is to say, a battery which could be removed easily by the consumer, by simply opening a compartment.

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But that’s not quite the case.. The European Union is not necessarily looking to mandate removable batteries, but rather to ensure that anyone, including consumers, can change the battery in their electronic device. This includes smartphones, tablets, and even laptops.

This principle does not necessarily mean that the battery must be removable

This principle does not necessarily mean that the battery must be removable. On the contrary, it implies an overhaul of the way electronic devices are designed and assembled. Manufacturers will likely need to avoid the use of glue and other adhesives that make it difficult to open and close devices. This is an observation that is frequently found in the disassembly carried out by iFixit, a company specializing in the repair of electronics.

iPhone 14 Pro Max // Source: iFixit

As reported the term ” removable is only used once in the document provided by the European Parliament, which gives a very broad definition of the subject. The vast majority of content focuses on e-waste, urging manufacturers to consider this aspect so as not to produce unnecessary batteries.

The European Union is instead asking that manufacturers allow the replacement of a battery by the user himself, without the need to go through an official repair service. This could be made possible through DIY kits, allowing a user to order a replacement battery, open their smartphone and change it themselves, with simple tools.

Ultimately, the European Union defines its vision for easy-to-replace batteries as follows: A portable battery should be considered removable by the end user when it can be removed using commercially available tools and without requiring the use of specialized tools, unless they are provided free of charge , or proprietary tools, heat energy, or solvent to disassemble it. Commercially available tools are considered commercially available tools for all end users without proof of ownership and may be used without any restrictions except for health and safety restrictions. “.

The issue of device design is crucial in this debate

It’s hard to imagine the European Union mandating thicker and heavier smartphones, which could be the result of a design that favors modularity. The aesthetics and practicality of the devices, as we know them today, could then be called into question.

It should also be noted that the current design of smartphones offers many advantages, not only for the user, but also for the environment. A good example is waterproofing, an increasingly common feature of smartphones. By protecting internal components from liquid damage, it aims to prolong the life of the device. It is an initiative in favor of the reduction of electronic waste.

Other innovative features such as universal wireless charging also contribute to this ecological approach. By allowing different devices to use the same charging station, the number of chargers and cables required and therefore the volume of electronic waste are reduced.

The European Union directive should not be interpreted as a threat to these advances. On the contrary, it could push manufacturers to be even more innovative, by developing new solutions that combine ease of repair, aesthetics, ergonomics and respect for the environment. This is a new era for the electronics industry, where users are encouraged to take ownership of the life cycle of their devices, including the ability to replace the battery themselves.

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