New EU Legislation Requires Easily Replaceable Batteries in Smartphones: Implications for Apple and Samsung

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EU Legislation Requires Easily Replaceable Smartphone Batteries

Removable battery smartphone in caucasian woman’s hand. Turquoise background.

The European Parliament last week passed extensive legislation aimed at making it easier to recycle batteries. The new rules will force manufacturers such as Apple or Samsung to redesign products such as the iPhone, iPad, or Galaxy Flip so that their batteries can be replaced by users, as reported by Ars Technica.

The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of new rules for the handling of batteries of all sizes in the EU, which must be applied within 3.5 years of their approval, that is, in 2027. In addition to the measures regarding the carbon footprint of electric vehicles and industrial batteries, and stricter targets for waste and recycling, article 11 contains a specific line on “Removing and replacing portable batteries”, which probably put on the move to the lobbyists of the manufacturers of smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

Portable batteries incorporated in the devices shall be easily removable and replaceable by the end user or by independent operators during the life of the device, if the batteries have a shorter life than the device, or at the latest at the end of the device life of the apparatus.

“Easily replaceable,” as discussed in the aforementioned paragraph, is when, after removing a battery, it can be replaced by another similar one “without affecting the operation or performance of said device”. For all that is specifically defined, outlined, and estimated in the 129-page “COM(2020) 798 final” document, there isn’t much more to what exactly the phrase means.

This will be the second major change to the hardware in Apple products resulting from EU legislation. iPhones will soon come with a USB-C port instead of Lightning due to a European requirement.

iPhone batteries will have to be “easily removable and replaceable.”

The battery in today’s iPhones and iPads can be replaced, but special tools and knowledge are required. Making a mistake can cause major damage to the device. It is not something that an average user can do with the tools they have at home.

Since the battery is one of the first components to wear out in a smartphone or tablet, replacing it can add years of life. However, many devices end up in the trash at the end of their useful life, with their original batteries still installed.

New EU legislation requires “portable batteries in appliances to be designed so that they can be easily removed and replaced by consumers themselves.”

To be clear, the wording of the law does not appear to require interchangeable batteries. So don’t expect to take a dead battery out of an iPhone and shove in a fully charged one between meetings. On the other hand, when the battery of a device is worn out by use, it will have to be easy to replace the worn one with a new one.

Apple has already started to move in this direction… in a way

For many years, Apple has built a reputation for making terminals that are difficult to repair. Apple designers made the devices as thin as possible, with a minimum number of visible screws, even if it required gluing the components together. But the company has recently begun to change course.

After disassembling the iPhone 14, the specialized repair medium iFixit assured the following: “Apple has returned to the drawing board and reworked the internal parts of the iPhone to facilitate repair” The reason for this change in strategy allows both the panel Both the front and rear slide open, providing easy access to the internal connectors for the touchscreen and battery. Also, Apple has used less glue and more screws in the design.

Cupertino has also created the Self Service Repair program to provide customers with the parts and tools they need to repair their own terminals.

It is not yet known whether these measures will meet the requirements of the new European Union legislation. Apple recommends its repair program to “anyone with experience repairing electronic device accessories,” not average users. That might meet the EU criteria of being easily achievable by an end user, but it might not.

Last steps of EU legislation

The new law has yet to finish the approval process. The European Parliament approved it on June 14. The European Council must then formally endorse it. However, this is not expected to be a problem. The Council and Parliament had already reached an agreement on the law before the parliamentary vote.

Although the rule will only affect phones and tablets sold in the European Union, it is unlikely that Apple and other device makers will design products especially for sale in Europe. So it’s likely that iPhone and Android users around the world will likely benefit from the new replaceable battery requirement.

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Last week, the European Parliament passed legislation requiring smartphone manufacturers to design devices with easily replaceable batteries. This is part of a broader effort to improve recycling and reduce waste. The new rules will apply to brands like Apple and Samsung, forcing them to redesign products such as iPhones and Galaxy Flips to allow users to replace the batteries themselves. The legislation is set to be implemented by 2027. The move comes after the European Parliament also mandated that iPhones include a USB-C port instead of Lightning. Currently, replacing the battery in an iPhone or iPad requires special tools and knowledge, making it difficult for average users to do so. The new EU legislation aims to extend the lifespan of devices by making it easier to replace the battery, as it is one of the first components to wear out. While the law does not require interchangeable batteries, it does require that worn-out batteries be easily replaceable with new ones. Apple, which has been criticized in the past for making devices difficult to repair, has already begun moving in the direction of more repairable designs.

How will the new EU legislation improve recycling efforts and reduce waste in the smartphone industry?

The new EU legislation aims to improve recycling efforts and reduce waste in the smartphone industry through several measures:

1. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): The legislation introduces EPR, which puts the responsibility on smartphone manufacturers to manage the entire lifecycle of their products, including collection, recycling, and safe disposal. This ensures that manufacturers have a financial incentive to produce more sustainable and recyclable devices.

2. Design for Recycling: The legislation promotes the concept of “Design for Recycling,” encouraging manufacturers to design smartphones in a way that facilitates easy disassembly and recycling. This means using standardized components, reducing the use of adhesives, and minimizing the use of hazardous materials.

3. Recycled Content: The legislation sets targets for the use of recycled content in smartphones. Manufacturers will be required to incorporate a certain percentage of recycled materials in their devices, thereby reducing the demand for virgin materials and promoting the circular economy.

4. Improved Collection and Recycling Infrastructure: The legislation establishes a framework for the establishment of proper collection and recycling infrastructure for smartphones. This includes the availability of easily accessible collection points and the development of efficient recycling technologies to recover valuable materials from discarded devices.

5. Consumer Awareness and Education: The legislation emphasizes the importance of consumer awareness and education regarding the recycling and proper disposal of smartphones. This will be achieved through awareness campaigns and the inclusion of information on how to recycle in product packaging and manuals.

Overall, the new EU legislation aims to create a more sustainable and circular economy in the smartphone industry by making manufacturers responsible for their products throughout their lifecycle and encouraging the use of recycled materials. This will contribute to reducing waste, conserving resources, and promoting a more environmentally friendly approach to smartphone production and disposal.

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1 comment

Joseph June 22, 2023 - 12:26 pm

This new EU legislation could pose significant challenges for Apple and Samsung. As the giants of the smartphone industry, their devices often come with non-removable batteries. They will have to quickly adapt to this requirement, either by redesigning their products or facing potential setbacks in the European market. It’s a win for consumers, but how these tech giants respond remains to be seen.


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