New EU directive pushes toward replaceable iPhone batteries

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
The European Union is preparing new directives that could have an impact on Apple's future products, including "the New Batteries Directive," which proposes to mandate that batteries in electronic appliances be "readily removed" for replacement or disposal.



The EU has taken the lead in pushing for industry regulations that impact all companies that sell their products in Europe. For example, the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, known as RoHS, demanded tough new limits to the use of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and flame retardants known as PBB and PBDE.



Every RoHS has its thorn



RoHS, which took effect in July 2006, spelled the end of Apple's standalone iSight camera, which would have required a redesign to sell in Europe. California also passed laws that made many products banned by RoHS in Europe illegal to sell in California after January 2007 as well. By 2006, Apple had integrated compliant iSight cameras into its laptops and the iMac, leaving little need for a redesigned standalone iSight camera and resulting in the cancelation of the existing product. "As a result of our precautionary approach to substances," the company reported, "Apple was able to meet many of the RoHS restrictions long before the July 2006 deadline."



Alongside RoHS, other regulations related to handling eWaste, power efficiency, and the use of chemicals have gone into effect, some of which have the force of law while others are only guidelines that EU member nations exercise some flexibility in enforcing. Early on, some manufacturers complained that tough new regulations could cause problems that outweighed the social and environmental benefits they are intended to deliver.



In particular, the industry warned that without using lead, soldered connections would be weaker and products would fail faster. At the same time, the automotive industry has discovered that RoHS' mandated lead-free solder has a high temperature resistance that actually makes it better suited to the harsh conditions of temperature, shock, and vibration in the engine bay of cars. IBM discovered new lead-free technologies that resulted in "solder waste reduction, use of bulk alloys, quicker time-to-market for products and a much lower chemical usage rate."



Assault on batteries



Introduced with RoHS, the EU's 2006 Battery Directive updated existing regulation from 1991. It primarily sought to prevent the unnecessary use of toxic metals in batteries and attempts to make it easier to properly dispose of and recycle old batteries. The directive required EU member states to implement national laws and rules on batteries by September 2008.



While the Battery Directive now in force states that it must be easy for consumers to remove batteries from electronic products, the "New Batteries Directive" now being drafted over the next year goes even further to state that electrical equipment must be designed to allow that batteries be 'readily removed' for replacement or removal at the end of product's life.



Gary Nevison, writing for New Electronics, said [PDF] "the requirement is clearly intended to ensure that users can remove batteries by opening a cover by hand or after removal of one or two screws. The producer will also have to provide the user with details on how to remove the battery safely."



The EU and Apple



Such a regulation would seem to impact Apple's integrated battery design of its iPods and the iPhone, which are somewhat unique in that their batteries are not designed to be user replaceable and typically require special tools or professional assistance to remove them. At the same time however, the directives are not yet completed or ratified, and subject to both modification and exception.



The EU's Battery Directives are designed primarily to prevent toxic batteries from ending up in landfills, not to force manufacturers to develop products with specific features. Apple already offers free recycling for iPods and iPhones. Third party vendors also offer money for dead or broken iPods, further negating much of the concern that users would throw away their iPod with the battery still inside it. The real concern involves appliances with integrated batteries that have little value at the end of their life, few recycling options, and would likely be discarded with the battery intact.



Still, just as RoHS impacted the iSight as an international product, Apple may find it easier to modify how it packages its iPod and iPhone products than to attempt to work around or gain exceptions to the New Batteries Directive now being drafted. That may result in making modular, replaceable batteries a new feature, or at least further a continuation in the efforts Apple has already made recently to deliver iPods with batteries that are not glued in and therefore easier to replace or remove during recycling.



Apple's global product line makes it extremely unlikely that the company would develop different versions of its products for European markets in order to meet the EU directives. Instead, as with the iSight, Apple is likely to make international adjustments that meet the stringent requirements of regulations like RoHS and the New Batteries Directive and therefore provide the benefits to users everywhere it sells its products.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 155
    How stupid is that? I can't believe they really mean it...

    The EU really wants to tell a mobile phone manufacturer to make the batteries removable in the handsets?

    Don't they have anything else to do? Like fixin' the frackin' economy or feeding the homeless or building world peace, etc... Brussels must be full of bored bureaucrats.

    Next time they will ban curvy bananas or iced coffee.
  • Reply 2 of 155
    monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,203member
    How annoying. I have never had to replace a phone battery. And i like the way the iphone feels solid, with no easily broken hatch like other phones.



    The EU forever get on my nerves. Wonky bananas anyone?



    EDIT: you beat me to it on the bananas!
  • Reply 3 of 155
    tenobelltenobell Posts: 7,014member
    I agree this ruling makes a few assumptions that are not clealy backed with evidence.



    Do people remove the battery before they discard a phone?



    Do electronics with integrated batteries end up in the trash more often than electronics with removable batteries?
  • Reply 4 of 155
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,157member
    I am not worried about this even if it passes. By the time they finalize this proposal batteries will be more efficient and smaller. I am sure Apple engineers will come up with something innovative.
  • Reply 5 of 155
    boogabooga Posts: 1,077member
    This legislation isn't very forward-looking. Any power source with an energy density like some of the new batteries are planned to have is going to be dangerous for unqualified people to handle when removed from the device...
  • Reply 6 of 155
    while it would be convenient to be able to replace my iPhone battery, I do not want it to have a plastic hatch like my TV remote! bleh
  • Reply 7 of 155
    rod76rod76 Posts: 21member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by acslater017 View Post


    while it would be convenient to be able to replace my iPhone battery, I do not want it to have a plastic hatch like my TV remote! bleh



    If they were forced, I bet they would set it up in such a way that the entire back would slide off. That way the phone doesn't inherit an ugly hatch!
  • Reply 8 of 155
    Imho, I'm hoping the EU passes this. I know I'm among the minority here, but imho there's no good reason why Apple has never had replaceable batteries for the iPods and iPhones. iPhone & iPods should have had replaceable batteries A LONG D*MN TIME AGO.



    Disagree with me all you want folks, but come back to me a year after this happens and then tell me if this was a good or bad thing.



    There's simply no excuse for Apple on this one. Flame away folks.
  • Reply 9 of 155
    I think the point is that if the consumers want it they will mandate it. If the consumer doesn't really care they'll continue to buy cell phones that don't have removable batteries.



    Personally, regardless of it I enjoy the benefits of the ruling or not, the fact that EU is using their power to mandate something that should be up to the consumers I will never support it. There are way, way too many government mandates, let the system take care of itself. As vagvoba said - get back to doing what you're paid to do...
  • Reply 10 of 155
    What kind of ruling is that?

    All computers have a small battery (the small disc like battery) to power the time system on the mainboard. So are computer makers going to redesign their computers to make that battery removable in 1 or 2 screws?
  • Reply 11 of 155
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    The iPhone 3G method--just two screws--is not bad.



    But if it can be made even easier, without making the phone larger, heavier, less solid or more fragile, then that would be great!



    But I wouldn't want a backplate that can be popped of and lost by accident. Suggestion: hold it in place with two screws.
  • Reply 12 of 155
    I don't see the problem... I think this is a great inniative from the EU. The lack of replaceable battery limits especially the use of the Air as being ultra portable and you could design a secure fit without sacrificing the size. Steve Jobs needs to get over his desire for form over function to a degree. Yes keep the computers as simple and beautiful as possible but think of function as well.



    The old iMac with the LCD 'floating' above a circular base was Steve Jobs vision of an all in one. In fact he rejected having a 'fat' everything behind the LCD... whats was the point of having a thin LCD he claimed. Well he got over his 'fancy visions' and now the iMacs are what he said he was against. Don't believe me... there is an old Time article talking about the design of the old iMac.



    Hopefully innovation will be included as always to keep the iPhone battery secured properly. But honestly I have never had any issues with any of my phones, and have never heard of anyone loosing their laptop battery... And yes I have replaced batteries... on my old 11in Sony Ultraportable (twice due to shitty Sony Batteries, but was able to use the laptop the whole time and not send it in) and in my old Nokia 6680 (first 3G phone with two cameras from Nokia in Europe)
  • Reply 13 of 155
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bigmc6000 View Post


    As vagvoba said - get back to doing what you're paid to do...



    I think you may find that IS what they are paid to do and I for one am VERY much in favor of it. Or do you not think we should have consumer and environmental protection laws?
  • Reply 14 of 155
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by monstrosity View Post


    EDIT: you beat me to it on the bananas!



    That is an urban myth and totally untrue.
  • Reply 15 of 155
    iPhone batteries are replaceable.



    Apple simply needs to say that they (or authorized outlets) will handle it on behalf of the consumer at the end of the life of the product, and the actual cost associated with that can be included in the price up front (with complete disclosure).
  • Reply 16 of 155
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bigmc6000 View Post


    I think the point is that if the consumers want it they will mandate it. If the consumer doesn't really care they'll continue to buy cell phones that don't have removable batteries.



    Personally, regardless of it I enjoy the benefits of the ruling or not, the fact that EU is using their power to mandate something that should be up to the consumers I will never support it. There are way, way too many government mandates, let the system take care of itself. As vagvoba said - get back to doing what you're paid to do...





    You have to consider that customers don't have direct control over these things, I would love a replaceable battery even if only for the principle of the thing but it wouldn't be on the top of my list of requirements for an ipod/phone. I'm all for free markets in theory, but we're screwed if we allow companies to build in obsolescence into their products.
  • Reply 17 of 155
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by UltimateKylie View Post


    I don't see the problem... I think this is a great inniative from the EU. The lack of replaceable battery limits especially the use of the Air as being ultra portable and you could design a secure fit without sacrificing the size. Steve Jobs needs to get over his desire for form over function to a degree. Yes keep the computers as simple and beautiful as possible but think of function as well.



    The old iMac with the LCD 'floating' above a circular base was Steve Jobs vision of an all in one. In fact he rejected having a 'fat' everything behind the LCD... whats was the point of having a thin LCD he claimed. Well he got over his 'fancy visions' and now the iMacs are what he said he was against. Don't believe me... there is an old Time article talking about the design of the old iMac.



    Hopefully innovation will be included as always to keep the iPhone battery secured properly. But honestly I have never had any issues with any of my phones, and have never heard of anyone loosing their laptop battery... And yes I have replaced batteries... on my old 11in Sony Ultraportable (twice due to shitty Sony Batteries, but was able to use the laptop the whole time and not send it in) and in my old Nokia 6680 (first 3G phone with two cameras from Nokia in Europe)



    You totally misunderstand the issue. It's not about the iPhone or the removable battery. The problem is that the EU should stay out of this very healthy competitive market and let the market/consumers decide what they want. The EU tries to over-regulate the free market by making non-sense rules.
  • Reply 18 of 155
    virgil-tb2virgil-tb2 Posts: 1,416member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by w00master View Post


    I... there's no good reason why Apple has never had replaceable batteries for the iPods and iPhones. iPhone & iPods should have had replaceable batteries A LONG D*MN TIME AGO. ...There's simply no excuse for Apple on this one. ...



    This is just inaccurate.



    There are reasons and good ones. You may not agree, but that doesn't invalidate the reasons.



    The main reason in Apple's case is that they like the product to be thinner or smaller. Call it cosmetic, but it's a reason, and a valid one.



    The second reason is that the batteries are much more likely to be recycled if they are integral as opposed to being replaceable. Several studies have indicated this.



    If the EU passes this, it should have an exception for products with a free recycling program attached like the iPod, otherwise it's just regulation for the sake of regulation, since the avowed purpose of the regulation is recycling of batteries and keeping products out of landfills.



    I wouldn't put it past Apple to just stop selling iPods and iPhones in Europe. It's not like they couldn't be ordered online, or bought from any one of a hundred other places just outside of Europe. The EU would have to cave eventually if Apple removed it's product. More than likely it will never come to that and there will be an exception made at the last minute for products like the iPod. That's usually how things go in Europe.
  • Reply 19 of 155
    virgil-tb2virgil-tb2 Posts: 1,416member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by UltimateKylie View Post


    ... Steve Jobs needs to get over his desire for form over function to a degree. Yes keep the computers as simple and beautiful as possible but think of function as well....



    You are misusing the term "form over function" here. There is no loss of function in the product if the battery life exceeds the life of the product and functions well for the entire life of said product. Which is the case BTW.



    There are a limited number of faulty iPods wherein the battery fails before the expected or designed life of the product is up, but one could just as easily argue that there is a loss of function in the case of a replaceable battery for the few times that the product fails when the battery falls out on to the ground.



    Apple has some of the best designers and engineers on the planet working for them and they test and prototype everything dozens of times over as well as testing and monitoring their own products throughout their lifetimes. I don't understand why so many armchair designers seem to think they know better.
  • Reply 20 of 155
    foo2foo2 Posts: 1,077member
    This legislation is sponsored by... Nokia.



    Nokia reminds all Europeans that a happy Nokia makes for a happy EU.
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