Author Topic: Why do so many electric devices now have no user-replaceable battery compartment  (Read 7686 times)

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Offline engineheat

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Back in the days of Walkmans and cordless phones, many electric gadgets have compartments for AA or AAA batteries. Users can even use rechargeables. Life of the device is not tied to the battery. Nowadays, many devices are embedded Li-ion (Macs?). Do consumers really prefer that? I understand it's easy to charge a device by just plugging a USB, but that's fine for something like a phone where it'll be obsolete in a few years and needs frequent charging. But still, lots of devices can last much longer than that and don't get obsolete. Furthermore, it's nice to be able to swap in a fresh battery when you need it rather than wait for it to finish charging.

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Offline xrunner

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I have an iPhone and an iPad, both have no user accessibility to the batteries. Now, I have replaced the battery on several of my iPhones, not too hard but the average unskilled person might not be able to do it. The iPad ... ridiculous to get to the battery, but I could do it if I wanted to. The average person wouldn't even try.

Why do they do this? I don't know if it's the sheer amount of energy the battery has stored which they might think is dangerous, or it's that they want money for repairs.

I'll let others chime in on that.  :popcorn:

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Online Nusa

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You can still find devices with replaceable battery packs, just not from Apple. Their model for "need it now" is the external battery pack. The last apple product I owned was the apple II, so that hasn't been much of a problem for me.

Uninstalled lithium batteries can be a travel problem at airports. The FAA doesn't allow them in checked bags at all, and are limited in quantity in carryon bags. Airline policies may be even more restrictive than that.
 

Offline brucehoult

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The reason I replaced my first four mobile phones (one each from Nokia, Ericsson, Siemens, and Vodafone(Sharp)  was that after two or three years the battery connection became unreliable. I've never made or received a lot of phone calls -- a couple a week maybe -- and in the days before internet-connected smartphones there was no reason to take the phone out of your pocket unless it rang or you wanted to make a call yourself. Batteries only needed recharging once in a week or ten days (the same applies to iPhones, by the way, if you leave them in your pocket and don't constantly use them).

I'd get a new phone and all would be well for a couple of years. And then people would start to complain that they couldn't call me. I'd take the phone out of my pocket and discover that it was off.  I'd turn it on and .. hey .. nearly full battery. Back in the pocket and a day later notice that it had turned itself off again.

I tried cleaning contacts, bending contacts, wedging something to make the battery press tighter, a new battery pack. Once the problem started, nothing except a new phone would cure it.

Then in late 2007 I got an iPhone with soldered in battery and I've never had that problem again. MUCH MUCH BETTER.

Of course after five years or whatever the battery gets tired and needs replacing. And Apple sells replacement batteries and the price includes opening the device, unsoldering the old battery, and soldering in the new one.

At least in the case of laptops, replacing the soldered-in batteries in the unibody machines is the same price as simply buying a new battery for the older machines with user-replaceable batteries. The labour to do it is "free". In fact it probably costs them less to make the internal batteries anyway.
 
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Offline amyk

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Two words: planned obolescence.

Sometimes it's hand-waved away with an excuse. One example of this is electric toothbrushes "need to be waterproof", but that's no reason to make them completely unserviceable --- plenty of other devices, like torches, can be waterproof while also having replaceable batteries. In fact I haven't come across one that's threaded together like a torch, despite that being the obvious way to design one for ease of service. (And likewise, I'm surprised that no one seems to have thought of making an electric toothbrush head that can be interchanged with a torch head...)

In the case of Apple's phones, the excuse has been that they wouldn't be as thin, or that a phone with a metal casing can't have a replaceable battery; the Chinese proved them wrong.

 

Offline phliar

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Putting in a compartment adds to the cost and (more importantly) volume. You can make a much smaller device if you can seal in a Li cell of some weird shape.
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Offline Richard Crowley

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I hate non-accessible batteries also.  However two of their arguments hold SOME water..

1.  Devices are so thin these days, there are no generic cells or batteries that will fit them anymore. Note that cell phones with removable/replaceable batteries each have their own proprietary battery not interchangeable with any other brand (or even model)

2.  It is more "green" to force users to keep recharging the internal battery instead of offering the opportunity for them to use one-time primary (non-rechargeable) cells which then go into the landfill.

I'm not saying that I like either of these arguments.  Especially for professional video and audio production gear, I don't want to be stuck somewhere with no charged batteries left in an expensive situation.  I want the ability to use AA or C or D cells in a critical situation.
 

Offline nelsonm

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I'd also consider that products with soft cell Li-ion batteries pose a potential safety risk if punctured or damaged, so by locking them away from our grubby little fingers they're protecting both their proverbial and literal assets.
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Offline Ampera

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I actually have a severe dislike for standard cell batteries. For anything with any real power, you blow half your money on either a completely unreasonable amount of cells, or buy expensive rechargable batteries that barely last.

However, I don't see the problem here. Every battery is replaceable, even if it says it's not. It's just a matter of reverse construction utilizing percussive maintenance.

I do like the idea of replaceable electric car batteries, so you can just have a charging dock where you can throw batteries, and have a few sets on tap for whenever you need it.

To be honest, all batteries suck. I'm excited for the day when decent batteries are a thing.
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Offline Naguissa

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Probably, to force usual people.to pay more. If battery die they are forced to buy a new device o pay Customer Service. I mean people that don't understand electronics and don't want to try doing it themselves.

In the other hand, the mobile I'm writing on just now is 3.5 years old and its user replaceable battery is not in best condition but lasts a day, just fine. It may last almost two days when new, but still fine after this time.

So, I mean that it's possible to dessign a battery that lasts device practical life in most of user cases.

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Offline MarkS

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Planned obsolescence and increased profits.

If I build a widget and make it repairable, then I only make money on the sale of the widget. However, if I design it in such a way that you are forced to use services I provide for repairs, at a much higher markup, then I not only make money on the original sale, but all repairs. Add to that multiple upgraded versions within the life of the widget, all of which are slightly more than the repairs and I have you and your pocketbook by the balls.
 

Online Rerouter

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I would say cost reduction, size and weight reduction and a large increase in warranty lifetime reliability.

To have a removable battery it needs to be in its own housing that has to be strong enough that the average person cannot bend it in there pocket and have it internally short out (shots fired :p) equally there generally needs to be a recessed connector so that even thrown in a pocket with keys its unlikely to be shorted. both of these add to costs and weight, though they do make failures from the cell less eruptive as the shell the cell is in can better contain the energy of a violent short.

Next up is reliability, look at a beginners project on a breadboard to a more experienced designer, they will migrate to short to mid term reliability, and only go to long term when it doesnt cost them extra in time or money, Battery contacts are a failure mode, and the spring contacts once dirty or bent are generally very hard to repair as they are at the end of a thin long battery compartment.

A battery compartment unless properly sealed is also a direct route for water to reach the battery terminals should it be left out in the rain, or dropped in water. this is also partly where some of the wireless charging technologies came in to play, as its much easier to fully seal a device from water if you have no openings. I personally have lost 2 waterproof cameras to a salt grain that collected along the edge of the gasket. despite being cleaned very well before and after dives. eventually some piece of crud collects and the outside world gets in.

Now a non removable battery is different from a non serviceable battery, this is where i call cost cutting gone mad. So far the 2 handheld tools i have built used a usb charging lipo for cost and simplicity, mounted inside an alu extrusion with screwed on covers. now that battery cannot be easily replaced without tools, but it can be serviced, with the cover removed you can access it and replace it. and it uses commonly available tools, and the battery connects via a short flylead and connector

Many GPS's follow a similar structure, you pop some phillips screws and there is a lipo with a connector.

Phones however are hard for this method, as now the screens are seamless to the bezel meaning you more or less forced to make all access through the back, while keeping the phone mechanically strong. samsung did this well on the SG5, where the cover and gasket clip on in a really thin way, and the gasket the part that wears is on the removable part, but if you where swapping batteries each day, it would not last long, i would assume the plastic clips would be only good for a few thousand cycles at most.
 

Offline wraper

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I'd turn it on and .. hey .. nearly full battery. Back in the pocket and a day later notice that it had turned itself off again.

I tried cleaning contacts, bending contacts, wedging something to make the battery press tighter, a new battery pack. Once the problem started, nothing except a new phone would cure it.
Magic rubber foam pad from Nokia. But to be frank connector itself was crap, pad completely cured it in maybe half of all cases.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2017, 10:28:06 am by wraper »
 

Offline CJay

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I hate non-accessible batteries also.  However two of their arguments hold SOME water..

1.  Devices are so thin these days, there are no generic cells or batteries that will fit them anymore. Note that cell phones with removable/replaceable batteries each have their own proprietary battery not interchangeable with any other brand (or even model)

2.  It is more "green" to force users to keep recharging the internal battery instead of offering the opportunity for them to use one-time primary (non-rechargeable) cells which then go into the landfill.

I'm not saying that I like either of these arguments.  Especially for professional video and audio production gear, I don't want to be stuck somewhere with no charged batteries left in an expensive situation.  I want the ability to use AA or C or D cells in a critical situation.

Well, sort of, I can see those arguments but in the case of a laptop or phone they're pretty much all proprietary batteries/cells so there won't be primary cell generics anyway, making a battery user replaceable opens a new revenue stream from replacement cells too, it smells more like planned obsolescence to me.

Using generics like AA, C or D cells makes sense but makes for bulky kit, it's useful when there may be no way to charge a custom pack as you say.
 

Offline Lord of nothing

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In the past a Nokia Akku (not a Battery) was available everywhere!  :-+
Cellphone Shops resell good Chinese Brands who even work better than the original.
Buy a Phone with an non removable Akku is just insane in my Eyes.
Made in Japan, destroyed in Sulz im Wienerwald.
 

Offline wraper

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Cellphone Shops resell good Chinese Brands who even work better than the original.
Better?  :-DD. 90% of the compatible batteries were complete crap. Often bulging just after a few weeks. And most of them had half to two thirds of original battery capacity. I mean real capacity, not BS that was written on them. Remaining OKayish batteries were not any better than original ones either. Of course there was a way to increase capacity as some idiots put a thicker battery and then battery cover looked egg shaped with huge gaps underneath.
 

Offline mariush

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In some cases, by removing the battery lid (cover) and making the battery internal there are some benefits

You may get slightly higher capacity battery because the space that was previously used for springs (battery contacts) or plastic walls to prevent leakage from alkaline batteries from attacking the boards can now be used for larger battery (or they could use  flatter and thinner batteries)
By using lipo or other styles of batteries, they can do lightweight products compared to AA or AAA batteries that are heavier (and have metal case)
They may be able to do a cheaper plastic mold or they may be able to do cheaper aluminum (or zinc or whatever is used for lightweight cases)  back covers which in turn would help with heat dissipation and may add rigidity to the product (for example in case of laptops)
By not having battery compartments, they may not have to worry about humidity and water ingress through the battery compartment (and they don't have to use rubber seals or use conformal coating or put sealant around battery compartment)
 

Offline Dubbie

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I don't know why everyone says that planned obsolescence is the reason. It is clearly physically impossible to design a top tier phone incorporating a user openable battery compartment without making it thicker or reducing battery life. If people really wanted replaceable batteries then there would be more phones with them. People just don't want the trade offs. Regarding obsolescence, there are plenty of other ways a phone goes obsolete without deliberately sabotaging the battery in a phone design. Pointing to some grand conspiracy here is unnecessary.
 
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Offline tablatronix

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I imagine soon the batteries will be laminated into devices enclosures as films, apple is already using custom shaped batteries in the air laptops, there is no way that could be servicable
 

Offline CJay

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I don't know why everyone says that planned obsolescence is the reason. It is clearly physically impossible to design a top tier phone incorporating a user openable battery compartment without making it thicker or reducing battery life. If people really wanted replaceable batteries then there would be more phones with them. People just don't want the trade offs. Regarding obsolescence, there are plenty of other ways a phone goes obsolete without deliberately sabotaging the battery in a phone design. Pointing to some grand conspiracy here is unnecessary.

There's not a grand conspiracy but you'd have to be a very stupid company to not have designed in battery life in any product where the battery is sealed in.

That it's not user replaceable (HTC One perhaps where the case has to be broken to replace the battery) means you've planned device lifespan and thus obsolescence.

It's not a conspiracy theory, it's industrial design.


Oh, and Samsung S5, thinner than any iPhone I've had my hands on, yet it has an openable waterproof battery compartment and a user replaceable battery, so it's not 'clearly physically impossible' to do and that phone has the best battery life of any smartphone I've used to date.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2017, 08:36:53 am by CJay »
 

Offline Lord of nothing

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Thats we often sayed here.
The with an bad akku the company can reduce the life time to the min warranty time in many (eu) country 2 Years.
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Offline tooki

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I don't believe in conspiracies, so I dismiss the whole "planned obsolescence" and customer lock-in arguments.

Here are some rational reasons for moving to built-in batteries:
  • Most customers never replaced removable batteries anyway. Long before smartphones were even remotely popular, most people replaced their phones after only 18 months on average. At that age, very few batteries have failed.
  • Size. People like thin. Removable batteries require both the added volume of a battery compartment, as well as the added volume of the shell of the battery needed for safety.
  • Safety. In popular phones with removable batteries (like many Samsung models until recently), battery counterfeiting is rampant. But with Li-Ion/LiPo/etc batteries being so sensitive, those fake batteries can be dangerous. Using internal batteries significantly reduces the chances of a user receiving a counterfeit battery. (Note that I'm not referring to quality aftermarket batteries, but actual fake "original" ones sold to people who believe they are buying the real thing. A normal user has no way to detect a potentially deadly counterfeit battery.


In the past a Nokia Akku (not a Battery) was available everywhere!  :-+
Cellphone Shops resell good Chinese Brands who even work better than the original.
Buy a Phone with an non removable Akku is just insane in my Eyes.
In English, we do not use the word "akku". (We used to use "accumulator", but that is absolutely archaic.) It's a rechargeable battery. In common usage, we also call individual cells "batteries", though that is technically incorrect.
 

Offline amyk

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In the past a Nokia Akku (not a Battery) was available everywhere!  :-+
Cellphone Shops resell good Chinese Brands who even work better than the original.
Buy a Phone with an non removable Akku is just insane in my Eyes.
In English, we do not use the word "akku". (We used to use "accumulator", but that is absolutely archaic.) It's a rechargeable battery. In common usage, we also call individual cells "batteries", though that is technically incorrect.
I've noticed that using "akku", "accumulator", or similar terminology is a strong sign that the author is European, and this is no exception. :)
 

Online blueskull

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I've noticed that using "akku", "accumulator", or similar terminology is a strong sign that the author is European, and this is no exception. :)

And condenser for capacitor, still being widely used in Japan, though outdated in the English world.
 

Offline timb

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I imagine soon the batteries will be laminated into devices enclosures as films, apple is already using custom shaped batteries in the air laptops, there is no way that could be servicable
I don't know why everyone says that planned obsolescence is the reason. It is clearly physically impossible to design a top tier phone incorporating a user openable battery compartment without making it thicker or reducing battery life. If people really wanted replaceable batteries then there would be more phones with them. People just don't want the trade offs. Regarding obsolescence, there are plenty of other ways a phone goes obsolete without deliberately sabotaging the battery in a phone design. Pointing to some grand conspiracy here is unnecessary.

Both of these are pretty much spot on. Essentially, a user replaceable battery has about 25% less capacity than one that's integrated into the product. That's because you need to have a molded case and contacts for the battery, plus a reinforced structure for it to mate with in the product. That extra space could be used for more battery!

In fact, on laptops that use external packs containing 18650 cells, that number increases from 25% to as much as 50%!

Apple used to have battery compartments on all their laptops, but changed to custom internal LiPo cells about 6 or 7 years ago. In most cases they're still easy to replace. You simple remove a few screws on the bottom, pop the cover off, unplug the battery, remove a few more screws and it'll pop right out. There are a number of companies that sell aftermarket replacements. Alternatively, Apple will replace it for you for a flat $100 (including service and the battery).

As for phones, that's all about using custom molded LiPo pouches to get the maximum capacity in the smallest package. It's that simple. There's no big conspiracy.
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