Hardware

Mobile Phone | Self-exchangeable Battery

still useful nowadays?


Smartphone with self-exchangeable Battery?

History

First mobile Phones had very high Energy Consumption

A battery is a wearing part and therefore usually breaks down faster than the device it supplies with energy. It costs only a fraction of the device.

If it can be replaced by the customer without the help of a workshop, the costs remain at a very manageable 20–50 EUR in an emergency.

This was the case with mobile phones in the early years of mobile communications and later with the first smartphones. These had a much higher energy consumption than today's devices. One battery charge barely lasted half a working day with heavy use. Professional phone users needed a second battery to change.

Today's Smartphones are designed to save Energy

The battery technology has hardly changed. The large manufacturers with many years of experience deliver consistently good quality.

Smartphone batteries last up to four days without recharging, because modern smartphones are much more economical than older models.

Large Smartphone = large Battery

These so-called phablets (an artificial word made up of smartphone and tablet) with screen diagonals of 5 to 7 inches) have a larger housing and thus room for a much larger battery.

Small Smartphone = tiny Battery

Small super flat smartphones still need to be plugged in every evening because their small built-in battery only provides 2000 mAh or less.

Battery Life

With good care, a battery can last for years before natural wear and tear causes it to perform less than 80% and it must be replaced soon after.

Throw-away Mentality has changed everything

Unfortunately, the mobile phone commission was not abolished in Germany. Many customers are not even aware of what a mobile or smartphone actually costs.

Most mobile phone users buy a new smartphone worth between 400 and 1600 EUR every two years by renewing their contract for a few euros and throw the old one away. Many old devices disappear into drawers. In the best case, the predecessor model is given to a family member as a gift.

Those who can afford it, conclude a premium tariff contract with the mobile phone provider, which even brings a new smartphone top model every year!

And the device manufacturers develop smartphones in a new design every year, so that the previous exchangeable battery would no longer fit into the new model. So customers and manufacturers are hardly interested in replacement batteries.

Exception: three small European Manufacturers

Fairphone (NL), Gigaset (DE) and shift (DE) build smartphones with exchangeable batteries. However, all three do not build top models with the very latest technology and Gigaset also has models with a battery that cannot be changed by the customer. All of the devices on offer belong to the entry to middle class. At least you can get fresh batteries from these three manufacturers when you need them and no outdated or counterfeit products.

With products from large manufacturers, it can happen that dealers buy too many batteries and do not sell as quickly as hoped.
There are dealers who can now offer brand-new, ancient Android smartphones because they couldn't sell as many as they thought they could at the time.

It's the same with exchangeable batteries for smartphones from large manufacturers who still produced such things back then or still offer exchangeable batteries for a few models today. Overproduction is stored there or traders use bankruptcy assets. Fresh batteries are only available in the first year of the market launch of a smartphone model, also because the large manufacturers only have them produced once in large quantities.

All this plays into the hands of product counterfeiters. They like to copy batteries from big brands because the original manufacturers only produce one series and offer them at a high price. So there is a high demand for cheap replacements. Even wholesalers have difficulties recognising counterfeits and taking action against them.

Pros

  • Cost-saving (for older Smartphones without exchangeable battery, a defect due to high repair costs means financial total loss)
  • time-saving (change immediately by yourself, no need to make an appointment with a workshop, no shipping to a workshop)
  • if the smartphone threatens to overheat due to an app malfunction and cannot be terminated, simply remove the battery
  • if a faulty firmware update makes it impossible to switch off/restart the smartphone, remove the battery

Cons

  • if the battery is worn out after 2–5 years with good treatment, dealers usually only have deposited batteries
  • Counterfeiters create deceptively real-looking batteries that offer neither performance nor security of the originals
  • some sales platforms (even the biggest ones ...) offer mostly fakes, even wholesalers are powerless against them

Conclusion

I am in favour of sustainability and would like to buy a top smartphone model with a removable battery, but since the above-mentioned facts speak against it and the hitherto preferred ecosystem has never offered smartphones with a removable battery, I am now already using the seventh smartphone in a row without a removable battery.

My good experience with a lot of mobile phone and smartphone batteries gives me hope that the battery, which I cannot change by myself, will last long and will not be overstrained by software running amok.

I used to sell smartphones that had been discontinued in top condition via a resale platform, which meant that people with smaller budgets could also enjoy a top smartphone, thus saving money and the environment.

I only had one bad experience with the world's first XXL smartphone (Samsung Galaxy Note): its original battery had inflated after about three years and had to be replaced. Fortunately, it hadn't leaked or blown and could simply be replaced by a new one. This replacement battery seemed to be an original.

In the meantime, the Samsung Galaxy Note, which was only taken out of the drawer for regular recharging, also broke (not its replacement battery!).

Addendum 17.09.2021: Since today, I am testing the alternative operating system named /e/OS by e Foundation on a Fairphone 3+ purchased in their shop. A midrange model with good hardware and self-exchangeable battery.

Addendum 10.12.2021: Since today, I have been using the Fairphone 4 as my main device – a mid-range model with very good hardware and an easily replaceable battery.

I don't sell the iPhones I bought last via a resale platform, as I did with previous devices, because their batteries are no longer 100% OK and that, together with their age, depresses the resale value a lot. Selling them is less worthwhile than continuing to use them as a backup or for special applications. If someone in my family or circle of friends urgently needs a replacement device, I could help them out.

Keyword list: /e/, exchangeable battery