Will an EU Directive Reshape the iPhone’s Battery?October 9, 2008
One of the criticized “features” of the iPhone since Day One has been the lack of a user-swappable battery. For any heavy user, the fact that you can no longer rely on being able to carry a spare battery for a long day of use, but rather, a charger, has been a sore point.
Of course, with the device’s amazing popularity, many have overlooked that flaw, or worked around it with external battery extenders. However, the EU will likely not be so kind.
Current regulation, introduced with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) in July of 2006, primarily sought to prevent the unnecessary use of toxic metals in batteries as well as making it easier to recycle and dispose of used batteries.
The updated “New Batteries Directive,” as written about for New Electronics by Gary Nevision (.PDF), would go much further. Article 11 of the Directive, as currently written, would:
Article 11 of the New Directive affects the design of electrical equipment, which must be made in such a way as to allow batteries, either for replacement or at end of life for disposal to be ‘readily removed’ – although this term is not yet defined.
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.
Of course, Apple’s iPhones and iPods wouldn’t meet this requirement, as it stands. The iPhone Battery Replacement Program could be considered a cash cow for Apple ($79.95 + 6.95 shipping). After all, if I want a replacement battery for a Samsung Blackjack II, I can look on eBay and find knockoffs from Asia for a few dollars at most.
As AppleInsider notes, however, this Directive would not be so much about a feature, but a way to keep used and toxic batteries out of landfills.
So, would Apple lobby for a change? Maybe, but Europe hasn’t been all that receptive to such an approach by Apple, at least to this point, on things like iTunes’ DRM.
We all know there will be newer iPhones coming out, so I would think it’s likely that Apple would at least consider user-swappable batteries for new models. They won’t do anything for the current ones of course. So let’s hope this Directive passes, because it would be a boon to the user, though not for Apple’s bottom line.