The European Union has adopted new regulations regarding batteries that could extend the lifespan of gadgets, cut back on electronic waste, and generally improve sustainability.

While the regulations apply to all sorts of batteries and covers things like waste collection and use of recycled materials, one section has been gathering a lot of attention: smartphones and similar gadgets with built-in batteries will need to make it easy for end users (ie: you) to remove and replace those batteries by 2027.

European Council

There was a time when most smartphones had user-replaceable batteries. Just pop off the back cover, take out the battery and you can replace it with a new or freshly charged battery. These days there are only a handful of phones that make it that easy.

Instead, most have batteries that are stuffed into a case that’s difficult to open without specialized tools. Often those batteries are also held in place with sticky adhesive that needs to be melted or cut before you can remove the battery.

While I’m not sure that the new regulations will lead to a Renaissance in phones with batteries that can be replaced without tools (after all, it’s harder to make a truly waterproof phone in this style), the regulations do spell out that in order to be considered “removable,” a device needs to have a battery that “can be removed with the use of commercially available tools and without requiring the use of specialized tools, unless they are provided free of charge, or proprietary tools, thermal energy, or solvents to disassemble it.”

In other words, it’s okay if you need a screwdriver to replace a battery. But if you need an unusually-shaped one, the manufacturer needs to provide it free of charge. And difficult-to-remove adhesive sounds like a no go.

European Council

The rules only apply to the European Union, which means that phone makers could theoretically continue to sell phones with nearly impossible-to-remove markets in other countries. But the EU is a pretty big market, and rather than design different phones for different markets, it’s likely that most phone makers who do business in Europe will end up complying with the new regulations.

The rechargeable batteries used in phones and other gadgets have a limited number of charge cycles and tend to degrade over time so that a phone that battery life shortens over time. That means that batteries often give out before other components, and you may find yourself looking to replace an otherwise still-usable smartphone or tablet because of a worn-down battery.

Regulations like those adopted by the EU could allow you to keep using your existing device for longer by just replacing the battery rather than the whole gadget. You know, unless you crack the screen, break the USB port, or end up with some other fault that cannot easily be repaired.

But a growing number of phone makers have also begun offering spare parts and repair guides for folks looking to perform DIY repairs on out-of-warranty devices… partially due to pressure from the EU and other regions looking to adopt right to repair rules.

European Council

We first mentioned the new battery regulations last year when a draft agreement was created. Last month the European Parliament voted to approve those rules, and now that they’ve been adopted, the countdown to 2027 has begun ticking.

The regulations also included provisions related to batteries for electric vehicles, industrial products, lighting, electronic bikes and scooters, and other products and includes “end-of-life requirements” that include collection targets, targets for recovering lithium from waste batteries, and mandatory minimums for the amount of lithium, led, nickel, and cobalt to be used in certain types of batteries.

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  1. Terrible idea. Like everything the European Union does…it has the opposite effect. This will screw up waterproofing and many more phones will end up in the waste. Also they cannot resist passing more laws and interfering with the free market which adds more cost and bureaucracy.

    1. The “free market” was never meant to benefit the customers, but the businesses.

      Also, some phones might get water damaged, but they all lose their battery over time.

    2. Wasn’t a problem a decade ago; won’t be a problem now.

      I see the FUD crew are in full swing.

        1. Yes, the Galaxy S4 Active wasn’t a thing a decade ago, it also didn’t feature both a removable battery and a headphone jack in a waterproof body.

    1. The “free market” was never meant to benefit the customers like you and me, but the businesses.

      Also, some phones might get water damaged, but they all lose their battery over time.

  2. I hope this brings back extended batteries. I don’t mind making my phone and notebooks thicker.

  3. This is great. I just bought a new phone because the battery on the old one (an LG V60) no longer lasts. I’ll try to see if I can source a battery for the V60 and if I can fix it since it’s otherwise in perfect condition, but I can’t go that long without a working cell phone.

    Hopefully the new one will make it to 2027 or whenever phone makers make battery replacement “easy” and hopefully not way overpriced. I can just see them charging 200 for a replacement battery in order to persuade people to upgrade (they could make it harder to use third party batteries by having the phone check for the battery’s “authenticity” and refuse to work if it doesn’t pass since I saw no mention regarding standardizing batteries or their tech)

    1. I own LG V20, last flagship smartphone with removable battery, from nore than 5 years. I have opened it to insert a fresh battery thousands of times (you open back cover pushing a recessed button). I have bought new batteries a few times, last ones from Chinese manufacturer, as LG doesn’t sell it anymore, and all is perfect (two times I received batteries from some manufacturer in and state, they were old with low charge caoacity, them I claimed and I got my money back: some sellers sold bad batteries, old manufactured, and other sell newly manufactured batteries: for example thr last I bought was made in 2023 and it is perfect).

  4. Phone were water resistance even during “removable battery” days. Galaxy s5 had IP67 with removable batteries.

    Even last Year Samsung released Xcover6 pro with ip68 and removable battery.

    1. Let’s not delude ourselves here: the S5 may have been rated at IP67 but there’s no way that small, flimsy gasket on the back cover was actually gonna protect against actual drops into water. Not to mention the epic fail that was the micro USB 3.0 port.

      1. Well, some of them were waterproof because they went through a treatment which basically coats all electronics. But yeah, gaskets are harder to implement well and are prone to user error, coating the electronics is an added cost, but if there’s an isolated battery compartment, it might be doable. Let’s not forget the rules don’t say it has to be a slip-on plastic back like the days of yore where you could change batteries in the middle of the street, just that it has to be easy to do with easily accessible tools.

        1. The Samsung S5 was definitely NOT waterproof. It was moreso splash resistant. Whereas the new Samsung xCover 6 Pro looks like you get the best of both worlds.

          One thing you can do to get a seamless back, proper water resistance, and easy battery change is this. Have a SIM-Eject pin attached to the battery, insert it to allow the housing to detach, which reveals a compartment only for the battery which is tightly sealed, yet it is also blocked off from the rest of the phone and it’s electronics.

          LG was attempting something like this with their V20 and G5 but their execution left much wanting. However, the theory is still sound and available for any innovative company to come and perfect and potentially become profitable. Why must it be a zero-sum game, a company can make a consumer friendly device AND get successful in a win-win situation. I guess forward thinking is at a low supply in this industry.

          1. S5 is pretty much waterproof with stock cover. I have one and still use it, and it was in water quite a few times over last 8 years, including salty seas. Probably if it were to fall deeper, where water pressure is significant, seal would not hold up too well, but for half meter deep dives it holds up pretty good. I think its mostly due to the combination of surface tension and the fact that air has nowhere to go, plus since cover itself is flexible, it can compensate edges pressure to some degree. There is also a plenty of videos on youtube from back then, but they do not really prove the point, since usually phones fail much later after been submerged. Mine did not fail over the years.
            But I agree that the design is a bit risky, making separate compartment for the battery with some slide-in door would probably be more robust.

          2. @Alex
            We had a Samsung S5 which was actually advertised as being water resistant in my region. Their fine print said they weren’t covered. The brand new phone died after two weeks when it accidentally took a tumble into the handwashing basin. Yes, it was using everything stock, and the issue was water damage. Samsung denied giving us a free fix, replacement, or a refund. We basically had to take them to court, after a long period, using our countries Consumer Laws for a full refund which wasn’t worth the time and effort. A similar thing happened to Sony as well, but their phones were actually more water resistant. Eventually there was a Class Action or Government Mandate that allowed people to get full refunds, and the manufacturers were given fines. But the damage was done by that point.

            The flexible back you think is a good thing, was the culprit. If you want to understand better, look at GoPro cameras. They are pretty much waterproof AFTER you put them into the housing. The housing is HARD, it is not flexible, and has no ingress point. The only exception is the flap and that has a proper silicone gasket. On a modern phone, you only see a mini gasket on the SIM eject module. The rest of the device uses flexible glue to act as the barrier. As said by commenter Tams below he is correct. Obviously the performance varies greatly due to stresses in manufacturing. Apple and Sony have the tightest control and best ingress protection, Samsung is evidently weaker, and other OEMs having problems. Just because a manufacturers device passes IP67 certification doesn’t always mean your specific device is due to differences in mass production. Although things are much better in 2023 than 2018, and some devices are secretly water resistant, but haven’t gone through certification. Fortunately, you CAN buy a brand new device and test it’s ingress protection BEFORE you set it up and use it personally. But then UNFORTUNATELY basically none of the OEMs will compensate you in the case that it should fail. They should ethically speaking, but you would have to take them to court like I did years back to see anything about it.

            In 2014-2016 we basically traded having User Removable Battery instead for an IP67 water resistant phone. Obviously the battery feature always works and obviously so. However the ingress protection is less obvious to know if it’s there, it degrades over time, and is lost when the phone gets refurbished for screen replacement, parts repair, or changing the sealed-battery with a new one. So it is very questionable if that trade-off was worth it, losing User Removable Battery for a supposed Ingress Protection. For some devices, like power users or road warriors, it isn’t worth it, but not sure about the average fellow.

      2. And there’s no way that glue sealing your current ‘waterproof’ (note how they never call it that) lasts well for more than a year before it becomes degraded enough to potentially let water in.

        Only, you can’t replace that for very easily. You can very easily get a new gasket.

        Anyway, it’s also easier to just not drop your phone down the toilet.

  5. Not sure how this is going to reduce e-waste when battery replacement services are already offered by the manufactures. I really don’t want to buy a 3rd party battery.

    1. services, normally not done quickly, you have to wait or go without your phone for a few days, plus you’re paying for the manual labour

      while the new rules means you can change it easily in the comfort of your own home, hopefully with an original battery bought at a reasonable price from the manufactuar

    2. Maybe they should mandate companies offering battery replacements at cost for X number of years. How much does Google charge to replace a battery on a Pixel 2? Oh wait, Google doesn’t have a battery replacement program at all.