Why a Replaceable Battery may be a Good Idea for a Phone

Ask me a few months ago whether I thought having a replaceable battery was a good idea for a smartphone and I would have said it was pointless. However, since then I have changed my mind and wish I could replace the battery on my HTC One X which I have had for just over a year now. This is a situation that most people don’t talk about when they give reasons for a replaceable battery.

The usual reason is that when your battery dies you can replace it with a spare that you are carrying.

Some people may do this, but I think the majority don’t. Firstly, you have to always carry a spare battery around with you (which I know I won’t). Secondly, you have to go through the hassle of turning your phone off, and thereby losing your flow. Finally, you have to go through the hassle of actually replacing the battery which you might have to do while on the go.

Therefore I decided that having a replaceable battery was not important since it was a feature that I was not going to use. However, it turns out I do want to use it - but only once after an entire year.

My battery life has decreased significantly. Now I can barely get through the day just by checking my emails occasionally and web browsing for a bit. If I actually web browse for an extended period of time or watch YouTube, I must charge the phone if I want to use it significantly again later during the day since otherwise I’m looking at a dead phone before the day is out.

This is the problem that I had just not taken into account. Battery lives decrease over time - quite rapidly. Now, often my phone has a low battery life while I am somewhere that I can charge it. The problem is that I don’t want to go through the hassle of putting it on charge and having it be away from me (tied down to the charger) rather than just being able to pick it up even just for a few minutes. In this scenario having a second battery is not a requirement, it is merely an alternative. It isn’t an attractive alternative either because I have to worry about keeping both batteries charged as well as the aforementioned reasons.

The problem with smartphone battery life over a couple of years

Looking at different sources we have:

  • Gizmodo says 20% at 35 degrees celcius and 35% at 40 degrees.
  • Wikipedia says the cycle durability for lithium-ion batteries is 400-1200 and that phones are likely to be at the bottom end. You can reduce the loss rate by keeping the battery between 40-60%. And it agrees with Gizmodo (or perhaps that was its source) with the loss rate at different temperatures.

It seems like the battery life will half within 2-3 years. This gives another reason for why manufacturers are making phones (in particular high-end phones) with non-replaceable batteries: planned obsolescence

Battery university gives massive amounts of information which I haven’t yet looked through.

Portable chargers

An alternative is having a portable charger. You won’t have to worry about making it through the day until you can charge your phone again. You can get chargers that are the size of a smartphone and will fully charge your phone. Or you can go bigger and have multiple charges.

This is the only option if you don’t have a replaceable battery. If you do have a replaceable battery then it is a more flexible option (unless you don’t get opportunities to let it charge in this way). Some even let you charge a laptop.

I don’t like this option for similar reasons to having to carry a spare battery around.

Take a look or leave any comments over at GitHub.