back to article EU battery rule may zap iPhone, blow away MacBook Air

The EU is readying a new set of directives that could spell trouble for Apple's iPhone and any other gadget that lacks an easily removable power pack. A new, draft batteries directive mandates that power cells inside electronic devices must be "readily removable" for replacement and safe disposal. This isn't the case with the …


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  1. Barry Critchell
    Gates Horns

    but but but...

    Steve told me I don't NEED to replace my battery.....

  2. Neil


    When the iPhone finally gets a user-removable battery, and a decent camera (2MP? What is this, 1999?) I might consider getting one.

  3. yeah, right.


    Yet again the EU proves to be more consumer friendly than North America. Yet again we are shown that the only thing that makes corporations stop screwing the consumer is more regulation. The same regulations that corporations and their shills loudly decry, probably because it stops them from fucking over the consumer again and again.

    Governments today are "for the people, by the people". Seems the EU knows this without it being written down, whereas the US has it written down, but has forgotten this as they continue to allow their corporations to rape and pillage the consumers and taxpayers - lately to the tune of $700 billion for no return on investment.

    Of course, the trick is, if the user is able to remove the battery, will said battery be recycled or will it just be thrown in the trash? Whereas if the manufacturer has to change the battery, then it can more easily be audited to ensure compliance with recycling laws. Unfortunately, the manufacturer then just has to change the battery in a country without such rules and we're back to square one.

    The point? There is no point.

  4. Nigel
    Thumb Down

    Well ...

    My battery toothbrush is desigjned so that I can remove the rechargeable battery for disposal, but I cannot replace it. There is a warning in the manual that the removal operation is destructive and should only be performed at end-of-life. So if Apple wants to build obsolescence into the iPhone, it looks to me as if all they have to do is spell it out to their users instead of hiding the "feature".

  5. Daniel Bennett

    One or two screws...

    Its easy to get the battery out of an iPhone/iPod...

    Just not easy to put one back...

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Is it just me

    Or is the EU finally starting to make rational decisions?

  7. Jim

    "Mercury, lead and cadmium"

    So how many of these components are found in Lithium cells? You know, the kind of cells that power virtually all consumer hand held devices these days...

    And if the issue is waste disposal then why does the user need to be able to remove the cell pack? Aren't there existing rules that the manufacturer is responsible for safe disposal of their products? And isn't this more responsible than assuming joe public isn't going to just dump their old battery in the nearest bin?

    If this requirement was brought in under the guise of safety or to ensure that product lifetime is in no way limited by recharge cycles then it makes some sense. Though it would still rely on our mate Joe disposing of batteries responsibly...

  8. Mark

    I have no problem with this

    It's a huge PITA that your expensive device can die a death not because it doesn't work or it's broken but just because the battery is fixed and has a limited lifetime.

    If this directive crunches these idiocies I for one welcome our battery replacing overlords...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    most computer devices

    Have non removable by sheeple batteries on the mother board, so I think this is a problem for more companies then apple.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    who really gives a shit, much like with energy saving lightbulbs and batteries once dead they go in the bin, that's why back in the day they worked hard on removing as much toxic love from cosumables, god bless teh new green revolution. That's where my delicious iriver clik will go once it's dead.

  11. Ted Treen


    Can we have an edict saying EU fat cats & bureaucrats are to be user-replaceable, please? And preferably with mandatory recycling via a furnace.

  12. Simon Wilson
    Jobs Halo

    iPod battery replacement takes 5 mins

    I've replaced batteries on two portable devices that supposedly don't have user-serviceable batteries - a 3rd gen iPod and a Compaq iPaq. It really wasn't that difficult, and in both cases the battery was cheap and higher capacity than the original. So what's the big deal here? I am not an expert at battery removal, but both battery kits came with clear instructions, all necessary tools and took the best part of 5 mins.

    I'd rather have it this way than make the iPods thicker/heavier just so users can replace the batteries in 10 seconds instead of 5 mins.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    You can remove the battery

    It just requires a hammer. The bigger, the better.

  14. Thomas Silver badge


    Does anybody know when this is likely to become European law, assuming it is eventually passed? If so, any guesses on whether Apple will hold off until the states in which European law does not have direct effect have bothered to rubber stamp it?

  15. Svein Skogen


    This will also hit creative, and palm. For Apple, it will also hit their Macbook Airhead, aswell as all their end-luser equipment. I foresee a future with user-replacable batteries, and given the success-stories in the past few years with laptop batteries imitating fireworks, I really see the point. But I propose that EU takes this one step further. By the end of 2009, any company that doesn't have a clear path to having only end-luser-replacable batteries before the deadline, should be banned from selling equipment. Period. This would protect EU and EEC citizens from purchasing equipment that will need replacement of the entire gadget due to battery failure.


  16. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

    Re. MacBook Air

    Getting the battery out is easy for anyone with a philips screwdriver.

  17. Anton Ivanov
    Thumb Up

    Re: Mercury, lead and cadmium

    Lithium itself is sufficiently nasty. Just google for Lithium poisoning...

  18. Preston Crow

    Many devices need this.

    I had an electric hedge trimmer that became useless when the battery stopped holding a charge. I've had electric shavers with the same problem. This is not a new problem.

  19. Dave Minter

    Vested interest much?

    So a man whose "repair business" presumably makes money from battery replacements and the like is the go-to man for comments on EU legislation? I smell a press release recycled as news.

  20. muttley
    Jobs Halo

    @ iPod battery replacement takes 5 mins

    Absolutely, piece of cake using the tool supplied with the replacement iPod battery.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Svein Skogen

    "This would protect EU and EEC citizens from purchasing equipment that will need replacement of the entire gadget due to battery failure."

    You mean, in the same way that not buying them does now?

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    One step further...

    Ban all non-rechargeable batteries (except for particularly special circumstances). WIth the prices of rechargeables plummeting, and the emergence of hybrid NiMHs (Hybrio; Eneloop) which self-discharge very slowly, there are fewer and fewer applications where the horrible disposable battery is justified.

  24. Mike

    Do it.

    The sooner manufacturers are forced to make these products 'sustainable' i.e. maintainable, the better. I REFUSE to buy Apple for this very reason- and I know many agree with me. They are losing customers- why can't they see that? They can charge a fortune for 'consumables' such as batteries :) The phone makers do it.

    But OK- if they refuse, then use force.


  25. Bad Beaver

    @ iPod battery replacement takes 5 mins

    Right on. Replaced the one in my 3G iPod a while ago, took about five minutes netto and was pretty easy. Nevertheless

    a) "opening the device" is scary to most consumers

    b) it does void the warranty, even though this should not be a real-world problem

    c) the new iPod nano has a battery that is soldered to the mainboard which made me refrain from buying one. It says "two years intended lifespan" and that is just wasteful in my view.

  26. TimM

    Re: Re: Mercury, lead and cadmium

    Not to mention Li-ions have a greater habit of self-combustion.

  27. Jim
    Jobs Horns


    Too bad they didn't think of this during the lawsuit for IPod battery life.

  28. Anonymous John

    Ebook readers will be hit too.

    As fa as I know, only the Bookeen Cybook has a user replaceable battery.

  29. David Kelly

    Why the Apple reference

    Loads of devices have fixed batteries, why is El Reg specifically mentioning Apple?

  30. Steven Jones

    Death to proprietary Lithium batteries

    Personally I get fed up with the fact that even when Lithium batteries are replaceable, every manufacturer seems to take a delight in inventing their own form factors. Surely it is not beyond the wit of mankind to have some standard Lithium battery form factors in the same way that we have them for NiMh. Of course we need more types than the are available in the old fashioned dry cell formats, but we surely don't need hundreds of different ones varying only slightly in contacts and dimensions. Electrically they are all much of a muchness as is proved by the fact that universal chargers can be readily used - you just have to have a collection of 20 different baseplates.

    I reserve special condemnation for Sony here - on DSLRs and Camcorders they have the "Infolithium" batteries which have the convenient facility of a chip that tracks discharge and can tell you how much charge is left. However, the whole thing is wrapped up in patents and the like so that there is no third party alternative. Hence you get locked into proprietary (and expensive) formats (apart from some bodges that power camcorders via a DC connection) as the cameras will not work on non-Infolithium batteries (they work well enough to power up and tell you that, so it's not a technical issue - simply that Sony decided to stop the camera operating at that point).

    So a useful bit of legislation would be to have user-replaceable batteries along with legislation that opens up competition for them.

    When they've done that, they can do some work on doing the same for lock-ins on inkjet and laser consumables...

    rant over...

  31. Hywel Thomas
    Thumb Up


    If something stops working due to a sealed in battery, people are just going to the whole thing. This would make responsible disposal much easier. It also means third party higher capacity batteries will be an easier option for those devices.

    What I'd like them to ban though, is those annoying thin cables that run from wall-warts to low-voltage devices (like, for example the one to the Maxtor drive sitting on my desk. They need to put them in a nice thick sheath that doesn't get itself massively tangled the moment your back is turned. While they're at it, they should produce a standard power jack size, settle on polarity and make it possible to switch to common voltages, so that if you can't find the right one, you just use one of the others that are lying around.

  32. Hywel Thomas

    OR maybe..

    also standardise voltage. Make a new 12V standard with a mini figure of 8 lead,

    Or something.

    There's got to be a better way.

    (Years ago, Douglas Adams wanted the car-fag-lighter-socket to be the standard).

  33. Andrew


    Surely one key to compliance is to have an in-line connector for the battery instead of soldering its flying leads directly to the PCB. Archos, go and stand in the corner

  34. Seven_Spades

    Unforseen consequences

    Brilliant, now instead of sending my Treo, Ipod, iPhone back to a repairer for a replacement battery, I will be able to chuck it in the bin and just fit a new one without having to pay for the privilage.

  35. jubtastic1

    Less of this please

    Somewhere along the way you've obviously realised that Apple + Bollocks = lotsa Ad money, but articles like this simply undermine the value of your site.

    This is misleading bollocks because:

    1) The Headline suggests imminent trouble for said devices.

    2) Said devices will be obsolete ~3 years before the first measure comes into law, providing that actually happens and the legislation doesn't get crippled by a lobby group.

    3) Existing devices will obviously be exempt, assuming they're still functioning.

    4) You don't even know what the law will be, the meat of the article is pure speculation / wishful thinking.

    You might as well post an article titled "All car makers are fucked" on the grounds that none of the existing vehicles meet legal requirements that are the sort of thing that you imagine may exist in 2016.

    You're better than this.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    so what

    I have several portable drills which use battery packs and they are replaceable...but the frikkin replacements are so expensive I could buy the whole kit again (drill and all) for less than the replacement batteries would cost. So what's the point of this again?

    Paris, 'cuz she replaces her batteries on a regular basis.

  37. Richard

    4 to 8 years is a long time in electronics ...

    Another EU commission non-story ... in 4 to 8 years time these devices might easily be run on hydrogen fuel cells which won't need replacing.

    I'd rather have an elegant device which can have its battery replaced professionally by the vendor for a reasonable price than something which is so easy to take apart, break bits off and has bad internal connectors which disconnects at the slightest jog.

  38. Ross Fleming Silver badge


    Not sure, are you complaining the toothbrush doesn't have a replaceable battery, or that people are picking on the iphone et al?

    On a related note, I replaced my ipod battery last weekend - best thing I ever did, cost 15 quid and the instructions were a doddle!

  39. Anonymous Coward


    What the hell right does the government have to tell me whether I can buy a product with a sealed battery? I've got a Sandisk Sansa Clip which I like rather a lot due to its being absolutely tiny - which wouldn't be possible with a removable battery. So now big daddy EU comes in and tells me I shouldn't have the right to have it?

    At least I live in the US - but if this idiotic nanny-state crap goes through, it's going to affect what I can have here, too. Nice of you to shove your morals down my throat, Europe - if I don't want a product with a sealed battery, I already have a killer method: I don't f*cking buy it!

  40. Mark
    Gates Horns

    re WTF?!!

    Uh, Laws. Laws are where those rights come from.

    The same laws that say I can't just walk up to someone and take their iPhone. Or walk into a shop, extract a brand new Nokia phone and walk off with it.

    Y'know, regulations against acts that I can physically do, but are considered bad for other people, no matter how nice it is for me.

    Or, how "Grey Imports" are illegal and so your corporation buds can keep segmenting the market based on ability to pay rather than cost to make.

    Don't hear you complaining about the shoplifting regulations, do we. Or the grey import license regulations.

  41. Mage Silver badge

    Zinc Carbon Vs Alkaline

    ban the so called cheap non-Alkaline disposable batteries. The Alkalines last x5 longer, so 1/5th the waste yet only 2x price.

    Low consumption long life devices need Alkaline, such as clocks, microphones, emergency torchs & radios etc.

    Self discharge on LiPoly, and NiMh is severe. Some NiMh self discharge in days, others weeks or months. What about a standard for that.

  42. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    @ David Wiernicki

    Maybe you liked leaded petrol too? CFC-cooled fridges? Perhaps you enjoy littering?

    You might like it, but when the battery dies and you throw it in a landfill rather than replacing it you're contributing to a problem that affects people other than you. Earth's a shared resource, buddy, so suck it up.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @David Wiernicki

    You what? Pull the back panel off the Sansa and you can clearly see a battery. So get the manufacturer to change the clip layout on the back panel so it can be removed and it's sorted! It's at most a weeks work to redesign it and test it thoroughly.

    If it's really that much trouble to design in new clips etc, just do what the HTC Blue Angel (amongst others- that's just the first one to hand for me) did and just have the battery AS the back panel. Still absolutely no problems with it fitting!

    Even the ridiculously tiny iPod Shuffle could be fitted with a removeable battery and stay just as tiny. Quit whining!

    On the other hand, I am quite pleased to see an American refer to us as "Big Daddy"!

    Oh, and everything portable should charge from a 5V USB or mini-USB supply. That way you can charge it from a wall wart or from just about any PC / Lappy, Mac or even a suitably equipped PIC chip. Small plug size on the mini-USB, plus it means that when WUSB takes off you'll be able to wirelessly sync your MP3 player without having to use a proprietary plug -> USB adaptor cable.

    If you're stuck for features with that, do what HTC did and create something along the lines of ExtUSB- which can still use a standard mini-USB for data + power but has extra pins for sound input and output. Still backwardly compatible, but feature laden.

  44. Herby

    First Lead (RoHS) now this.

    Maybe soon they will declare human waste as a hazardous waste that can't be thrown down the drain.

    Give me a break! All they need to do is make the "recycling" of the battery cheaper than throwing it away. So, have a government depot that accepts the used batteries and pays money for them. Let the government refine the waste and sell for a profit. Who knows, they might even make some money doing it, which given the current times is sorely needed!

  45. Dave

    Stupid Idea

    The number of products that will have to be redesigned at significant extra cost to provide user-replaceable batteries is likely to be quite high. Ultimately the consumer gets to pay, and if they don't, companies will go out of business and the consumers get to pay the welfare benefits for people out of work instead.

  46. Anonymous Coward

    Missing the whole point...

    Isn't the issue of disposable electronics more of a concern than just disposable batteries?

    Its shortlife non-reusable electronics that should be banned. Yes that includes pods that can't have the batteries changed. But covers far more. (emergency equipment exempted)

    Anyway as for recycling, isn't it anoying that councils only recycle certain things? well I have a cure, I want them to recycle far more, so I put what I want them to recycle in the recycling bin! I wonder if they have the message yet?

  47. Gulfie

    @Steven Jones - Recharging lithium polymer batteries

    "Electrically they are all much of a muchness as is proved by the fact that universal chargers can be readily used"

    Absolutely not... if you try to charge a LiPo battery using a universal charger that isn't designed for them, or forget to put your charger into LiPo mode you will, quite likely, end up with the battery exploding and/or catching fire as it is charged far more quickly than it can cope with. And, if your charger 'cycles' (deep, fast discharge) the batteries - this will also result in the same - explosion and/or fire.

    Every LiPo battery I've ever bought (I use them in radio controlled aircraft) has come with a warning leaflet stating all of this very clearly. Ignore it at your peril. I know somebody who did, and he nearlyhad a house fire... came home to a charred lump of plastic and a garage full of thick black smoke, and no battery to be found, anywhere...

  48. Giles Jones Gold badge


    So camera phone had 2MP in 1999?

    One of the first camera phone was the Nokia 7650 released in 2002. It was VGA!

    Megapixel count is a poor indication of photo quality. What is for sure it the iPhone's camera captures a photo in poor light without a flash, some of these 8MP phone cameras would need to use a flash (they call them flashes, they're just powerful LED lights). Flash photos almost always look bad (unless you're using a twin head setup in a studio).

    As you increase the megapixel count you tend to reduce sensitivity to light and have to boost the signal more (boosting using analog amplification) which means more noise. In good light you don't need to boost, but in dim light you get loads of chroma and luminance noise.

    The sensor sizes and optics in a camera phone can never be good, phones are too disposible to ever have any quality.

  49. Anonymous John

    @OR maybe..

    We do have a standard now. Called mini USB. Admittedly, it's 5 volts only, but most gadgets use less than that.

  50. TeeCee Gold badge

    This is the EU, right?

    '......the requirement is "clearly intended......".....'

    That's where it all falls down then. It may well read that this is clearly intended, but if it isn't expressed as such in black and white, it means nothing. Also this would need to hold for the various versions*.

    *The French version won't tie anyone down to having to do anything bar producing a vague re-commitment to recyling the odd battery when they feel like it and the German version will specify the exact size and number of screws to be removed but will neglect to mention the battery in the first place.

  51. Alexis Vallance
    Thumb Down

    More idiotic EU decisions

    "Maybe you liked leaded petrol too? CFC-cooled fridges? Perhaps you enjoy littering?

    You might like it, but when the battery dies and you throw it in a landfill rather than replacing it you're contributing to a problem that affects people other than you. Earth's a shared resource, buddy, so suck it up."

    You might want to read 'Scared to Death' by Chris Booker re. the leaded petrol. Banning leaded petrol has done more environmental harm than the theoretical small risk using it ever had.

    You need to burn more unleaded than leaded to get the same power and efficiency than leaded.

  52. Wayland Sothcott Bronze badge
    IT Angle

    embedded battery

    At one time motherboards had a Ni-Cad battery soldered to the board. This looked like a good idea since it would last forever. However the battery leaked and the acid traveled down it's legs into the solder holes in the board then seeped through the layers of the board rendering the motherboard FUBAR. Thankfully they now have replaceable batterys.

    Any manufacturer not allowing you to change the battery is ripping you off by deliberately making it's product die.

  53. Steven Jones


    yes, yes - I know that Li-poly batteries are different, but they are a completely different construction to Li-ion and great if you want things like high draw current for flying model aircraft. The point is that the typical Li-ion batteries used in gadgets like phones and cameras are basically all very similar varying largely on capacity and the number of cells plugged together in series. Universal chargers are readily available for them. I'm not suggesting that cells using radically different chemistry are much the same.

    For Li-poly you'd need a different sort of battery charger (or one that could handle both), just as is the case if you have Ni-Mh, Li-Ion batteries and lead acid batteries. The basic point is that comparable 7.2v Li-Ion battery from two different gadget manufacturers would essentially be interchangeable apart from the form-factor issue.

  54. Gulfie
    Thumb Up

    @Steven Jones II

    Actually my specialist charger has one mode that covers both Li-Po and Li-Ion. The real danger is that one device's 'universal' charger is for NiMh while another's is for LiPo. Granted all small (pocket size) devices use LiPo, but bigger devices are still sometimes shipping with NiMh...

  55. chris
    Thumb Down

    Wise Mr Booker

    The man who thinks that asbestos is not harmful and asbestosis a money-making scam cooked up by those rich and powerful ex-shipyard workers in an attempt to cripple brave industrial giants.

    aka the "Wikipedia Professor of Gibberish":

    If lead and asbestos are so safe, he should make like John Selwyn Gummer and build his kids' nursery out of it.

  56. Cortland Richmond

    Bring on the ultracapacitors

    Easily removable -- with a surface-mount chip hot-air (360C) repair station. Every home should have one.

  57. Anonymous Coward

    And therin lies the flaw..

    "The sensor sizes and optics in a camera phone can never be good, phones are too disposible to ever have any quality."

    Disposable because they break? no disposable because next years is a 'new' flavour. Business is happy to sell you a new one every year, because you will buy! so they withold tech to make sure next years is ever so slightly better. sod what it can do? why sell golden geese? etc..

    Dont forget, the business mantra is not; charge what it costs plus a margin, its; charge what the idiots will pay!

    My 2 year old K800 is way better then the piece of crap that sony brought out to replace it, and is still in use. oh god im going to die because of unfashionableness... no Im not a sheeple!

  58. Britt Johnston

    next define standard lithium battery sizes

    Unlike Ni/Cd, alkaline, Pb/Mn or C/Zn, Lithium dimensions and contacts are as standardised as pre-EU cucumbers. Why, then you could even replace them with Toshiba fuel cells (see related article in ElReg)

  59. Richard


    Remind me, British type folks, isn't this the sort of thing they mocked on Yes, Prime Minister? I have a Gen 2 iPod (10Gig) that is still running fine and has not had the battery replaced. Replaceable batteries are generally crappy and I would likely have had to replace it three times by now. This is an improvement?

  60. Anonymous John

    @ Um

    All three smartphones I've had had easily replaceable batteries, none of which have every failed. Handy as you can keep a spare charged battery with you and double the time you can use the phone when unable to charge it.

    less important with eInk devices as the battery lasts much longer, but it could still be useful.

  61. Mark

    re: Um

    And if ANYTHING even if it's not related to the battery goes dead, you're SOL.

    Because it's a home mod to get the battery changed.

  62. Anonymous Coward

    How about sizes?

    How about standard sizes for these things? Like the A, AA, AAA - but obviously different form factors, from the miniscule to the thick and lasting?

    Point is most of the battery packs have pretty much standard insides, with different molded plastic packages and contact points..

  63. jay019

    What they need is...

    ...a scheme where the user takes depleted battery to the store and gets a discount on the new battery. Then the battery stores could ensure that the old batteries are recycled responsibly. Sure, some may still end up in landfill, but don't discount the power of a *ahem* discount.

  64. Kanhef

    @Bad Beaver & iPod users

    If attempting to remove the battery voids the warranty, it is not readily removable. The manufacturer is providing a strong incentive not to do so, which most people will follow.

    If replacing the battery requires special tools that are not commonly available, it is not readily removable.

    "Readily removable" means that an average person can remove it, by hand or with a single tool they already possess, such as a standard screwdriver.

  65. Richard


    If the battery fails during the warranty Apple will replace it free of charge (assuming you've not bashed it with a hammer etc). If the battery fails outside of warranty you can obviously change it yourself or pay Apple to change it for you .... see

    looks like good customer service from Apple again.

  66. Mark


    Or lose warranty if you change the battery yourself (saving about $70).

  67. Anonymous Coward

    @David Wiernicki

    So if Britain hadn't Abolished slavery the Americans "nation of the Free" (tm) would have beaten us to it? How come you treated your back soldiers in WWII and 'nam as second rate? or did i miss something about Dr King?

  68. Anonymous Coward


    why should i have to pay for something I could do my self if the product was engineered properly?

  69. Mick F
    Jobs Horns

    looks like good customer service from Apple again!!!???

    Looks like another Apple tie-in rip off.

    Bit like getting rid of firewire on MacBooks to make people buy the MacBook Pro - that's great service!! The customers really don't think so, Apple are pulling any criticism from their forums - that's good customer service?

  70. Craig Wallace

    Motherboard batteries

    @By Anonymous Coward Posted Tuesday 7th October 2008 15:55 GMT

    Have non removable by sheeple batteries on the mother board, so I think this is a problem for more companies then apple.


    uhh, what? pretty damn simple to remove any motherboard battery that I've ever seen.

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