The battery is usually the first part to die in any laptop, tablet, or mobile phone

Unless you physically damage an electronic device, such as by dropping it, in any mobile electronic device, the batteries are likely to be the first part to fail.

The reason is because mobile devices all use lithium batteries. Unfortunately, by nature, lithium batteries tend to lose their charge over time. The reasons are complex, but if you are interested, please see this link. The important fact is that they will lose charge over time, much faster than the rest of the electronic device. Although the battery cannot hold a charge, the screen, motherboard, CPU, GPU, memory, and storage are fine. The physical keyboards on laptops too are fine, provided the laptop has not been roughly handled.

The capacity of a lithium ion battery versus the number of charge cycles.

Source: Choi et al. (2002)

Look at the chart above. Note that many of the “fast charging” technologies also happen to use higher voltages. That means that although they charge your battery faster, you can also expect that they will also shorten the lifespan of your battery. That’s unfortunate, but often a necessary trade-off.

Unfortunately, this also highlights the importance of making batteries user replaceable for electronics that last a long time. Fewer and fewer phones have removable batteries and virtually no tablets. By contrast in laptops, with the notable exception of Apple, most companies have removable batteries. The fact that they are not is undoubtedly to try to promote future sales through planned obsolescence. It has serious consequences, such as E-Waste in the developing world. More immediately for you, not having a removable battery either forces a difficult disassembly, a costly repair at a shop, or a new device.

Seeing that repairs are often very expensive and not worth it, except for very high end phones, while manual disassembly is difficult, that leaves little option but to purchase a new device. That, needless to say, is bad for your wallet, especially if the device is functioning with no other problems. Worse, with Moore’s Law ending, we are reaching a point where next year’s device will not be much better than the previous year’s.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Batteries are the first parts to die in any mobile device. Making them replaceable would be a huge step forward in preventing e-Waste and minimizing the hit to your wallet.

Out of principle, I have not purchased any phones or laptops with my own money that do not have removable batteries. I do not use tablets anymore, seeing that they are not much more mobile than laptops and offer much less processing power. More on that in a latter post.

I hope that the general public demands change. If enough people vote with the money, it will force companies such as Apple to respond. This cycle of not making laptops replaceable will only create e-Waste. I think that if people saw the ability to upgrade a product as a type of product quality, fashion trends would change.

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