User-replaceable battery or slim design – Which is more important to you in a mobile phone?

Do you prefer a user-replaceable battery (function over form), or slim design (form over function)?

Which I prefer is described in this >3000-word article with all the reasons.
(If you have any suggestions on how to improve that article, please let me know.)

This also applies to laptops, but thankfully, laptops with user-replaceable batteries are not a dead breed yet, while most mobile phones have fatal planned obsolescence built in since 2015. The Galaxy S6 was an utter disappointment to me, and two years later, LG also fully succumbed to this tragic Apple-made design trend.

In the early 2010s, I was utterly glad that only the minority of mobile phones had a non-replaceable battery.As a child, I already understood that non-replaceable batteries are a despicable idea. And now, the nightmare has spread across the entire mobile phone market.

The only mobile phones with user-replaceable batteries since ~2017 are mediocre low-tier 1080p@30fps + 10W slow charging mobile phones, no high-tier 2160p@60fps 25W fast charging mobile phones.

I cherish fast charging, watching that battery percentage meter shoot up within minutes. But sadly, that wears down the battery faster. I also don’t like limiting my battery charging state between 25% and 75% instead of charging all the way up to 100%, just for the sake of postponing the battery’s inevitable demise.

This design trend has robbed users a lot of freedom.


But what do you prefer?

Replaceable batteries compromise the waterproofing of phones. This is a feature many people want or need. Also, it isn’t all that expensive to replace a battery in a sealed phone. I don’t find that the batteries degrade all that much for the length of time I typically keep phone which is about two years. I have never felt the need to change a battery before retiring the phone. Overall, I think the reason replaceable batteries have gone away is mostly due to waterproofing being a desirable feature for a phone. Plus, the phone makers don’t mind pushing people to buy a new phone due to a weak battery.

Thanks for sharing your opinion.

Debunked in this section.

It depends on the device. Some devices are more repairable than others, but it brings it own set of problems.

Except if you use the mobile phone without power saving (why would one want to deliberately slow down the device?), a lot of 4G (and newly 5G) connectivity, fast charging, full charging cycles, 4K (and newly 8K) video recording, reverse wireless charging and high screen brightnesses and more.

These put enormous stress on the battery and might cause noticeable degradation within one year.

Indeed. For that reason, I hope that the EU outlaws this despicable design trend. It is the only way to reclaim our consumer right to repair.

There weren’t many phones with replaceable batteries that had current spec IP ratings and they weren’t the budget phones. These days nearly all new phones have a good IP rating and this includes the less expensive ones. This is possible due to sealed phones. The market has pushed phone makers to seal phones because most people value affordable waterproof phones over those that have replaceable batteries and are expensive. Plus, a phone that can be taken apart easily by the user has a much greater chance of its seals being compromised thus making warranty claims a nightmare.

As for battery life, I use my phone with normal power saving, nearly always connect with 4G, every charger I use is a fast charger and use it in bright sunlight quite often. I have never replaced a battery in any phone I have used for poor battery performance as far back as I remember. I run my phone down to 30-40% battery life daily. I keep a phone for two years on average.

Sealed phones are here to stay. It will change if the consumer demands it. My guess is the overwhelming majority of consumers don’t keep a phone long enough for battery degradation to be a concern. If they do then they can buy a new, much more capable phone for a little more than paying to have the battery replaced. For better or worse, mobile phones have become a disposable appliance.

This was back in 2013 and 2014. Mobile phones were generally less water-resistant than today, see Xperia Z, Z1 and Z2.

Phones with user-replaceable batteries could have multi-layered protection seals, but manufacturers just have not tried it yet.

Yes, water-resistance is indeed important, but affordable mobile phones with user-replaceable batteries are technically possible, and it has already been done with the 2014 Galaxy S5 Mini, which was both affordable and water-resistant.

Here are some polls where the vast majority voted for user-replaceable batteries (over slim design).

Actually, the battery surgery of a non-replaceable battery most certainly leaves physical damage.

I also use it when necessary, but I prefer not to use it because it slows down the operation of the phone; especially the camera.

I prefer not to use power saving mode because it is like deliberately throttling my device for the sake of extending the battery life.

Reasonable time, but even this is does not justify that every manufacturer has switched to non-replaceable batteries. This argument is addressed here.


I would just like it if customers had the option of a high-tier mobile phone with user-replaceable battery to enjoy both the benefits of user-replaceable batteries and high performance. Sadly, that option no longer exists anymore in 2020 due to the mass-succumbations to Apple’s design trend.

I have a previous phone from 2016 where the performance of the battery was quite good until 2019, where it started degrading noticeably, but not critically yet. It was still quite useable.

But in February 2020, the first power-offs started occuring. And since May 2020, the battery lasts no longer than five minutes. Not even kidding.

The performance drop is quite sudden towards the end of its life span.

From my experience the battery never was the reason for phone replacement. I always buy the best budget phone I can find and I keep it for 3-4 years. Usually the internal flash storage was the reason for phone upgrade. In some cases the internal storage was not enough for the latest apps that grow in size with every update, but in some cases the degradation of the performance of the internal flash lead to phone replacement. At the moment I have two phones lying around with user replaceable batteries that maybe lost 20-25% of the battery capacity but I’m not willing to replace them because the device itself is obsolete.

From friend and family experience who go for upper mid-range phones the experience is more the less the same. Phone replacement because of sluggishness and lost of performance not because of battery issues.

Where I live (south-east Europe) replacing internal battery or screen in a service shop is readily available and not very expensive.

These days very capable smartphones have dropped in price so much that they are now disposable items. Battery life on newer phones have improved a great deal compared to 5-10 years ago which makes swapping batteries not as necessary for either short term or long term use. Also, a completely sealed phone is more reliable and this is probably very important in less developed regions where phones are used in far more rugged conditions. Lastly, I think there would be phones offered with user replaceable batteries if a substantial portion of the market wanted it. For whatever reason there doesn’t appear to be much demand for them.

Side note: Thanks everyone for the respectful engagement in the discourse.


After how many rewrite cycles? Aren’t these things supposed to last for 5000 rewrite cycles?

Maybe this degradation is not from the flash storage but from the mobile phone restricting its CPU/GPU/flash reading speeds deliberately to prevent the voltage drop of the weakened battery from causing a poweroff.

I see. Do you do heavy tasks (e.g. 4K video, LTE connectivity) with your phone?
And do you use power saving and partial recharge cycles?

From which years?

Although that is good, it might lead to side effects depending on the device.

However, there are issues with vendor-lock in and lack of data portability, which is why I will unlock the bootloader of any new device

But also the demands have increased:

  • 2160p@60fps and 4320p video recording
  • Reverse wireless charging (e.g. Samsung PowerShare)
  • >20W fast charging (enormous stress from current and heat on the battery)

The Galaxy Xcover series and some Caterpillar phones were rugged, yet highly robust. Also, less developed regions have restricted access to phone repair shops.

The Galaxy S4 sold 80 million times. It is just that Apple forced us into this design trend.

Actually I have a Motorola E6 plus with removeable battery, but it was not the reason to buy it. It´s cheap, fast enough for what I do (phoning and notice) and had Andoid 9.

The battery lasts (almost) one week for my usage, that´s OK

My experience with different smartphones is, until the battery loses power is the smartphone to slow to use it meaningful. And I´m not dainty with smartphones. With the Moto G2 I had the prob it was slow after some updates. Now the internal memory is to low to install updates anymore, it´s also impossible to move some apps to the µSD-card. And I haven´t installed many apps.

Conclusion for me: I don´t care much about user-replaceable battery anymore because other limitations (Speed, low memory after some updates, no security updates anymore)of the smartphones make it unimportant

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I see. But to me, the non-replaceable battery has always been the greatest limitation.

One non-replaceable battery phone I use had an acceptable battery run time for 3 years (2016-2019, but lesser used since 2018 due to newer phone), but in early 2020, the first unexpected power loss occured. A few months later, the battery lasts only a few minutes!

This means that towards the end, the battery fails quickly.

It could have lasted longer if I had not used fast charging, but I cherish fast charging and despise slow charging.

Relevant section of the article

Maybe you use your phones much more than me. Even my 6,5 year old Huawei lasts 4 days or more for my normal usecase. But it´s so slow, surfing internet is a pure pain. I used it very rarely for this but if you are on the road and need it, it´s awful to wait minutes for a start page.

Besides, I know enough ppl which charge everyday and don´t care about user-replaceable battery, especially the iPhone-user.

The last mobile phone I replace the battery was my first one, a Siemens C35. It was not an original battery and it was awful.

Will never own a phone without a replaceable Battery!!!
Had a Motorolla that on occasion would short the battery and would cause it to overheat.
Had enough time to pull phone from my pocket and remove the battery before it exploded.
If the phone had a permanent battery, only option would be to throw phone in safe direction like a hand grenade.
Lithium is an extremely volatile material! It oxidizes almost instantly (much like explosives).
Needless to say that I won’t be buying a Tesla, Prius or any other vehicle with bolted in Lithium batteries.

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Since few years back I’m using AccuBattery which seems to accurately measure/assess the battery health/capacity. This shows greatly in what shape the battery is, and as some people already mentioned I was lucky not too need to change a device because of the battery. The following phones I monitored were:
Samsung Galaxy S3 mini - crappy battery life, had to replace twice, original battery suddenly lost capacity,
Samsung Galaxy S5 - removable battery, but still going strong after many years
Samsung Galaxy S6 - original battery lost all the power, phone died when there was a high current drain (i.e. videocall), AccuBattery showed ~55% of charge capacity left
Sony Xperia Z5 compact - after 3 years of heavy usage the battery capacity was 91%
Huawei Mate 20 Pro - 1,5 years heavy usage - 96% design capacity,
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9,7" - 98% but not used that much.

So from the above list only SGS3 and SGS6 required battery change(s). Maybe my “oldschool” approach to charging helps them survive - apart from Samsung Tab S2, I’m not using the original, high power chargers. Instead I’m using 700 mA USB charger coming from an old phone, and charge over night. Low current = low heat rise in the cell, will keep doing so even with future devices.

So in my experience I don’t cry after replaceable batteries.

For me, a replaceable battery is a must have. I find that most of the newer phone designs have little to no improvement in performance over a Samsung Galaxy S5, whose basic design is 7 years old. This phone provides snappy performance, good water resistance (short of dunking) and an easily replaceable battery. Mine is still going strong on it’s third battery and I do not plan to get a new phone any time soon.

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It means that you are not a heavy phone user and you can be satisfied with it’s performance or that you haven’t tried anything more powerful.

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I am currently using a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge which has a non-replaceble battery, so i had to take it to a Samsung service to get it replaced once. I’m pretty happy with the result and i will not change this phone anytime soon since i’m not a power user and it does everything i want. I also have a Samsung Galaxy S4 as my work phone, and have also replaced the battery once for it. I did it myself as the battery can be taken out by the user.
I do not consider non-user replaceble battery phones a minus, and i prefer a sleeker phone than one i can change the battery myself.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Yes, I also often charge at low currents over night. But sometimes, one would like to add a few valueable percents of charge during the day quickly.

Although slow charging does definitely extend the battery lifespan, I really am not a fan of frugalty and sacrifice.

Depends on the task.

E.g. writing this post (which I am doing on desktop) would not make much of a difference on an S5 or an S10.

But obviously, newer mobile phones have e.g. more sophisticated camera systems and higher processing power for more CPU-intensive tasks, and more RAM, which is beneficial for e.g. browser tab hoarders.

I prefer options.

Options make both sides happy.

Sadly, after co-existing for years, user-replaceable batteries have disappeared into near-oblivion. A design trend initiated by no other than Apple.

It is impossible to make thin phones with replaceable batteries. The market was driving manufacturers to ever thinner, lighter phones with glass backs. These features and user replaceable batteries are not compatible.

Exactly.
This was going to happen sooner or later.
It’s irrelevant who started this trend (be it Apple, Samsung, Huawei, etc.).