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

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batteries that maybe lost 20-25% of the battery capacity but I’m not willing to replace them because the device itself is obsolete.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.).

I have always had a hard time understanding why anyone would prioritize slim design over functionality.

Isn’t functionality the purpose of a mobile phone?

Also, the most recent iPhone happens to be 8.3 mm thick (in comparison: the Galaxy S4 with user-replaceable battery only 7.9mm), yet I hear zero complaints of that thickness from Apple cult members.

No. Had Huawei started with notches, the other vendors would have turned a blind eye. But because Apple did it, we have countless mobile phones with notches. Same for headphone jacks and user-replaceable batteries.

Apple has caused significant degeneracy in the mobile phone market, which proves that they sadly have a lot of power in the mobile phone business.

I don’t think Apple has as much influence as you think they do. If they did then they would have a much larger share of the market. In 2019 the Android OS had 87.4% of the mobile phone market. Android market share has been going up for the past several years. In 2014 its share was 81.1% so Apple’s influence has been declining and, IMO, it is resulting from a lack of innovation on their part, overpricing their products and pushing proprietary, overpriced accessories. I think Apple users are getting tired of being gouged.

I am an engineer and default to function over form as a personal choice on most items. There are functional benefits to having a better sealed phone and a glass back plate. Glass transmits heat from the interior of the phone better than plastic. A sealed phone with minimal user access provides less chance for dirt, dust and water from getting inside. This keeps warranty claims down and helps prevent the installation of cheap, inferior batteries by the user. The thickness of a phone is more for marketing than practicality but it does serve as an effective marketing tool against the competition.

The cold hard truth is that the overwhelming majority if people don’t care that much about user replaceable batteries. They only time users seem to care is when asked a question about it from a pollster. They certainly don’t care enough to change the phone market by demanding user replaceable batteries.

User replaceable batteries, obviously. that’s clearly more important between those two options as I am not the type of person who views electronics as disposable as I tend to want my stuff to last several years AT LEAST.

because I can’t say paying any real sum of $ for a device that’s battery that will be so-so in roughly a few years or so and can’t be replaced so the device ends up being junk even if it’s still good otherwise.

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It depends on the manufacturer’s support.
They have changed the battery on mine even if this model is out of production for a few years now.

Or they just silently tolerate it.

Regarding the overwhelming benefits, there must be countless silent people out there who would much appreciate user-replaceable batteries.

However, they have an army of brainwashed sheep that embraces anything they produce, no matter how little functional and years behind it is.

The rest of the market also followed Apple’s degeneracy (planned obsolescence and screen notches).

But this has always been the case. Maybe Apple was somewhat innovative before 2010, but after that, they were mostly functionally inferior.

I hope so.

How much better?

And how come vendors have also used “premium” metal unibodies on many devices then?

Maybe so, but users who prefer to trade in repairability for that extra bit of sealedness (until the day the battery dies comes) already have the option to purchase countless mobile phones, while users who prefer freedom from planned obsolescence have lost that option during the 2010s (except for a few mediocre low-tier 2013-alike 1080p@30fps camera slow-charging phones such as the Galaxy J series).

A properly built phone with user-replaceable battery can also survive a lot:

And user-replaceable batteries prevent users from submitting the phone for repair at low-quality repair shops.

It is the user’s responsibility to purchase parts from trusted vendors.

Because Apple has successfully marketed thin-ness as cool.

Also, as already said, the millions of Apple cult members appear not to be bothered by the thickness of all three iPhone 11 models, which is over 8mm each.

Yet in 2013 to 2015, they criticized Samsung mobile phones for being around 8mm thick.