Why Your iPhone May Never Get a Replaceable Battery

Apple may have figured out a loophole in new EU battery regulations

Low Battery notification displayed on a phone screen is seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on January 29, 2023
The EU wants to make it easier for consumers to swap out batteries. Apple has other ideas.
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In June the European Union voted almost unanimously to overhaul rules regarding replaceable batteries, offering up new regulations that cover design, production and waste management. Part of those new regulations centered on portable batteries; companies would have to design their products so consumers could easily remove and replace them.

Apple, not always a fan of the right to repair, seems to be fighting back in a unique way. Per Inverse, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering John Ternus recently argued that it would be difficult for the company to make iPhones with removable batteries because it would make the phones less water-resistant.

“We absolutely believe that if people need a battery replacement, there should be a safe and effective way to do that,” Ternus said in the interview with the YouTube channel Orbit. “You can make an internal component more maintainable by making it discrete and removable, but that actually adds a potential point of failure. Using the data, we can understand which parts of the phone need to be repaired and which parts are actually better made so reliable that they never need to be repaired. It’s always a kind of balance.”

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It appears that argument might work; there is a clause in the new EU rules that excludes appliances that are “regularly subject to splashing water, water streams or water immersion.” And in his interview, Ternus did emphasize the water-resistant nature of the iPhone. “To get this level of water resistance, there are a lot of high-tech adhesives and sealants to make everything waterproof but, of course, it makes the opening process a little more difficult,” he says.

Apple has already had to alter the design of its upcoming iPhones due to European regulations, with the ubiquitous USB-C connector taking over from Apple’s proprietary Lightning port. However, that legislation took about a year to pass and a two-year deadline for companies to comply was tacked on. Since the EU battery regulations haven’t gone through a final approval process, it might be a few years before the rules take shape — and then a few more if Apple can successfully argue its waterproof case.

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