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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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Gates Horns

but but but...

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

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Good

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

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yay!

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.

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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".

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One or two screws...

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

Just not easy to put one back...

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Go

Is it just me

Or is the EU finally starting to make rational decisions?

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Jim
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"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...

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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...

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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.

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Anonymous Coward

heh

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.

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Grump

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

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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.

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Jobs Horns

You can remove the battery

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

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Timeframes

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?

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Happy

Finally

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.

//Svein

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re. MacBook Air

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

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Re: Mercury, lead and cadmium

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

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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.

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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.

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Jobs Halo

@ iPod battery replacement takes 5 mins

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

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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?

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Erm...

Ive taken the bottom off from my MacBook Air before, its 4 screws I think. not a problem

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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.

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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.

Mike

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@ 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.

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Re: Re: Mercury, lead and cadmium

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

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Jim
Jobs Horns

AWESOME!!!

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

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Ebook readers will be hit too.

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

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Why the Apple reference

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

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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...

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Excellent

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.

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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).

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Connectors

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

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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.

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Stop

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.

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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.

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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.

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@Nigel

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!

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WTF?!!

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!

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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.

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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.

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@ 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.

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@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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

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@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...

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@Good

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.

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@OR maybe..

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

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Stop

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.

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