Apple's John Ternus says that removable batteries will reduce durability of iPhones
John Ternus, Apple's senior vice president of Hardware Engineering, has said that the iPhone could become less durable if it were to have a removable battery. The topic came up in an interview with the YouTube channel ORBIT, run by Kilian.
Killian interviewed Ternus, and Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, to discuss the environmental impact of the Cupertino company's products. The video touches upon the subject of removable batteries around the 14-minute mark. The question (spotted by Supercharged) was about whether the European Union's new law about easily removable batteries could impact products negatively, or improve them.
Apple executive says removable batteries will reduce durability of iPhones
Ternus called it a complicated situation, and mentioned that iPhones are IP68 water-resistant, and they continue to work even after being in water for days. He explained that this was possible due to highly engineered adhesives and seals that protect the internals of the phone. Ternus admitted that this made it difficult for people to open up the device for repairing it. Apple believes that there should be a safe and effective way for users to replace the batteries (via its stores and service partners), and balance the repairability and the durability of the device.
I hate to say it, but looking at the dead phone on my shelf that I accidentally dropped in water a few years ago, I have to agree that Ternus makes a good point about water resistance. If the back cover of a phone was easily removable, water could enter the phone and do a lot of damage. Everything from the chipset, the display, cameras, not to mention the Lithium-ion battery, could be destroyed by good old H2O. That said, Apple's Self Repair Kits aren't the proper solution to the problem either.
A few reports have been floating around the internet claiming that Apple may exit the EU and that it will not comply with the new rules regarding easier battery replacements. Neither Ternus nor an Apple spokesperson have said or implied that. Apple is a trillion-dollar company because it sells a lot of products worldwide, exiting Europe would be detrimental to its revenue. It cannot afford to quit markets willy-nilly, not even because of EU's stringent laws, that's what negotiations are for. Besides, there are some other things that we need to consider.
EU's battery regulations
Let's take a look at the regulations that were passed by the EU. The documentation in Annex II clearly states that manufacturers need not provide replaceable batteries if they meet some requirements. The phones' batteries need to retain a capacity of at least 83% of the rated capacity after 500 full charging cycles, and 80% capacity over 1000 cycles.
Apple's documentation about its batteries says that its current iPhones are designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity at 500 complete charge cycles.
The 80% capacity over 1000 charging cycles requirement could be tough to achieve, but the Cupertino company could work out a solution by making some improvements to the battery technology and power efficiency of its devices, to ensure its batteries last longer. This is likely what Ternus meant when he talked about (around 9:30 in the video) designing parts of the phone that are so robust that they don't need to be repaired. The EU's law also a clause about IP 67 rating, i.e. water resistance. So there is a possibility that devices that meet these requirements could be exempted from the law.
Think about it, would you rather lose your phone because you dropped it in water for a few seconds. Or, would you prefer a device that has a removable battery. At the end of the day, I think the price tag is what will matter to the consumer. You could shell out a hundred bucks to get the battery replaced after a few years of use, or buy a new phone for a $1000 because your old phone was destroyed due to water damage.
It's quite difficult to choose between the two, why can't we have both?