EU law could force Apple to make iPhone batteries easier to replace

Apple introduced the Self-Service Repair program earlier this year, which lets you repair a variety of devices at home if you’re feeling adventurous. That includes replacing the iPhone battery – a routine procedure many old iPhones could use. But replacing the battery is not easy. You need specialized equipment from Apple to get the job done. It is a better idea to just take your iPhone to a professional.

But what if Apple made an iPhone with an easily replaceable battery? The European Union (EU) could force Apple, and all other manufacturers of battery-powered devices, to make it easy for users to replace batteries.

The EU is already requiring Apple to make significant changes to the iPhone faster than Apple might have wanted. Due to new legislation in the European bloc, the iPhone may get a USB-C port this year. Third-party App Store alternatives can come to iPhone thanks to another EU bill.

Apple may have adopted these changes on its own terms, assuming it ever wanted to implement them. For example, the switch to USB-C seemed unlikely before the new EU legislation. It was believed that Apple would sooner release a button-less and port-less iPhone that would charge wirelessly instead of using Lightning or USB-C.

That may be where the iPhone is headed. And such an iPhone design wouldn’t benefit from having the battery replaceable by the user. One of the great side effects of making a portless iPhone is that it makes the device waterproof. Taking the iPhone apart at home to replace the battery doesn’t sound like such a good idea in such a case.

iPhone 13 Pro Max battery design.
iPhone 13 Pro Max battery design. Image source: iFixit

That said, we could be years away from such a law. The EU’s new legislative proposal aims to reduce waste and improve the user experience with battery-powered devices such as the iPhone.

But for now, the Parliament and the Council of the EU have only reached a tentative agreement on all types of batteries:

The agreed rules cover the entire lifecycle of the battery from design to end-of-life and apply to all types of batteries sold in the EU: portable batteries, SLI batteries (power for starting, lighting or igniting vehicles) , light transportation (LMT) batteries (providing power for the traction of wheeled vehicles such as electric scooters and bicycles), electric vehicle (EV) batteries, and industrial batteries.

The EU wants batteries to be easier to remove and replace and consumers to be better informed, the press release explains. Manufacturers such as Apple then have 3.5 years to comply with the new law:

Three and a half years after the entry into force of the legislation, portable batteries in appliances must be designed in such a way that consumers can easily remove and replace them themselves.

Put another way, Apple may have until the end of the decade to make iPhone battery replacements easier. That sounds daunting, but if anyone can create a waterproof iPhone design with a user-replaceable battery, it’s Apple.

The bigger problem for Apple might be smaller devices like the AirPods. These are notorious for the inability to replace the battery. They become waste when the battery eventually runs out.

However, the new law is not about the iPhone or AirPods. It concerns all devices or vehicles that run on batteries. The overall aim of the European Union’s proposal is to make batteries safer for the environment. Manufacturers will also need to collect used batteries and recycle various metals for use in other batteries.