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Seriously, why do you want a removeable battery?

Seriously, why do you want a removeable battery?

This topic is talked about unendingly. Last week I wrote an article which had a single mention of removable batteries and yet it became its most discussed topic. Today I’m going to investigate what I believe to be the four key areas of this discussion to provide further insights into the debate.

ANDROIDPIT battery 1
Removable batteries: do we really need them? / © ANDROIDPIT

1. Convenience

One of the most frequently voiced arguments in favor of removable batteries is that they don't require a user to be near a power outlet. If you're away from a power source for an extended period of time, a removable battery can be used to put some life back into your phone.

The problem is that loading a removable battery does require a power outlet. As with portable power banks, you can’t charge a battery without a current. 

Your smartphone must also be switched off to swap a battery, and then restarted. Typically this doesn’t take very long, but this is less convenient than simply plugging in a portable charger.

That being said, to load a device with an external charger you must have it connected to the power bank. Carrying the charge pack and USB cable in your hand or pocket while you wait for your device to charge isn't as easy as just carrying your device with the new battery inserted. 

androidpit external usb battery pack 18
Just connect a portable charger to your device to charge it. / © ANDROIDPIT

To sum up: rebooting a device and swapping a battery requires more time than plugging in a USB connector. As does swapping the spare battery in and out of the device to load it. But carrying the extra power bank and USB cable with you while you charge your phone may be more hassle than carrying your phone alone after swapping batteries. 

2. The lifetime of a battery

Batteries have a lifespan. There is a cap on the number of charge cycles they can receive (estimated to be in the hundreds) before they lose their ability to hold a charge. Having the option of a removable cell could enable you to keep using your smartphone after its first battery has 'burnt out'. 

Battery University, an oft-cited authority on battery products, explains this further, and from its research you could conclude that after a year of usage – and presuming you charge your smartphone every day – your smartphone battery could lose more than 20 percent of its original capacity (see figure one at the previous link). 

Additionally, Battery University also claims that manufacturers themselves specify that that battery life of "most consumer products" is between "300 and 500 discharge/charge cycles".

Controversially, in the Xperia M user manual, Sony states: "Charge your device often. This will not affect the lifetime of the battery." This is untrue, as even heat has a degrading effect on batteries, which is always generated when charging.

AndroidPIT sony xperia m5 vs sony xperia m4 2
Sony's devices are famed for their battery life. / © ANDROIDPIT

I'm not an expert on lithium-ion technology but I think the closest we can come to a conclusion in this area is to say that smartphone batteries have the potential to drop in capacity after repeated charges to some degree, but there's no guarantee that the effects will be significant, and there's no telling how long it will take for these effects to be felt.

3. Dimensions

Another factor separating smartphone batteries from portable power packs is size. Most, if not all, portable battery packs are physically larger than the internal battery cells in smartphones with the same milliampere capacity.

Portable power banks are functionally different from smartphone batteries and usually require USB input and output ports. 

Right now, milliampere capacity is constrained (to some degree) by the physical dimensions of its container and the method by which the power is transferred.  

Smartphone battery cells, then, are generally thinner and lighter than portable chargers. 

4. Cost

Portable chargers invariably cost less than official branded batteries of the same or greater milliampere capacity. The fact that portable batteries can be bigger is part of the reason for this, but manufacturers also charge premium prices for official accessories (like how an official PS3 controller invariably costs more than a third-party option, for example).

This replacement battery from a major smartphone brand, coming around 18 months after the product was first released, costs $25. You can find portable batteries with twice this capacity for at the same price on Amazon and the cheapest of these chargers costs around $10.

androidpit external usb battery pack 1
Portable power packs come in all shapes and sizes. / © ANDROIDPIT

Further considerations

Portable power packs can load your device at different speeds, and may be better or worse for your battery when charging it long term. What's more, swapping a battery can put your device to fully charged state instantly (if the spare battery is charged to 100 percent), a portable power pack will take some time to fully load your phone.  

There's also the chance that a battery will leak, expand, or become otherwise damaged inside your device, and it's easier to correct this problem if you can just swap it out for a new one. With proper use this is unlikely to happen, however, but even if it does, there is also no guarantee that it won't harm your handset even if it is removable. Further, these kinds of problems are covered by device warranty, if it's purchased new.

Speaking of which, a removable battery might be preferred by users purchasing second-hand smartphones, since there is no way to tell if the original owner was using the device and power supply correctly. 

What is your position on removable batteries?
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Conclusions

There are positives and negatives to both approaches and I don’t think there is a right and wrong answer as to which is best. I only aim to make the arguments on both sides a little clearer.

If you do want my personal opinion, I'd say that a removable battery is a bonus, but not an essential feature. In other words, I wouldn't let this dictate what smartphone I purchased in the future. The chances of me encountering a situation where a removable battery would be required (like a dramatic loss in battery life after extended usage, or the battery becoming damaged) are so slim that I don't worry about them. 

Where do you stand on the removable battery debate? Let me know in the comments. 

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Readers' favorite comments

  • Marc Wilson May 22, 2016

    So, you have spent your money on the latest smart phone that does not have a removable battery, you are now limited to the life of that battery, period. This will affect how long you own the phone or re sale value if you like changing each year and could be a problem if your battery gives up before your contract can be renewed? If like me you have a phone which had a removable battery i believe you are lucky and they should be removable. I have a note 4, i did not like the note 5 and as i am in Europe i was not able to buy one. So i skipped an upgrade and am waiting for the note 6, but i would have been forced to change my phone before now if i could not have changed my battery as it was giving up. I just hope the note 6 has a removable one, not holding my breath though. Maybe pushed towards the LG V11?

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  • Aside from the convenience of being able to pop out your dead battery and pop in a charged one, having a removable battery is extraordinary helpful for times when your phone freezes up and is non responsive, and especially for times when your phone accidentally gets wet. With a waterlogged phone that has a charged non-removable battery, your phone has more of a chance of getting fried than if it had a removable battery that you could take out and help prevent shorting and reduce the chances of water droplets becoming trapped in the battery compartment, thus making your efforts to save your phone from a watery grave more effective. Besides, you can still use Powerbanks with removable battery phones, (even though its almost as much of a massive pain in the ass as putting


  • The most important thing why am I always choose phone with removable battery is for securing my data on my phone. Why do i say it, because i read somewhere, Phone with non-removable battery is really easy to get hacked by someone whether the phone is fully charged but off or the battery is discharged and off.

    Sorry for my english, english isn't my 1st languange. But I still keep trying to say what i think in english :)


  • There is no denying that repeated charging will reduce the battery life. My old Lumia went from 3 days without charge to 2 days at a push in the space of 18 months, roughly 200 charges.

    I have just bought an S7 Edge, considerably more expensive than my last Lumia. I know in 3 years time the processor, RAM etc will still be superfast, the only reason to upgrade would be the battery life.

    When they include the ability to replace the battery, people become less likely to upgrade, especially as smartphones continue to rise in price.


  • Paolo May 25, 2016 Link to comment

    This article is so narrow and short-sighted it's almost amazing! We get it, you can actually afford to upgrade to a new phone every two hears, heck for not even a YEAR (Good for you in that regard) hence you don't have to worry about how long or short the phone battery life (not how long you can use it, how long it LASTS in months and years) but there are plebs like us who literally can't upgrade to a new phone when it's out and the battery literally lasts only two-three years. I have a Note 3 and use my mum's LG G4, and all power banks do is heat the phones so much I can almost cook an egg with them!

    TL;DR, ye who thinks replacing batteries is irrelevant probably has enough money to buy a new phone when the last one goes to pot.


    • You're fooling yourself if you think you can't afford a new phone every two years. It costs the equivalent of $1 a day for two years to save up for even a top-of-the-line phone. For a really good mid-range phone (OnePlus 3, $399) you would need to put aside a measly 54 cents a day. I bet you spend three times as much in two years on things like fast food and video games.


  • I demand a removeable battery. I currently own the Galaxy S5 and expect to keep it for another year. I change my batteries once a year so that they keep a long charge. I use my phones for a minimum of 3 years.


  • If i do a hard reset on my LG G3 D851 will it remove T-mobile downloads ( updates ) also


  • I used to think a removable battery was essential but not anymore. I carry a portable battery pack since I ride on public transit which has no plug in power outlets. And when I travel I carry up to 3, cause in most airports there's not an outlet to be found cause everyone's looking to charge up. So I'm okay with it being not removable, and there's always a service center that can replace the battery for you (for the popular phones anyways).


  • I bought my Galaxy S4 used just as the S6 was being rolled out, and the battery that came with it wasn't up to the task of getting me through my day. I'm on the move a lot at my job, and usually can't just park my phone on a wall charger. An external battery pack isn't much better, since I carry my phone in a holster on my waist, and carrying a battery pack attached to the phone isn't a viable option. Carrying spare batteries isn't a very good option either, as I'd either have to have a dedicated pocket to carry one in to keep it from being damaged jangling around with keys or spare change, or have a case to keep the spare battery in, and at the end of the day I'd have two batteries to charge for the next day. I tried using a case with an internal battery (the added weight and bulk didn't really bother me), but this didn't work for two reasons: 1.) Come charging time, the phone charges first, then the case, but since I never completely powered down my phone, the case charged fairly slowly since the phone was always trickle-charging, and I usually needed at least eight hours to charge both; and 2.) Charging the battery from the case created a tremendous amount of heat, since heat is generated both by charging and discharging, and the two batteries were in close proximity. I regularly got overheat warnings on my phone. The solution that finally worked was an extended battery which has triple the capacity of the OEM battery and doesn't overheat my phone. Bottom line: if my phone didn't have a removable battery, the best option I'd have would be a battery case with long charge times and recurrent overheat warnings.


  • You can't always find a place to plug in a charger. So replacing the Battery ìs the only option. Some people just don't understand


  • I have 7 removable batteries for my Note 4, and I would have it no other way. I am out a lot, and I prefer to change the battery instead of plugging in. I am always on the phone doing tech support calls, and answering tax questions, and I need a phone that is not plugged in all the time. I prefer a battery as a "backup solution", and I need it no matter what. I am hoping the Note 6 will come with a removable battery. I don't care about it being waterproof.


  • Where is the answer: I don't want a phone with removable battery


  • I had a Sony xperia and had to get a new phone when battery died due to it not being removable, that would be the only re


  • I think that one of the most overlooked parts of the battery issue is lock ups. The last removable battery I had was on a Galaxy s4 and there were several times where it was so locked up I just ripped the battery out to force it to power off. I know that phones have a hard reset button combo, but there's no guarantee power off like removing the source of power.


    • Yeah good point it's like a "switch it off at the socket" type thing with a PC. Still, I don't think this would be a good reason to include a removable battery in a device, from a manufacturer's perspective


  • So, you have spent your money on the latest smart phone that does not have a removable battery, you are now limited to the life of that battery, period. This will affect how long you own the phone or re sale value if you like changing each year and could be a problem if your battery gives up before your contract can be renewed? If like me you have a phone which had a removable battery i believe you are lucky and they should be removable. I have a note 4, i did not like the note 5 and as i am in Europe i was not able to buy one. So i skipped an upgrade and am waiting for the note 6, but i would have been forced to change my phone before now if i could not have changed my battery as it was giving up. I just hope the note 6 has a removable one, not holding my breath though. Maybe pushed towards the LG V11?


    • Yeah this is a fair point. Potential buyers might be more interested in a device with a new battery.


      • adom i phone battery work for atleast 3year as it is new battery......i think an android phone have only 3 year life time....android should focus on managing battery as i phone do....iphone 1700 mah battery is as powerful as android 3000 mah......there is need to think abt my point.........it does not matter if battery is removable or non.....it is about all google n phone makers how they manage it


      • You are so full of crap. I have friends witha big Head that rhink iphone is the best phone but they like everything about Android. My Samsung is so good that I still use my GALAXY NOTE 2. It has the original Battery and wòrks great. So great that I have no reason YET to buy a new phone mine has 3100mah and is replaceable.


    • That depends on the smartphone. There are some that you can have the battery replaced professionally. Then again, by that time that becomes an issue, most of us have moved on to a newer phone,


  • Given the choice i would always have a removal battery. But I agree with the conclusions at the end of this article. There's a mistake at the beginning though. "You need to turn off your smartphone to hot-swap the battery". Erm, hot-swapping something means doing it while the device is still turned on, so if you're turning the device off you're not hot-swapping it


    • "Erm, hot-swapping something means doing it while the device is still turned on, so if you're turning the device off you're not hot-swapping it" -- Arghghgh! Thanks for the catch!!


  • Mark
    • Admin
    May 22, 2016 Link to comment

    The main reason for a removable battery is the life of the device. If you have a removable battery your phone can last indefinitely. If you have a non-removable battery your phone will last 1 1/2 to 3 years depending on your usage and charging habits. Todays flagship phone are so fast and capable they can stay useful for years. Far beyond the life of the battery. My S3 is over 4 years old and still work fine, only the new game are slow. The S7 is a power house it could last much longer than the S3 except that it has a non-removable battery.

    I always have three batteries one in the phone, one in the external charger and one for standby. I always cycle the batteries so they stay equal. I rarely ever plug my phone into a charger.

    Another reason I like a removable battery is if the phone hangs up or app stops working. You can take out the battery and reset your phone. The hard restarts do not always work and is not the same effect. This I rarely have done because I do all the time anyway so the phone is always being reset. I think it keeps the phone working better.


  • Haggie May 22, 2016 Link to comment

    If I'm going to spend $600+ on a top-of-the-line smartphone, I expect it to last well beyond the useful lifetime of a typical battery. Just the payoff time from T-Mobile is two years. I would like my phone to last well past that. A worn-out battery should not be the reason I need to replace my premium smartphone.


    • "If I'm going to spend $600+ on a top-of-the-line smartphone, I expect it to last well beyond the useful lifetime of a typical battery." Yeah I would like this too, but you can't change the laws of how li-ion batteries work, they have a lifespan in EVERY device.

      That said, I think this is still a good point. If you're paying a premium price for a phone, perhaps manufacturers should make those devices battery removable, and include an extra battery when you purchase them.


  • Alex May 22, 2016 Link to comment

    Exactly I agree with this article.


  • but with the charger you have to carry the charger with the smartphone. everytime you pull oit your phone you have to pull out your charger too


    • Alex, I'm going to add a note about this in the "Convenience" section. This is true and noteworthy and I should have included it in the original article. Thanks for the comment.


  • I know a guy with a Galaxy S7 and when his phone is wet and the battery is low it won't let him charge it. It tells him there is moisture in the charging port. I don't know about you but I'd rather swap a fresh battery in in about a minute then wait who knows how long for a the moisture detector to dry off and the phone to allow you to charge it. Not to mention my G5 has Quick Charge 3.0 where the Galaxy S7 only has Quick Charge 2.0 so even if I ignore a removable battery it's still charges faster than the Galaxy S7. 3% to 87% in about 28 minutes? Yes please! I don't have a use case for a waterproof phone but if I did I could simply pop it in a waterproof case. You can't do the reverse and switch a battery on a Galaxy S7. I haven't got my second promotion battery in the mail yet but this thing charges so insanely fast I'm not really missing it. It's just going to be icing on the cake when it gets here.
    One other thing, I refuse to be out and about and Tethered to a power brick. That does nothing but put unneeded wear and tear on the charging port which is about the only component that is not dead simple to replace, while everyone else is prematurely wearing out the charging port I'll just be popping in a fresh battery when mine gets under 10%.


  • "However, your smartphone must also be switched off to hot-swap a battery, and then restarted. Typically this doesn’t take very long, but this is less convenient than simply plugging in a portable charger."

    Ok, first issue with this statement. Hot swapping refers to changing out a component WITHOUT turning it off. You do not hot swap a battery. Secondly, turning off a phone for a few seconds is hardly inconvenient. If you simply can not stand the idea of turning off a phone for 20 seconds, you may want to look into the possibility of some form of electronic addiction, and no, I am not joking.

    Portable chargers are great, I own several of them myself. But they are not mean to be something you constantly carry with you on the go. The ones with any sort of capacity are at least as big, bulky and heavy as the phone itself, then there is the USB cable and the fact that you have to plug it in and wait for at least 30 minutes to get any sort of charge. And going about your business while your phone is charging from a portable charger isn't that convenient as the plug can work itself out easily enough. Sorry, but common sense tells us that a spare battery that can be changed within a few seconds is the most convenient thing in that situation.


    • Not to mention your phone is not meant to be moved around and carried around while plugged in. Keeping it plugged into a power brick as all kinds of torque and force on that delicate charging port.


    • "Ok, first issue with this statement. Hot swapping refers to changing out a component WITHOUT turning it off. You do not hot swap a battery." -- yeah I used hot-swapping incorrectly there :( it's been amended.

      "And going about your business while your phone is charging from a portable charger isn't that convenient as the plug can work itself out easily enough." -- what do you mean?


      • You have a portable charger, you plug your phone into it and keep going about your business, well, there is no locking mechanism for that plug the way a Cat6 cable plugs into your network card on your computer. It can easily come out.

        Also as Scott pointed out, you can put a lot of torque on the port that way, and many of these USB ports even on flagship devices are notorious for being rather weak.

        Now sure, if you sit down for an hour and a half and wait for your phone to charge from a portable battery pack you eliminate those problems, but you also eliminate the convenience. Portable power packs are great, but they are not meant to be competition for a spare battery. They are meant as a replacement to wall power when wall power isn't available.

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