A mobile phone with removable battery makes it easy to swap in a new battery at will. Here’s what you need to know.
If you’ve been using mobiles since the pre-smartphone era, the concept of a phone that didn’t have a removable battery might seem like a mystery. Back when mobiles could do little more than call, text or maybe just play Snake, the battery was a wholly removable and replaceable part.
Since then, the emergence of smartphones has seen a significant divide, with many smartphones offering removable batteries, but far from all of them. What’s more, in the premium space there has been a definite switch towards phones that have fully sealed frames, which means fully sealed, non-removable batteries.
It was for a long while a point of difference between market leaders Apple and Samsung that the latter’s premium phones had removable backs and batteries, but since 2016 Samsung has flipped over to using sealed batteries in phones such as the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge.
Amongst the big name players, the only standout premium phone that still allows you to flip out the battery is the LG G5.
Why do phone makers produce phones with sealed batteries?
The most prominent reason why manufacturers make sealed battery phones is that it allows them more room to specifically style the phone. In a device as thin as a smartphone, every part of every millimetre counts. Including not only the battery but also the necessary contacts to allow a battery to be removed hundreds of time adds bulk and complexity. By comparison, a phone with a sealed battery, and in many cases a completely sealed frame allows manufacturers to keep their designs extremely thin.
Some manufacturers also cite worries with third party batteries as a reason to switch to a sealed battery design. There have been cases where poorly manufactured third party batteries have caused issues with some handsets, so it’s not an idea entirely without merit.
Can I put just any battery in my smartphone?
Aside from the obvious questions of a suitable fit, it’s well worthwhile ensuring that if your phone does support a removable battery that your replacement properly matches your exact phone model. This is true whether you’re using it to extend daily battery life or as a full scale replacement for an older battery that just won’t hold a charge any more.
Ideally you should opt for a genuine replacement battery rather than a third party model. While third party batteries will be cheaper, as a consumer you have no real facility to assess the quality of a third party battery, and may encounter significant issues with warranty repair or replacement, especially if a battery mishap causes actual damage to your phone.
My phone doesn’t have a removable battery. What power options do I have?
If you’re using a phone that doesn’t have a removable battery and you’re finding it hard to get through the day without your phone battery conking out, you do have some options open to you.
The simplest and cheapest (where practical) approach is to ensure that you’ve got a charger with you at all times and can leave your phone on charge when you’re not using it. That’s not always practical, however, so it may be wise to invest in an external battery pack. These come in a variety of sizes and capacities.
A battery with a higher capacity -- anything above 5,000mAh or so -- will be able to recharge most phones multiple times, but will be heavier to carry, whereas a small lightweight 1500-3000mAh battery will be easier to transport but provide less overall charge. If you do opt to go down that route, remember to pack a cable with the battery, as many do not supply one, especially if you’re using Apple’s iPhone with its proprietary Lightning connector, or any of the newer phones that use a USB C type connection.
It may also be worth contacting your phone’s manufacturer to see if they offer a battery replacement service for your handset. Within a reasonable timeframe this should be a free service under Australian consumer law. There’s no specified timeframe for that kind of thing, because goods have to be "fit for purpose" and battery failure should count against that, but for any phone older than 12 months you may find that they request payment from you for this kind of service.
As a guideline, Apple provides a one year warranty on the battery component of an iPhone, after which it charges $119 for a replacement battery plus $19.95 shipping if you can’t get to an Apple store. It’s important to note that as with any major phone service, you should back up your entire phone’s storage externally before sending it in, as battery replacement typically wipes the phone, and in some cases vendors may provide you with a substitute device in any case.
What's my best option for a premium handset with a removable battery?
In the budget space you've got plenty of choices, but when you play in the premium market you've essentially got just the LG G5 at this point in time. That's as much a function of its modular design as anything else, but if it's important to you and you want high-end performance, it's your best bet.