The European Council recently adopted significant battery regulations, which aim to create a more environmentally friendly energy storage system for the European Union. Once these regulations receive final approval, they'll have a global impact, as they cover a massive portion of the world economy.
Impact on Device Design
One notable aspect of these regulations is that they will require portable devices like phones, tablets, and laptops to have user-replaceable batteries, no special tools or training needed. This will necessitate significant design changes for Apple, affecting their iPhones, iPads, and Macs.
Challenges for Apple
Specifically, by 2027, Apple will need to ensure that their devices meet these requirements. Apple's existing Self Service Repair program doesn't seem to align with the EU's rules since it involves specialized tools and thermal energy and expects people to be experienced in electronic device repairs.
So, what will Apple do? Apple and other device manufacturers are likely to challenge these regulations in court, potentially leading to delays. They might also seek a compromise allowing manufacturer-based battery replacements at no extra cost.
If no compromise is reached, the industry will need to fundamentally change the design of phones and tablets. Removable batteries make devices thicker, less durable, and harder to waterproof, and consumers haven't prioritized them in their buying decisions. Apple has never made iPhones or iPads with removable batteries, so meeting the regulations while maintaining product integrity will be challenging.
While some MacBooks had removable batteries in the past, Apple could reintroduce them without much difficulty for laptops. The Apple Watch might be eligible for an exemption due to its design, which currently uses a separate battery pack.
For iPhones and iPads, compliance will likely mean changes in thickness, weight, and possibly compromises to waterproofing. Users might like the idea of easily replacing their device's battery, but it comes at the cost of a thicker and heavier device.
The regulations require that users can remove and replace the batteries using readily available tools, without specialized tools or solvents, and manufacturers must provide documentation and safety information on how to do it.
The deadline for compliance is still four years away, and the regulations are not yet formally signed. This gives Apple and other market leaders time to react, either through legal challenges or product design changes.