Apple could be forced to sell iPhones with user-removable batteries in Europe under new EU proposals, leaked documents reveal

  • The plans would require any device sold in the EU to have a removable battery 
  • Documents aren’t specific but suggest a user would need to be able to remove it 
  • The proposals also seem to put an increased emphasis on recycling batteries
  • It is part of a wider move by the EU to reduce the amount of e-waste produced 

Apple could be forced to install user-removable batteries in iPhones and iPads destined for the European market if new EU rules are introduced.

The leaked draft plans have been reported on by Dutch business website Het Financieele Dagblad but have not yet been agreed by the EU or officially announced.

If introduced they would apply to any technology company that doesn’t already include a removable battery in its phones, tablets or even wireless earphones.

Apple has always used non-removable batteries in its devices, requiring users to go to a specialist repair shop if they face issues with the power supply.

Het Financieele Dagblad reports that the European Commission proposals are expected to be formally announced sometime in March.

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The plans tie into the larger European Union e-waste reduction plans that aim to reduce the amount of waste generated by non-recyclable electronic devices.

It would require a significant redesign for Apple products, which currently require an expert engineer to change the battery or make any alterations inside the device. 

The battery in the latest iPhone 11 Pro has been described as ‘moderately difficult’ to replace by Apple support website iFixit.

The site says it takes anything from 45 minutes to up to two hours to replace depending on the experience of the person making the swap.

It also requires specialist equipment including multiple types of screwdrivers and suction handles to open the case. 

This isn’t the first time Apple has come up against the EU’s desire to create uniformity in a bid to reduce electronic waste.

The European Parliament recently discussed the possibility of making smartphone makers use a common charging port, which could force Apple to adopt the USB-C.

Apple warned that replacing it with a universal charger could cost consumers up to €1.5billion and would produce an ‘unprecedented volume of electronic waste’.

The tech giant also argued the legislation, if passed, could ‘stifle innovation’.

Exact details of the proposed EU battery legislation haven’t been reported, but the leaked documents do suggest there will be a greater requirement to recycle.  

Given Apple’s resistance to changing its charging cable from lightning to USB-C to comply with standardisation, it is unlikely Apple will take this proposal well.

When the EU first proposed the idea of a standard charger a spokesperson for Apple said it would have a direct negative impact on existing customers. 

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‘We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole,’ Apple said in a statement.

Apple is already battling the European Union over plans to standardise all charging ports for mobile devices - which would require the company to ditch its lightning cable in favour of USB-C

Apple is already battling the European Union over plans to standardise all charging ports for mobile devices – which would require the company to ditch its lightning cable in favour of USB-C

A study by Copenhagen Economics commissioned by Apple found the total cost to consumers from a regulatory-mandated move to a common charger would be at least €1.5 billion, outweighing the €13 million in associated environmental benefits.

The European Commission, which acts as the executive for the EU, has been pushing for a common charger for more than a decade.

In 2009, a voluntary pledge was signed by the likes of Apple, Nokia and Samsung to make chargers compatible with the micro-USB standard.

While many went on to adopt micro-USB, Apple went ahead with its own Lightning port in 2012 and sold a micro-USB adaptor instead.

Some smartphone makers have now evolved to USB-C, which charges devices faster than the old micro-USB.

Apple also moved to USB-C on the iPad Pro tablet, as well as MacBook laptops. 

The company have been approached for a comment on the leaked European Union proposals. 

HOW COULD TECHNOLOGY FIRMS REDUCE THEIR CARBON FOOTPRINT?

Digital technology companies could reduce the carbon footprint of service like YouTube by making changes to how they are designed, the study said.

The energy used to power servers and networks which allow users to watch millions of videos a day is roughly the same amount as Luxembourg or Zimbabwe. 

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The researchers suggest that making sustainability the primary focus of projects involving the use of technologies has more potential to offer in terms of carbon savings than companies currently explore.

‘Digital services are an everyday part of our lives,’ said lead researcher Chris Preist, Professor at University of Bristol.

‘But they require significant energy to deliver globally — not only in data centres, but also in networks, mobile networks and end devices – and so overall can have a big carbon footprint,’ Professor Preist said.

The reductions that could be gained by eliminating one example of ‘digital waste’ – or having the option to have the screen inactive to people who are only using YouTube to listen to audio.

They estimated this could reduce the footprint by up to 500,000 tonnes of CO2 annually – the carbon footprint of roughly 30,000 UK homes.





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