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travbrad
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Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 1:47 am

Is anyone still making such a thing in 2017? LG V20, Moto G5 (not plus), Moto E4 (not plus), Moto G4 Plus, and Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016 version only, not 2017) are about all I could find. Any others I'm missing? From what I've found most or all of those Motorola phones have issues with overheating, battery life, and/or display issues. The Galaxy J7 has a major issue where it refuses to send data over wifi (instead always using data). The V20 has the least issues it seems but it's by far the most expensive of them, of course.

I know battery cases/packs are a thing which I guess will have to suffice as a last resort (unless I get the V20) but swapping batteries quickly was always such a convenient thing to be able to do without making your phone 2-3x the thickness. Plus even with a battery case the actual battery inside your phone is still going to deteriorate over time. Yay planned obsolescence?
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 5:24 am

My Samsung S4 had a removable battery, and I was displeased to learn that the S6 did not when I got it. I agree, I'm guessing that's how they are going to force people back into a two year upgrade cycle. When the battery no longer holds a charge, what are you going to do but get a new phone and a new lengthy payment schedule? Now that ATT is making people pay for the phone as well as the plan, that's going to get a lot more expensive. Maybe this will make people veer towards more simple phones, which might make user-replaceable batteries a thing again.
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 6:39 am

I just don't see user replaceable batteries as important any more. As mentioned usb power banks are a thing these days and are generally cheaper and more convenient than a spare battery for the phone. (it charges multiple devices, can be recharged independently of the phone, you don't have to turn the phone off etc etc)

Being able to replace the internal battery when it wears out should be a legal requirement IMHO but so long as that can be done in a few minutes with a couple of simple tools I'd be happy.

Personally I'm using a 2013 nexus 5 and despite a battery change being very easy on this phone I haven't felt the need to replace the original battery yet so it's not like phone batteries only last 2 years.
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 6:53 am

cheesyking wrote:
Personally I'm using a 2013 nexus 5 and despite a battery change being very easy on this phone I haven't felt the need to replace the original battery yet so it's not like phone batteries only last 2 years.


I hear this thought often. Before generalising your experience, it's worth noting that (for all of the various Lithium-X battery tech) their service life is defined by a charge cycle count of up to 1800 cycles, and generally fewer. If you charge your phone roughly once a day, you will reach that service life in roughly 18 months, for most phones and most users. YMMV, obviously, but this is designed behaviour.
 
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 7:14 am

Shobai wrote:
cheesyking wrote:
Personally I'm using a 2013 nexus 5 and despite a battery change being very easy on this phone I haven't felt the need to replace the original battery yet so it's not like phone batteries only last 2 years.

I hear this thought often. Before generalising your experience, it's worth noting that (for all of the various Lithium-X battery tech) their service life is defined by a charge cycle count of up to 1800 cycles, and generally fewer. If you charge your phone roughly once a day, you will reach that service life in roughly 18 months, for most phones and most users. YMMV, obviously, but this is designed behaviour.

"Designed" in the sense that we don't know how to design batteries with the combination of energy density, charge/discharge rate, and cost that can withstand more charge cycles. Not "designed for planned obsolescence".

My old flip phone (which I had for 5 years) was still on its original battery, and still held a charge like when it was new; but I only needed to charge it a couple of times a week so wear on the battery was light. I don't expect to get that kind of service life out of any battery that undergoes a fairly deep discharge/charge cycle on a near-daily basis.
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 8:58 am

It's indeed a problem for swapping on the go, but for long-term wear some phones are more openable than others.
The problem is that it requires more research (iFixit, YouTube...)

Shobai wrote:
service life is defined by a charge cycle count of up to 1800 cycles, and generally fewer. If you charge your phone roughly once a day, you will reach that service life in roughly 18 months

Assuming 1800, how did you arrive at 18 months?
 
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 8:58 am

Shobai wrote:
cheesyking wrote:
Personally I'm using a 2013 nexus 5 and despite a battery change being very easy on this phone I haven't felt the need to replace the original battery yet so it's not like phone batteries only last 2 years.


I hear this thought often. Before generalising your experience, it's worth noting that (for all of the various Lithium-X battery tech) their service life is defined by a charge cycle count of up to 1800 cycles, and generally fewer. If you charge your phone roughly once a day, you will reach that service life in roughly 18 months, for most phones and most users. YMMV, obviously, but this is designed behaviour.

How do you get 1800 cycles = 18 months? That's 100 cycles a month, I'd be surprised if most users managed more than 20-30 cycles a month. Many different interpretations of "charge cycle" exist but 100 a month seems excessive by any definition.

Only a fool generalises ;)

I did say that I think an ability to replace the battery with minimal effort should be a legal requirement, obviously some people will wear their batteries out much faster than others. I just think the days where you can pull the back off a phone and swap the battery out while waiting for a bus are over.
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 9:06 am

Well, I have a long-ish commute on public transit, so I run the battery down a fair bit both morning and evening. I would not make it through most weekdays on a single charge. That's probably a heavier usage pattern than most people, but not completely outlandish.
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 10:45 am

I've had the Moto G4 Play for about a year now, love it and would highly recommend it. It has a removable battery and SD card (micro I think?).

I go to BestBuy and get the Verizon prepaid ones - they're usually like $50. I do the month to month Verizon plan for $50/mo with 3gb of data. If you want any further details let me know...I've never had any problems with overheating, the screen is perfectly fine for me. I don't use it for much more than texting, google maps, and reading news, and it's plenty fast for that. Regarding battery life - a year in my phone generally has 85% or better battery left when I go to bed. I charge it once a day while I sleep, and 18 hours later it's still better than 80% full. I've never had it run below 50% even over a weekend when I forgot the charging cable. As long as you don't charge it for 10 minutes and unplug it like an idiot, and don't run 1000 apps, the phone will easily last a day or three.

To me the best part of these is how cheap they are - at $50 a pop I don't bother with a case; if I break it or crack the screen, it becomes my car audio player and I just buy a new one. Given how expensive "flagship" phones are these days, I can buy 10 of these for the same price my friends pay for one phone. And by the time I break one, there's usually a new one that's out (my previous phone was a Moto E...think second gen, whichever had LTE). That one was also $50 when it was brand new.
Last edited by ChicagoDave on Mon Oct 09, 2017 10:58 am, edited 2 times in total.
 
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 10:49 am

For better or worse, swappable batteries are thicker and heavier than they otherwise need to be, because of the requirement for a protective shell. Device designs that integrate the battery don't require much more than the actual pouch.

In the US, at least, nearly any phone that can be opened non-destructively, can have the battery swapped at a Batteries Plus store in about 45 minutes. So unless the device is completely glued together, it's not going obsolete because of a battery wear-down.
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 11:44 am

just brew it! wrote:
Well, I have a long-ish commute on public transit, so I run the battery down a fair bit both morning and evening. I would not make it through most weekdays on a single charge. That's probably a heavier usage pattern than most people, but not completely outlandish.

Yeah but just putting the phone on charge doesn't necessarily count as a charge cycle. EG Apple define a charge cycle as using 100% of the battery's capacity (according to wikipedia anyway) but not necessarily by full charge and discharge so discharge / charge 50% in the morning and again in the evening only counts as one cycle at least in Apple speak.
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 12:02 pm

cheesyking wrote:
How do you get 1800 cycles = 18 months?


meerkt wrote:
Assuming 1800, how did you arrive at 18 months?


I'm sure you haven't understood what I wrote. I stated a generous upper limit, and didn't then use that upper limit to suggest an average lifespan - it would be entirely unreasonable to do so.

just brew it! wrote:
"Designed" in the sense that we don't know how to design batteries with the combination of energy density, charge/discharge rate, and cost that can withstand more charge cycles. Not "designed for planned obsolescence".


I was thinking in the sense that all engineering decisions are made in terms of tradeoffs between different outcomes, and that charge cycle count is simply one of those variables. I can't say that manufacturers elect to use battery tech that they know will effectively last only roughly as long as their warranty period, or any similar 'planned obsolescence' thought; I also can't say they choose batteries that will last longer than 'necessary'.
 
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 12:17 pm

1800 cycles + 1 cycle a day is roughly 5 years.

Coincidentally, that's also how long the battery of my Galaxy S4 lasted before I replaced it (the battery) just this week. 5 years is a long time and the S4 is no longer top dog, but it's still better than most entry-level phones and the IR blaster makes it worth hanging on to. I keep it because it's basically a better Logitech Harmony that also does remote control apps (Kodi/Plex/Foobar2k) via wifi.
 
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 12:19 pm

Shobai wrote:
I was thinking in the sense that all engineering decisions are made in terms of tradeoffs between different outcomes, and that charge cycle count is simply one of those variables. I can't say that manufacturers elect to use battery tech that they know will effectively last only roughly as long as their warranty period, or any similar 'planned obsolescence' thought; I also can't say they choose batteries that will last longer than 'necessary'.

It's a function of Li-Ion battery chemistry more than anything. The cathode gradually degrades with repeated charge/discharge cycles, and the rate of failure is aggravated by increased charge/discharge rates and temperature. Mobile devices tend to be one of the worst possible environments for battery usage. There are several promising technologies which use additional odd-ball metals or carbon compounds to increase power density and/or stabilize the cathode but AFAIK none of them is in production yet.

The first patent holder for a cell having Lithium power density while cross-dressing as a supercapacitor will be made filthy rich by the electric car industry, so the incentives are there. It just isn't all that easy.
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 12:28 pm

ludi wrote:
The first patent holder for a cell having Lithium power density while cross-dressing as a supercapacitor will be made filthy rich by the electric car industry, so the incentives are there. It just isn't all that easy.

Getting closer.

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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 12:32 pm

ludi wrote:
For better or worse, swappable batteries are thicker and heavier than they otherwise need to be, because of the requirement for a protective shell. Device designs that integrate the battery don't require much more than the actual pouch.

In the US, at least, nearly any phone that can be opened non-destructively, can have the battery swapped at a Batteries Plus store in about 45 minutes. So unless the device is completely glued together, it's not going obsolete because of a battery wear-down.

Yeah....of course the number of charge cycles is a limitation of battery tech, not anything the manufacturer is doing. Aside from Batteries Plus et. al, Apple even directly offers battery replacement themselves for $79, which is reasonable.

With that said, lets not kid ourselves into thinking it isn't intended to push users in the direction of a new device. Even though these services exist, manufacturers know the majority of people either aren't aware of them, or will be frustrated enough to just buy a new device at that point. It's not the only reason for integrating a battery, but I'm sure it's the dominant factor in most cases, and certainly convenient in the others.
 
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 12:35 pm

ludi wrote:
The cathode gradually degrades with repeated charge/discharge cycles, and the rate of failure is aggravated by increased charge/discharge rates and temperature. Mobile devices tend to be one of the worst possible environments for battery usage.


This is why it's absurd to use an upper limit to suggest an average effective lifetime.
 
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 12:42 pm

The Egg wrote:
With that said, lets not kid ourselves into thinking it isn't intended to push users in the direction of a new device.

If the feature life of a typical phone was longer than 2-3 years or if smartphones traditionally had user-accessible batteries, I might agree, but in many cases the consumers themselves are clamoring for new products. Apple has dominated the US smartphone market from the beginning and has never had a user-replaceable battery.
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 2:55 pm

Fairly certain the main reason phone manufacturers are sealing phone batteries is to increase water resistance. Planned obsolescence is just a nice side benefit.

Also agree with ludi....the vast majority of consumers don't give a crap about replaceable batteries. I care (and care about SD storage even more), but I recognize I'm in the minority.

If you don't want to run down your battery, don't get a huge screen, don't get a stupid high resolution screen, don't have wifi & bluetooth on all the time, and don't run 1000 apps. Turn brightness down to like 35% and put every app that has the feature on night mode/black background.

I commute an hour to/from work every day and on the days I read the news the whole way there and back I still have 85% of my battery at the end of the day. Of course, if my screen was an inch larger, with double the resolution and brightness set to high, it'd be dead by noon.
 
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 3:48 pm

ChicagoDave wrote:
Fairly certain the main reason phone manufacturers are sealing phone batteries is to increase water resistance. Planned obsolescence is just a nice side benefit.
Also agree with ludi....the vast majority of consumers don't give a crap about replaceable batteries. I care (and care about SD storage even more), but I recognize I'm in the minority.

Battery compartments can be sealed, as is the case with our craptastic Samsung Rugby Pros at work. I disagree that panned obsolescence is a side benefit; I think it's the main goal.

ludi wrote:
If the feature life of a typical phone was longer than 2-3 years or if smartphones traditionally had user-accessible batteries, I might agree, but in many cases the consumers themselves are clamoring for new products. Apple has dominated the US smartphone market from the beginning and has never had a user-replaceable battery.

Nearly all phones had replaceable batteries initially (even early smartphones), but Apple had enough prestige that they were able to soften everyone up by causing consumers to conflate non-replaceable batteries with high-end devices. You're correct that users nowadays aren't complaining much, and manufacturers are more than happy to keep moving in that direction.

As mentioned above, solutions exist, so it's not the end of the world; I'm just a bit more cynical about the motives. I also think we've reached a point of rapidly diminishing returns for phone hardware, so aside from dropped software support (which will become harder to justify), people may soon want to start to stretch that 2-3 years a little further.
 
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 5:14 pm

While it is certainly possible to waterproof a user-serviceable battery compartment, it is easier if the battery is not (easily) removable. It can also save space and weight, since the battery doesn't need its own separate sturdy casing; "electrodes in a bag" style batteries can be used if the battery isn't meant to be handled by the end user.
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 6:50 pm

cheesyking wrote:
I just don't see user replaceable batteries as important any more. As mentioned usb power banks are a thing these days and are generally cheaper and more convenient than a spare battery for the phone. (it charges multiple devices, can be recharged independently of the phone, you don't have to turn the phone off etc etc)

Being able to replace the internal battery when it wears out should be a legal requirement IMHO but so long as that can be done in a few minutes with a couple of simple tools I'd be happy.

Personally I'm using a 2013 nexus 5 and despite a battery change being very easy on this phone I haven't felt the need to replace the original battery yet so it's not like phone batteries only last 2 years.


That's the problem. With a lot of new phones now that is simply not possible. You need to melt glue with a heat gun and also solder stuff a lot of the time. I could probably learn to do it too, but that requires some investment in the tools to do it (I have a soldering iron but it is nowhere near small enough for that) and then hoping I don't screw it up. I'd rather just invest in a phone where I can remove the damn battery. :P

Every smartphone I've had the original battery becomes kind of unusable after a couple years too, sometimes faster, so consider yourself lucky I guess. I mean technically they still "work" but the battery life is a fraction of what they start at and will just keep holding less and less charge.

meerkt wrote:
It's indeed a problem for swapping on the go, but for long-term wear some phones are more openable than others.
The problem is that it requires more research (iFixit, YouTube...)


Yeah I guess I will just have to go watch iFixit videos for 100 phones. I'll be back in a few weeks. :)

The Egg wrote:
As mentioned above, solutions exist, so it's not the end of the world; I'm just a bit more cynical about the motives. I also think we've reached a point of rapidly diminishing returns for phone hardware, so aside from dropped software support (which will become harder to justify), people may soon want to start to stretch that 2-3 years a little further.


Yeah that's kind of where I'm coming from. I feel like phones are lasting longer and longer without feeling "slow" (same thing that happened with PCs), and the long-term thing that will always go bad is the battery. I realize these things aren't a concern for most people now though. We are quite used to permanently renting/leasing/subscribing to everything and products only lasting a few years, but I guess I'm just an outdated curmudgeon who wants removable batteries, headphone jacks, and MicroSD cards. Now get off my lawn!

ChicagoDave wrote:
I've had the Moto G4 Play for about a year now, love it and would highly recommend it. It has a removable battery and SD card (micro I think?).


Hmm that does look like an interesting option. I don't need a super high performance phone either. I mostly just listen to music and check email and a few websites. Some occasional video viewing. No gaming or anything super intensive. And MicroSD + removable battery is pretty much all I'm looking for in a phone. My only concern with that one is it seems to be unclear whether it will even get Android 7 (Nougat)? It doesn't really matter right now but older versions inevitably get more and more holes poked in them over time.
Last edited by travbrad on Mon Oct 09, 2017 8:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 6:59 pm

One of the things that attracted me to the LG G4 is that it has a removable battery and a headphone jack, and is serviceable with simple hand tools (nothing glued). Sadly, it seems to be stuck at Android 6 (though 7 will supposedly be available for it "soon", subject to Sprint's whims, I guess).
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Mon Oct 09, 2017 10:56 pm

Newegg has the LG V20 on sale for $300 right now; as mentioned in the OP it is probably the best phone with replaceable battery available right now.

I also agree the comments that phones have hit the "good enough" tech phase a while ago; I am using a nearly two-year old Zenfone 2 Laser and mid-range phones have only gotten mildly better since then; i.e. its 1080p IPS screen is just as good as the screen on current mid-range phones, it has 3GB RAM and 32 GB storage, which is about the same amount you get today in that price range, and the Snapdragon 615 is only a little worse than the Snapdragon 625 common today. Both are 8 core A53 based chips; the main advantages of the newer 625 are a bit more clockspeed, drawing less power due to being made on a newer process, and a better GPU (which is great if you game on your phone, but doesn't help much if you don't.) I am really glad it has a replaceable battery; for now it is holding its charge well, but knowing that I can easily slap in a new one when it dies is nice.

I will say it boggles my mind that I see plenty of people buying a brand new $800 iPhone or top end Galaxy every single year, and then do nothing but Facebook & Youtube on it. And then they complain about being broke. I blame the big carriers current "rent to own" model, and people's inability to add up how much they are paying every month for all sort of "its just $30 a month, bro" services.
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Tue Oct 10, 2017 11:49 pm

I don't suppose anyone has experience with the Huawei Honor 6x? Technically the battery isn't removable, but you can do it without any glue melting or soldering, so basically no more difficult than laptop repair. The performance looks pretty comparable to the G5/G5 Plus but it's cheaper and has 3GB RAM instead of 2GB. I know Moto stuff is going to be closer to stock Android though by default which is nice, plus probably easier to get parts for them long-term.

I've been watching a lot of teardown videos of phones and after watching more of them it does seem like most can have the battery replaced without soldering, but most will require melting glue with a heat gun, removing the motherboard, etc. Still not ideal but I think I could handle that part with a lot more confidence than tiny soldering. The soldering requirement seems to actually be more common in the most expensive phones too.
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Re: Smartphones with removeable battery?

Wed Oct 11, 2017 12:16 am

travbrad wrote:
I don't suppose anyone has experience with the Huawei Honor 6x? Technically the battery isn't removable, but you can do it without any glue melting or soldering, so basically no more difficult than laptop repair. The performance looks pretty comparable to the G5/G5 Plus but it's cheaper and has 3GB RAM instead of 2GB. I know Moto stuff is going to be closer to stock Android though by default which is nice, plus probably easier to get parts for them long-term.

I've been watching a lot of teardown videos of phones and after watching more of them it does seem like most can have the battery replaced without soldering, but most will require melting glue with a heat gun, removing the motherboard, etc. Still not ideal but I think I could handle that part with a lot more confidence than tiny soldering. The soldering requirement seems to actually be more common in the most expensive phones too.


I'm not meaning to say Huawei phones in general are bad, because they're not (says my Nexus 6P), but you're going to have way better luck with a recent Moto phone all things considered. The G5 plus has a 64GB+4GB version you could opt for if RAM is a concern.
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