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Commentary
2/28/2012
11:55 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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MWC Smartphones: Where's The Battery?

More hardware makers showed off smartphones at Mobile World Congress that don't have removable batteries. What's the deal?

Smartphones: Never Too Thin Or Too Organic
Smartphones: Never Too Thin Or Too Organic
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
When Apple announced the original iPhone back in 2007, the company was skewered for making a device with a built-in battery. Everyone screamed that it was ridiculous to sell a device that has a non-removable battery. Every iPhone sold by Apple has a built-in battery.

What are road warriors supposed to do when their battery dies? No one will buy a phone that doesn't have a removable battery! How are we going to live without replaceable batteries? Just who does Apple think it is?!?

Well, now nearly all manufactures have adopted this annoying design concept. This week, smartphone makers announced a range of devices that have built-in power supplies that cannot be accessed by the device owner.

Welcome to the age of inaccessible batteries.

Two of the most compelling devices revealed in Barcelona, the HTC One X and One S, have built-in batteries. You can't pull them out if your phone totally locks up. I asked HTC why it would design its phones this way. Spokesperson Jeff Gordon told me that if consumers want thin devices, they need to be prepared to make sacrifices. Apparently an accessible battery is one of those sacrifices.

[ Keep up with the latest news from MWC. ]

Sony showed off the Xperia P and Xperia U this week. The Xperia P, which falls in the middle of Sony's newest range of devices, does not have a removable battery. I asked Sony the same question I asked HTC and received pretty much the same answer. Sony rep Stephen Sneeden said that the P wouldn't be the phone it is without making certain design considerations. Burying the battery was necessary to achieve the look and experience offered by the phone. The Xperia U, which falls at the bottom of Sony's current line-up, does have a removable battery.

What about Nokia? Well, the Lumia 800 (announced in October) has a non-removable battery, as does the Lumia 900 (announced at CES), and the Lumia 610 (announced this week in Barcelona). Three of Nokia's four Windows Phones have inaccessible batteries.

Two of Motorola's best smartphones to-date, the RAZR and RAZR MAXX, also have built-in batteries.

Sure, plenty of smartphones were announced this week that have removable batteries, but all the high-end, marquee, profit-driving smartphones have been given such advanced industrial designs that it has made the idea of a removable battery a thing of the past.

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