Are Hardwired Cell Phone Batteries a Strategic Decision?

First-generation cell phones operated on replaceable batteries. So did second-generation and some third-generation models. Today however, replaceable batteries are available on a shrinking number of devices. Manufacturers of both cell phones and tablets prefer hardwired batteries. But why? Is this a strategic decision designed to influence sales?

It may be cynical to wonder if cell phone manufacturers have chosen hardwired batteries just to make it more difficult to replace them, but it is something we have to consider. Manufacturers rarely do things randomly. Everything is about maximizing profits.

Recharge Rate Is Key

The answer to the cell phone strategy could lie and what is known as recharge rate. Recharge rate is the estimated number of times a rechargeable battery can be charged before performance is drastically reduced. According to Pale Blue Earth, a good lithium-ion battery can be charged 1,000 times or more.

If we translate this to cell phone use, assume you recharge your phone once daily. At 1,000 cycles, you are looking at almost 3 years of reliable service. It is not unheard of for cell phone batteries to last a bit longer – even four or five years.

Cell phone manufacturers can push technology quite a bit in that amount of time. It is easy to assume that Apple or Samsung could come up with a new model every 3 to 5 years. If that’s the case, how could they encourage consumers to buy the latest model every time it comes out? One way is through opting for hardwired batteries.

Not Worth the Trouble

Let’s say you buy the latest model of your favorite brand. It works flawlessly for the first three years before you notice battery performance dwindling. Your first thought is to run down to the cell phone store and have a technician replace the battery. But then you realize your manufacturer just released its latest model a month ago. What are you likely to do?

It could be that manufacturers are banking on customers choosing new phones rather than professional battery replacement. As the thinking goes, they are eventually going to want the new model anyway. They might just as well buy a new phone because having the battery replaced professionally just isn’t worth it.

Does such reasoning sound plausible to you? Does it seem reasonable that hardwired batteries are a strategic decision designed to sell more phones? It is possible.

Replaceable Batteries Are Out There

It would be difficult to be so cynical if not for the fact that replaceable batteries are out there. Though they are in the minority, there are some lesser-known phone manufacturers unafraid to utilize them. LG is a good example. The LG Harmony utilizes a replaceable battery that can be had for less than $20.

Perhaps it’s telling that LG is getting out of the phone business in order to concentrate on other things. Could that be because their phone sales were not strong enough? Perhaps. And if so, the choice to utilize replaceable batteries could be a factor.

We will probably never know for sure why phone manufacturers have opted for hardwired batteries. It is not as if they couldn’t get battery manufacturers to make replaceable batteries in nearly any size or shape. There has to be a reason other than convenience. And unfortunately, following the money leads to only one conclusion.

Whether or not the choice of hardwired batteries is a strategic decision to sell more phones is unclear. But the explanation is as good as any other. At the end of the day, what matters is the fact that hardwired batteries reduce consumer choices. That is really the sticking point.