Giving a glimmer of hope in the new decade is Samsung’s launch of a new smartphone with an easily replaceable battery. The Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro, announced on its Finnish website and set to debut in Finland on January 31, is a rugged midrange handset priced at $499 USD being marketed to enterprise businesses for frontline production and field work. Among its many rugged features is one particularly enviable, not-so-rugged, one: an easily exchangeable battery for when the current one runs out of juice.
Non-Replaceable Smartphone Batteries Are a Sacrifice
“Get more done. Without sacrifice,” says the official promo video. So Samsung admits a non-removeable battery counts as a sacrifice! Or, at the very least, it admits that non-removeable batteries figure into a cumulative sacrifice of useful features made on behalf of the aesthetic simplicity that most of the world has come to expect (or just accept) from pretty much every smartphone – whether it’s a budget, midrange, or flagship – being made by every major manufacturer. By Samsung’s reasoning, you only need to get more done when you’re at work, specifically, which is why the Galaxy XCover Pro is marketed as a “business-optimized” smartphone. Maybe someone should tell Samsung how many people having been clamoring for years for an exchangeable battery in the phones they use for private use.
Will We Get Back Replaceable Batteries?
While this is an exciting development, does it have bigger implications? Does it signal a change in the smartphone world whereby major manufacturers will begin offering phones that don’t require a fully-fledged repair or warranty submission just to get a phone that keeps a full charge for longer? Why not, when so many of our other electronics come with rechargeable, removable batteries? Can we expect to see easily replaceable batteries on new phones, or more specifically, phones with a higher profile than the Galaxy XCover Pro? After all, there’s no mention of a removeable battery for the newly announced, more widely marketed Galaxy S10 Lite and Galaxy Note 10 Lite, both midrange options recently added to the Galaxy S and Note lines.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this story is that Samsung has caved to the pressure of an exchangeable battery for a B2B specialty product like the Galaxy XCover Pro, but for private consumers, it’s reluctant to offer the same thing. Before we say anything else, yes, the Galaxy XCover Pro is available for personal use, but it isn’t being marketed that way, and it likely wouldn’t be news at all if not for the removeable battery (which, judging by the video, still looks like it requires you to remove a sealed back housing… We’ll have to see live footage to be sure). The battery is the only feature that makes it stand out. Otherwise it’d be just another 2020 release featuring improved drop protection, waterproofing, decreased bezel size, 15W fast charging, barcode scanning, and mobile-POS capabilities. While the changing landscape of smartphone repair is causing manufacturers to consider how best to maintain some control over their products, it must be in Samsung’s best interest to allow business clients to rotate through OEM batteries. Could it have been confronted with data showing the downsides of the downtime required for charging smartphones – specifically smartphones used as work tools? How can we translate that into demand from private consumers for Samsung to offer more smartphones with this feature?
In the end, it will have to be in Samsung’s best interest to offer replaceable batteries to a wider market, and it may come down to finding another revenue stream in replacement batteries, or as a way to exert more control in an increasingly repair-friendly world. In the meantime, there are always replacement batteries for Samsung smartphones available at Group Vertical. And thankfully, battery replacement is one of the simpler repairs to perform on most Samsung smartphones, despite the strong adhesive holding them in place.
Replaceable Batteries Aren’t a High Enough Priority
We don’t see a tide change coming anytime soon, at least not on flagship devices. It’s clear that Samsung tacked on the replaceable battery in a bid to make a rugged device as utilitarian as humanly possible. or literally any other classifiable demographic clamor for this particular feature enough to get it? The Galaxy XCover Pro is supposed to survive drops on hard cement, dust clouds, and water splashes. It’s supposed to take the place of barcode scanners, cash registers, and walkie-talkies, so to follow that logic, a replaceable battery is as unglamorous a feature as those. Workers want it. But do teenagers, city dwellers, mothers, twentysomethings, or literally any other classifiable demographic clamor enough for this particular feature to get it? As batteries hold longer charges and continue to last for a couple years before users start to complain, manufacturers won’t be sacrificing design for something as simple as a replaceable battery.
But we can always hope. Until then, repair on!