What's the Deal With Apple's Non-Removable Batteries?

In an unexpected move on Monday, when everyone was looking at the new iPhones, Apple also tweaked its notebook lineup. Among the changes: The 13-inch MacBook Pro now has a non-removable battery. Why does Apple love to torture us so much?

13-inch MacBook Pro

The company pulled the same trick with the iPhone—it's always been a monolithic device, with a built-in battery and only one hatch for the SIM card. Skeptics had a field day: The idea of a phone with a non-removable battery was ridiculed as impractical. What would you do if you were somewhere remote and it ran out of power? 

Then the Macbook Air was introduced—and they did the same thing again. And the same old arguments were trotted out, again. What happens if you're on a field assignment, and your battery craps out? For any other notebook you'd just slot in a pre-charged spare...but that's not possible with the Air. 

Next-up, enhancing on the Air's unibody aluminum design, came the monster 17-inch MacBook Pro minus the removable battery. Apple labelled it revolutionary. Doubters said it was plain dumb, and another way for Apple to get at your cash—when you pay for a replacement battery.

Now the 13-inch MacBook Pro has gone the same way. Apple's been careful to hedge against the criticisms, and notes it should last for 1,000 charging cycles. A tear-down by iFixit has even shown that with a bit of user-bravery and the right screwdriver tools it should actually be replaceable, assuming a third party company makes a spare.

It seems Apple is keen to push this idea as far as possible. And, it's easy to see why. It's all about design.

Check out the iPhone, iMac and MacBooks—the design calls for super-clean and simple lines. There's a paucity of hatches, and even seams and fixings are minimized. Peer under a MacBook and there's none of the plastic-reinforcing structural mess you see on other laptops. Removing the hatches and latches needed for replaceable batteries is just an extension of this. And it's not just about looks: In industrial design, having a built-in battery simplifies the unit's structure. It's also cheaper—there's less machining and raw materials involved.

For all those good reasons listed above, you can bet you'll be seeing more non-replaceable batteries in non-Apple gadgets soon.

Also, to foil the critics, here's a big question: How often do you think the average person carries a spare phone or laptop battery around with them? It's much easier to stick the charger in your bag and look for a power outlet. Having said that though, my first-gen MacBook Air's battery life is appallingly miniscule. Anyone know where I can get a third-party replacement?

[via PocketLint]

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  • Griffin Sabine

    It's all forced obsolescence. And it's a crime. Since batteries eventually die, they are effectively forcing you to replace your phone/laptop every 2 or 3 years. This is criminal. I still have a Macbook from the late 90's that's perfectly serviceable for browsing and word processing. What's more, I had a recent spill with my MacBook Air. With the pro, you unplug, remove the battery and turn it upside down until it dries. M ore often than not, the compy could be saved. With a battery that can't be removed, the battery and the motherboard will undoubtedly both short out all but guaranteeing the need to purchase a new laptop. Oh, and by the way, models 2012 and later feature SSD memory that also can't be removed...so that compy you fried? You can't remove the SSD and retrieve the data. Like I said, criminal.

  • Julio Andrade

    What about when the battery is dead? Then what? Do we need to buy a new machine? I've got my 4 year old Mac Mini roaring and I'm going to upgrade the drive. I see no need to get rid of this thing. Same for my MBPro, I'm going to drive it into the ground. So what does that mean for me? What about the planet?