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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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