Your New Samsung Galaxy S6 Will Have A Built-In Expiration Date

Your New Galaxy S6 Will Have a Built-In Expiration Date

Your smartphone's battery life won't last forever. Today, your digital companion might work all day long, then party late into the evening — but, a year from now, you'll almost certainly have depleted a substantial portion of its capacity. What happens when your phone no longer lasts the day? Time to replace the battery! But with Samsung's new Galaxy S6, that's not going to be easy.

If you've ever owned a previous Samsung Galaxy smartphone, you know that changing the battery is a breeze. Pop off the plastic back cover, and you have access to a removable lithium-ion pack and a microSD slot for extra gigabytes of storage. Unless you're talking about the new Galaxy S6, because for the first time, a flagship Samsung smartphone is missing the ability to change out those components.

More and more big-name phones have gone the iPhone route of sealing everything inside. Samsung is hardly the first to give this up. In fact, it's one of the last. The Galaxy line was the final huge hold-out, and it's worth considering what that means for your phones going forward.

Your New Galaxy S6 Will Have a Built-In Expiration Date

Picture: iFixit

I'll be honest: I won't shed tears for the microSD slot. The cheapest Galaxy S6 will come with 32GB of built-in storage, with 64GB and 128GB options if you need. I don't know about you, but I don't have hard drives full of multimedia to cart around — and multimedia has been the only reason to have a microSD card ever since Android got rid of the ability to install big apps and games to SD. There's also reliability to think about. SD card quality control is notoriously low. Too many can't hit their promised speeds, and you probably know someone whose microSD shit the bed and lost their precious data.

I also understand — intellectually, anyhow — why Samsung might also want to get rid of the removable battery too. The same reasons HTC would. Or Motorola. The reasons why the iPhone always had a battery built-in. Once you no longer need to design a phone with a removable back panel, it opens up all sorts of possibilities. Your phone can be lighter! Thinner! More waterproof! You can fit more battery inside a smaller space! The back panel can be made of metal or glass instead of flexible dimpled Band-Aid lookalike plastic!

Your New Galaxy S6 Will Have a Built-In Expiration Date

The Galaxy S6 doesn't do all of those things, mind you. Oddly, it's actually not water-resistant this time, and the battery's slightly smaller too. Still, it's 7g lighter, 1.3mm thinner, and even manages to cram in two different kinds of wireless charging and an impressive wireless payments system underneath that slick new Gorilla Glass rear panel. And Samsung argues that the wireless charging and a new quick charging system — four hours of battery life from ten minutes on the charger — justify a non-removable cell.

But let's get real. Less time plugged into the wall is a cold comfort when your battery no longer lasts the day — not unless you plan to carry that quick charger or expect you'll find wireless chargers wherever you go. (Even with both Qi and Powermat compatibility, there aren't as many out there as you'd think.) Realistically, a year or two from now, you'll be looking for a new smartphone, or a professional to help you painstakingly swap that non-removable battery. Chances are you've already had a phone with a built-in battery. Chances are you've been here already.

"What's wrong with that?" You might be asking. "Don't people upgrade every two years anyhow?" That's a good point. Historically, it's made a lot of sense to stay on 24-month contracts, since smartphones age so quickly, and you've gotta pay for your mobile service at some point down the line. But recently, the improvements have been getting smaller and smaller. Even mid-range processors run applications smoothly. Unless you're sticking your smartphone inside a VR headset, you don't really need a 2K screen. LTE, when it's not overcrowded, is probably as fast as your home internet connection. This year's smartphones have different looks, different designs, but we'd be hard pressed to call those designs much better. There just aren't as many reasons to buy a new top-tier on-contract smartphone anymore. There's never been a better time for swappable batteries, to be able to replace the one part of your phone that will necessarily degrade. And now, they're on the verge of dying out completely.

There are often reasons to stick with smartphones you already own. My 2013 Moto X was the last great small Android phone available in the United States. I don't know what I'm going to do when the battery can't hold a charge. I don't want a bigger phone! I bought my Moto X just over a year ago, and it comes dangerously close to dying before bedtime every day now. When that happened to my old Droid 2, I simply swapped out the battery — they only cost $US10 a pop — and I was good for a while longer. So it is with Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note owners today. But new Samsung buyers may still find themselves mentally locked into the 24-month hardware upgrade cycle simply to change out that battery.

It's not like a new phone is the only way to replace a battery, mind you. Just because it's not as easy as popping off the cover doesn't mean replacements don't exist. Yes, every iPhone battery is sealed, but you can pay Apple to get yours replaced if, say, you want to stick with your perfectly-sized-for-one-hand iPhone 5S. But unless you're stubbornly holding onto such a handset, it's probably more attractive to put that money towards a new subsidised smartphone and get some additional bang for your buck.

None of that's to say that it's a bad idea to buy a smartphone without a removable battery — unless you're concerned about e-waste — or that there's anything completely nefarious going on like planned obsolescence. (Email me if you have recordings of executives cackling with glee!) Besides, at this point, it's not like you really have much of a choice.

For all I know you could be happier with your thinner, lighter, easier-to-charge Samsung Galaxy S6 than you ever were before, and that you'll be perfectly happy trading it in when your 24-month contract is up. The millions of people who buy other unibody phones every year already are. Just know that you won't have quite as much choice in that matter. Samsung's choice to ditch those removable cells may trump your choice to hold onto a perfectly good phone that's outlived its battery. And if you want that choice, your options are now more limited than ever.


Comments

    Unfortunately, a removable battery isn't something I am willing to compromise on. I don't care if the phone is 1.2mm thinner or 10g lighter, I have no problem with the thickness or weight of any recent generation devices. I don't care about unibody, I don't care about whether it's plastic or metal, I care about whether the most degradable part of the phone, the part with the lowest lifespan and the highest chance of requiring replacement is something I can replace easily and cheaply in 10 seconds.

    Fixed batteries are a component of planned obsolescence, something that should not be encouraged in any industry, but least of all in technology design. If your business model relies on making deliberately faulty or deliberately hard to fix products to force customers into a fast replacement cycle, you're doing things wrong and I would go elsewhere as long as options were available. Sadly, as the article points out, the options to avoid this kind of thing are dwindling.

      I understand the huge advantages of a removable battery but your over looking the advantages of having a fixed battery. I sell and repair mobiles for a living Samsung brand honestly is my most returned/repaired mostly because of battery. They battery starts loosing charge time after a year. I don't see this with HTC, Motorola, Sony, iPhone. Not only that Samsung only covers the battery for 6 months of the warranty where being fix I'll be covered for 24 months. If you need a spare battery just get a battery bar. I may consider Samsung this year because of there changes.

        It's not like there's a difference between fixed and removable batteries when it comes to lifespan. Whatever battery they've developed for the S6 can be made removable or fixed without affecting its life. And honestly, I'd rather have a 6 month warranty on a user-replaceable battery than a 24 month warranty on a battery that requires me to send the phone through a warranty repair process just to get the battery replaced. That's not even getting into arguments with the vendor about exactly how far degraded a battery has to be before it qualifies for warranty replacement.

    With my contract ending soon, I was thinking about upgrading. I guess I'll just upgrade from the S4 to the S5.
    Swappable batteries are non-negotiable for me.

      Batteries may be non-negotiable for you but like the article points out, your options will be very limited in the coming years. So you better start getting used to it. The way I see it, once the battery is dead i'll want to upgrade to the latest phone anyway.

        Not if people just decide not to upgrade.

        This is a very obvious money grabbing scam, designed to force people to buy a new phone rather than replacing the battery and getting another 12 months out of the phone.

        If this is the way it is going, the ACCC will have to change the rules to have a faulty phone replaced on the spot rather than having to wait for it to be sent away. Especially for a battery issue

    I change my phones yearly so it doesn't bother me.

      Had my last phone (iPhone 4) for just over 4 years, and recently upgraded to a secondhand iPhone 5. Both phones have an apparent non user serviceable battery which I thought would be a pain, but given that the battery in the 4 year old phone is still going ok it wasn't anywhere near as bad as I had expected. Im also very able to buy a cheap battery on ebay if I do want to replace it myself, and they generally come with a screwdriver set to remove the backplate which may be a bit fiddly but something most non technically challenged users should be able to do in ten minutes or so. I've had the backplate off my iphone 4 before to repair the camera which was shorting to the chassis and turning the LED on by itself.

      Now, if they had made the battery intentionally very difficult or impossible for the user to replace that would be a different story and very poor form on behalf of the manufacturer. Apple doesnt really want you to do it yourself, but at least its not that hard to do if you wish to (at least for their older iphones anyway, not sure about iphone 6).

      What I can see would be a problem is for those people that like to carry a spare battery for an easy emergency swapover, but a power case overcomes that problem to a degree.

      I don't change yearly, but I never really notice a degrade in battery. Actually, I've had my S4 underclocked for a long time, and it's still really fast. Not sure what you need all that extra power for. I've never had to replace a phone battery so it's not a big loss for me.

      But, I disagree on the micro sd front. I think expandable memory is the future for phones, and removing it is a step back, and a deal-breaker. The article is backwards-thinking; sd cards are getting bigger and more reliable, not less. As long as you pick a half-decent brand, you're good to go. Waterproofing is another step forward and a deal-breaker if the phone doesn't have it. Why remove the backplate, jack-up the price and remove waterproofing? Worst...decision...ever.

    i agree, looks like i'll be sticking with an S5 or Note if i want to go down the path of a phablet

    I've never owned a smartphone with a removable battery and its never been a problem, are Samsung batteries that bad? Having a removable battery would never figure in any purchasing decisions for me.

    "you could be happier with your thinner, lighter, easier-to-charge Samsung Galaxy S6 than you ever were before....The millions of people who buy other unibody phones every year already are"

    This reflects my thoughts exactly.

    I've now owned 3 or 4 phones with non-removable batteries, and never cared for a moment. It's a total non-issue - and the family members who are using my old phones are still happily using them with no issues.

    The S6 is actually the first Galaxy phone I've been tempted to buy in a long time. The improved build materials and much nicer appearance, the awesome screen, the vastly reduced S-Gimmicks are all very welcome changes. If Touchwiz has also been dialled back 30 notches, it might actually be a contender for my next phone.

    I have a QI pad on my desk at work and next to my bed at home, I put my nexus on there a few times a day. Battery life is not an issue and not a hassle when charging is so effortless

    Considering that there are several original iPhones with good OEM batteries I would be willing to say that if done correctly the inability to remove the battery will not be an issue

    Trade in usually means that the original can be on-sold. if the battery can't be replaced, the phone is no use to anybody, except for recycling. Does this mean the trade-in value will drop significantly?

    Z3 - Battery still lasts atleast x2 of the iPhone and even though its part of the unibody clan - it does so that its waterproof straight from the box, the fact they went to so much effort to put a decent battery in there goes a long way for me and as such very happy with my choice.

    If the phone is not waterproof then I should be able to swap the battery though.
    - its a massive feature actually being able to throw your phone into a pool of water and picking it up without any damage whatsoever and that's the reason why its the exception to the rule in my eyes.

      I still have the Xperia Z that I bought the day they were released (my previous HTC died about a week earlier) and I love the waterproofing. So nice just being able to shove the phone under the tap and rinse the screen off when it starts getting smudgy. Battery is still going strong just over two years since I got it, and frankly I don't plan on replacing it until it fails.

      Of more concern to me than fixed battery is the lack of removable storage on a lot of handsets. It's especially troubling when the amount of apps and their size is going up. I much prefer being able to put 30Gb of music or tv shows on my phone's removable memory that cram the internal storage completely full. And if the memory card does crap out (had it happen on one) you can remove it and check it in a pc dock and hopefully recover files. But tougher doing that on the internal phone storage.

        Fully agree. The author complains that sd cards dont last losing data. Well I only put movies and music in my sd card of which is backed up at home. If the Xperia Z4 for what ever reason dies with the Sony mobile arm I'm thinking I'll buy the Z3.

          Fingers crossed that doesn't happen. With the release of the M4 and the Z4 tablet hopefully we'll still get a Z4 phone.

    The reasons why the iPhone always had a battery built-in. Once you no longer need to design a phone with a removable back panel, it opens up all sorts of possibilities. Your phone can be lighter! Thinner! More waterproof! You can fit more battery inside a smaller space! The back panel can be made of metal or glass instead of flexible dimpled Band-Aid lookalike plastic!
    We all know the reason for this - is so that when the battery runs down, either you look at upgrading your phone, or replace it at a Samsung Centre so they can make more money.

    Oddly, it’s actually not water-resistant this time, and the battery’s slightly smaller too. Still, it’s 7g lighter, 1.3mm thinner,
    So for sacrificing expandable memory and a replaceable battery we get things that we wont even notice? Tell me you can tell the difference between a phone thats 143g and 150g? Or a phone thats 7mm vers 5.7mm? Seriosly massive sacrifices for literally shit all. Especially now the lack of dust/waterproofing. Samsung is the new Apple.

    After having an iphone, i dont mind the non micro sd card slot or non replaceable battery.
    I used to complain about user removable battery and sd but if the battery life is good and there's options for a bigger memory I'm happy. the main reason I used a memory card was due to the fact that the phones memory were 16gb. I dont know how many times i replaced my sd card.

    never the less im getting the edge.

    Yeah thans Samsung for giving us a shiny turkey. I have been a loyal Samsung Galaxy fan since the S2. But no removable battery , no sd card slot , hell its not even water proof anymore.
    Hello Z4

    I find the SD card more annoying personally, since having it gives you a window to expand your available storage...

    ... except that Kit Kat blocks the SD card from use for almost anything except media storage. I was really, really annoyed when I found this out recently (having just upgraded to an S5 from an S3, in part because of the S6's lack of an SD slot), and it's insane that you have to root your phone if you want what used to be a standard feature.

    The larger available memory on the S6 will help with this, but you can bet that the difference in price between the 16GB and 32GB models will be much higher than the cost of a 16GB microSD card.

    Considering the fact that many of the extremely rare minerals needed to make these phones are quickly running out, considering the constant waste, considering the amount of energy and water used to make these objects, considering the pollution in the production and disposal of them, and considering the fact that our consumerist society doesn't think twice about such factors, as they don't care if a battery can not be replaced or not, because they are seduced into thinking they need the newest item to exist as a whole person, then it is a very, very sad time for humanity and our world.

    As well as a removable battery and SD storage, I also want decent front-facing STEREO speakers. Please?

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