Forget the myth: iPhone batteries can be replaced and it won't break the bank

Why a short battery life doesn’t need to mean it's time for a new smartphone

FILE - In this Sept. 22, 2017, file photo, customers look at iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus phones at an Apple Store in San Francisco. Retailers are taking back some control of the store experience with smart phone app features that let customers do things like scan and pay and download digital maps. It marks a big difference from just a few years ago when retailers viewed the smart phone as their enemy - customers often whipped out their device to compare prices online and walked out of the store to buy elsewhere. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
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Smartphone lifecycles are something commonly bemoaned among users, battery life in particular.

Working in a busy office, it’s unusual to go a day without hearing someone ask to borrow a phone charger – guilty! – and it has become common practise to carry around a portable battery pack to help you out when you hit the dreaded 10 per cent mark.

According to a 2018 survey carried out by USA Today and SurveyMonkey, 75 per cent of people asked bought new smartphones in a bid to get a better battery life. Which is both an expensive and environmentally troubling quick-fix.

It's almost become an accepted part of modern life that the longer you have your phone, the worse the battery life will be. But that doesn't need to be the case...

An affordable solution

Yes, there is a fix that doesn’t involve dropping Dh1,999 for a brand new iPhone XR or Dh3,049 or an iPhone XS.

Apple offers iPhone battery replacement (but seemingly doesn’t actively promote that, based on the fact no one we ran this by knew it was available).

FILE PHOTO: People look at  iPhones at the World Trade Center Apple Store during a Black Friday sales event in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., Nov. 23, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo
Apple Stores offer battery replacement services from Dh189. Reuters

Out-of-warranty iPhone users can have their batteries replaced from Dhs189 for any phones dating from the iPhone SE and older. That is assuming they have no water damage.

Newer models – the iPhone X, XS, XS Max and XR – cost Dhs269 for an out-of-warranty replacement battery. A steep saving compared to Dhs1,999-plus for a new model.

According to the Apple website, however: “If your iPhone is covered by warranty, AppleCare+, or consumer law, we'll replace your battery at no charge.”

Apple’s typical warranty is one year, and AppleCare+ extends it from one to three years.

The battery replacement is done in-store at Apple, and takes around two hours in total.

Environmental impact of “disposable” phones

Replacing the battery will not only help you, but could also help save the planet.

A 2018 study by Canada's McMaster University, published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, had bad news for the carbon footprint of smartphone users: In 2007, the ICT industry accounted for around one per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, but by 2017 that had tripled and is expected to jump to 14 per cent by 2040.

A study by the United Nations revealed the world produced 44.7 million metric tonnes of 'e-waste' in 2016 alone. Bloomberg
A study by the United Nations revealed the world produced 44.7 million metric tonnes of 'e-waste' in 2016 alone. Bloomberg

What has caused this? According to The Environmental Literacy Council: “Consumers use cell phones for an average of 18 months before they dispose of them, a much shorter period than the lifecycle of older phones.”

And despite the fact that people have an almost disposable relationship with their smartphones, people simply aren’t recycling them.

"Based on our research and other sources, currently less than 1 per cent of smartphones are being recycled," Lotfi Belkhir, the author of McMaster University's study, revealed to American business magazine, Fast Company.

There is also a long list of precious metals used in the manufacture of smartphones, including gold, silver, copper, platinum and palladium.

While only small amounts of each are used, the fact that an estimated 4.6 billion people had smartphones in 2018, and the rate at which we dispose of them means few of the precious components are being reused or recycled.

According to the BBC: “One million mobile phones could deliver nearly 16 tonnes of copper, 350kg of silver, 34kg of gold and 15kg of palladium.”

So it certainly does add up.


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