Smartphones have a lot in common right now: big screens, great processors, and bezel-less displays. Above all, most smartphones get their juice from “non-removable” lithium-ion or lithium-ion polymer batteries.
Ever since phone batteries started to be designed as non-removable, they’ve become a pain in the ass to replace. You often end up paying a premium for a battery replacement or worse, buying a whole new phone all because of a busted battery.
For today, we’re going to learn the skill of changing out a non-removable phone battery on any phone. Each phone model might have its own procedure for opening the phone and gaining access to the battery, but we’ll keep things generalized so you can use this guide to replace just about any phone battery.
Why Do Manufacturers Prefer Non-removable Batteries Anyway?
Before going into repairs, let’s talk about why the heck companies suddenly started making non-removable batteries in the first place. Between 2000 and 2010, most phones used removable batteries. Even most of the first Android phones had removable batteries.
It was great. Replacements were easy to find and installing them yourself was as easy as snapping them in and out. If you ever run out of juice, you could just replace the battery in under a minute and have a full charge once again.
It’s not like phones with removable batteries need a charge every couple of hours or so, anyway. Most of them had longer lives compared to some phones with non-removable batteries.
I know part of the reason they lasted longer was that those older phones they powered didn’t use up as much energy compared to the ones we have today. Even so, I personally think that if any phone should have a removable battery, it’s the power-hungry phones we have today. Imagine being able to keep a fully charged spare battery on you to swap out your dead battery during the day when you can’t get to a charger?
As much as I’d love it if removable batteries came back, there are more valid reasons for the switch to non-removable batteries.
The biggest reason is that using non-removable batteries actually brings a lot of advantages when it comes to the phone’s overall design. The first advantage is that it allows for a bigger battery. Removable batteries have to be kept in their own protective plastic casing, which takes up valuable space that manufacturers could actually use for additional battery capacity.
The second design advantage is that a non-removable battery allows for phones to incorporate better external materials such as glass backs. And, of course, with a non-removable battery, phones can be sealed better, allowing for better water and dust resistance.
Security is also a factor. If your phone is stolen, you’ll have a higher chance of tracking your phone through GPS since people can’t just take your battery off that easily. Learn more about what to do to protect your phone from theft or loss here.
How to Replace Any Phone Battery
What You’ll Need
- Replacement Battery: Search your phone’s model + battery replacement to find the right battery. It’ll typically cost you around $10-$30 depending on your phone.
- Set of Tools: If you’re lucky, the battery replacement you ordered might come with a kit that includes everything you need. The basics will include precision screwdrivers, plastic pryers, and a suction cup or two. I’ve gotten these tools for free every time I’ve bought iPhone battery replacements. They’re not the best but they work. If the battery doesn’t come with tools, you can get an iFixit kit to get everything you need (and probably more, but it’s a good investment if you’re planning to fix more devices yourself).
- Proprietary Tools: If you’re planning to repair iPhones, you need a proprietary pentalobe screw bit for those two screws beside the iPhone’s lightning port. You also need a tri-wing (or Y) screw bit for removing the screws on some connector guards. These screws are a bit hard to find, but they’re commonly found in battery repair kits and of course, iFixit kits!
- A Hairdryer: Most phones with non-replaceable batteries are sealed shut with a lot of glue, and a good hairdryer can soften that adhesive to make disassembly easier. You can also use a microwavable heat bag to soften up the glue.
How to Replace Batteries on iPhones
I’m putting iPhones in the spotlight because it’s more common for people to repair iPhones themselves (since first-party and even third-party repair on iPhones is so expensive). Plus, they’re well known as the hardest phones to repair because of parts pairing. But if you can repair an iPhone, you can more or less repair any other phone.
Before you start your replacement project, here are some key things you need to remember:
- iPhone 7 and above are water resistant, so you also need to replace screen gaskets. And even if you replaced your gaskets, don’t expect your iPhone to still be water-resistant after a repair that requires opening the device.
- iPhone XS and above have serialized batteries which means you’ll lose the Battery Health feature if you didn’t transfer your old battery’s serial number to your new battery. Copying the SN is purely optional, but here’s how to copy your battery serial number. You can also transfer your original battery’s authentication module to your replacement battery. But I want to remind you that while these two procedures aren’t that hard to do, they require a programming device or a welding station which is hard or expensive to get.
- Only get batteries from reputable brands, or go with genuine Apple batteries if you can find some online.
- Take a picture with each step you take so you know what to put back where later on when reassembling your phone.
- Check your iPhone’s warranty coverage before opening your iPhone yourself. If you still have an active warranty, it’s best to hand the repair over to Apple and their authorized repair shops. You’ll get discounts at the very least, and in some cases, your repair might be free.
- Watch a video guide showing the battery replacement process on your specific iPhone model over on iFixit.com or iFixit’s YouTube Channel.
With all that in mind, here is a video tutorial on how to replace the battery on an iPhone:
How to Replace Batteries on Androids and Other Phones
Androids and other phones with non-replaceable batteries generally require the same basic steps you saw in the iPhone tutorial. One exception: you usually need to open up the back panel instead of the display. Some phones will require both display and back panels to be cracked open.
Here are the best tips you have to remember if you’re opening up an Android phone:
- If your phone has a glass back, you should watch or read a dedicated guide for your specific brand and model. And to be safe, order a glass back replacement together with your battery since even Gorilla Glass back panels can easily shatter with one wrong move while disassembling the phone.
- Some Android phones have ribbon cables attached to the back panels, this might be for fingerprint sensors or extra microphones. Always be wary of ribbon cables when opening any side of any phone.
- Unlike iPhones, which are commonly made of Aluminum or Stainless steel, Androids are commonly made out of plastic, so be careful when prying open the phone as parts might break off more easily
- Androids of any brand tend to have similar repair processes. Here is a Nexus 6P battery replacement which has a procedure that’s more or less identical to most Android phones:
- While most Androids have common repair procedures, some phones might have unique parts like foldable screens or active cooling on gaming phones. Always watch or read detailed guides for your specific device before making repairs. Again, a good source for these repair guides is iFixit.com or iFixit’s YouTube Channel.
Battery Care Tips So You Won’t Need Frequent Battery Replacements
Our phone’s health is like our health: Prevention is always better than a cure (or repairs). Here are some of the most effective battery care tips so you can make your battery last longer:
- Avoid extreme temperatures: Lithium-ion batteries (and any battery in general) don’t work that well with extreme temperatures. But, it’s not just extreme temperatures that’ll damage your phones. Long exposures to warm temperatures can also degrade your battery faster.
- Don’t use wireless chargers regularly: They’re convenient on-the-go and in emergencies but wireless chargers generate more heat than normal wired charging. So to avoid exposing your battery to more heat than necessary, only use a wireless charger when you can’t use a wired one.
- Don’t deplete or overcharge: Lithium-ion batteries are prone to dendrite growth which is the main reason why they degrade over time. To get the best performance out of your phone’s batteries, try to maintain a battery percentage of around 40%-80%. That’s right, don’t deplete your battery, and don’t fully charge it. A more practical way to do this is to avoid using your phone under 20% and take your phone off the charger as soon as you notice it’s above 80%.
- Screen timeout and brightness: Set your screen timeout to 5-15 seconds. Then turn on automatic brightness in the day and set it to manual when it’s night time. Why? Most of us are at home at night anyway. Our homes usually have fixed and non-dimmable lights so your phone doesn’t need to adjust that much. If you leave the phone on the atuomatic brightness setting, it’s regular checks for brightness changes will use more battery than necessary.
- Turn off automatic updates: I’m sure most of us have already turned off automatic updates on mobile data since cellular data eats up more battery than WiFi. But if you want to take it further, turn off automatic updates altogether. You’ll be surprised at how much more battery life you can squeeze out of your phone when you do this. Apps will usually remind you when they need an update. But you can also just set a reminder in your phone to update all apps every couple months.
- Don’t use fast charging all the time: This is the main reason why Apple doesn’t put extremely fast charging options on their iPhones. Fast charging will degrade your battery sooner. If you have a fast charger, only use that in tight situations where you need to charge your phone in a jiffy. Otherwise, it’s always best to use your slow charger at night.