Skip to main content

Apple’s secret plan to change iPhone batteries forever

Battery inside an iPhone.
Tyler Lastovich / Unsplash

In the near future, replacing the battery inside an iPhone won’t be a risk-prone, complex, and messy affair with glue everywhere. According to The Information, Apple is exploring a new technology that will make it easier for people to remove the battery unit inside their iPhones, making replacements and repairs more convenient.

Here’s the detail right from the horse’s mouth: “The new technology—known as electrically induced adhesive debonding—involves encasing the battery in metal, rather than foil as it is currently. That would allow people to dislodge the battery from the chassis by administering a small jolt of electricity to the battery, the people said.”

Apple is making the change because it has had a change of heart regarding the glue problem that has irked repair professionals and DIY enthusiasts for years. Even the folks over at iFixit had to write a whole article titled “Why Electronics Rely on Glue—and Why They Shouldn’t” to shed more light on the situation.

“On a 2020 iPhone model, that process can take up to two hours of disassembly, an hour to clean up corrosion damage from liquids, and then another hour of application to replace the adhesive. Not an easy fix,” noted the article.

Why Apple is doing this

A pile of old iPhone batteries.
Parilov / Shutterstock

Why is this happening now? It’s due to the E.U. and its crusade toward sustainability and a cleaner future. Last year, the European Commission notified the Batteries Regulation, which, among other things, wants to handle the situation with more responsibility and in a way that doesn’t worsen the electronic waste problem. The following are the core tenets:

  1. Targets for recycling efficiency, material recovery and recycled content will be introduced gradually from 2025 onwards. All collected waste batteries will have to be recycled and high levels of recovery will have to be achieved.
  2. Starting in 2027, consumers will be able to remove and replace the portable batteries in their electronic products at any time of the life cycle.
  3. Portable batteries incorporated in appliances shall be readily removable and replaceable by the end-user or by independent operators during the lifetime of the appliance, if the batteries have a shorter lifetime than the appliance, or at the latest at the end of the lifetime of the appliance.

“In a big success for the right to repair, all new portable devices and light means of transport put on the market will now have to be designed with replaceable batteries,” Cristina Ganapini, coordinator of the Right to Repair (Europe), said back then. You can read the complete proposal here (PDF).

A bit of ionic magic

So, how does Apple’s shift to the enigma called “electrically induced adhesive debonding” work? Adhesives capable of forming strong bonds while allowing for quick and convenient electricity-fueled separation are in high demand. Such technology is particularly valuable in urgent situations or for components requiring frequent disassembly, says a research paper published in the Materials Today Communications journal.

Electrical debonding illustration.
Materials Today Communications

The electrical and electronics sectors have a pressing need for electrically removable adhesives to enable the installation and maintenance of fragile electronic parts. Using conductive adhesives that respond to electricity for attaching components to circuit boards would significantly simplify the process of removing and replacing faulty elements.

An additional benefit of these adhesives is their ability to be activated remotely, removing the necessity for direct physical contact with the bonded parts. Right now, the glues used in smartphone assembly rely on high temperatures for melting and removal. The technique described above does the same job, but uses electrical stimulus instead of heat.

Shifting to electricity offers a promising solution that avoids many challenges. This method relies on adding ionic components, such as dissolved salts or ionic liquids, into the adhesive mixture. These additives add ion-based conductivity to the glue, and as a result, it becomes responsive to electrical stimulation.

Electrical debonding in action.
Simon Leijonmarck / KTH Chemical Science and Engineering

Voltage-activated debonding can reduce the risk of mechanical, thermal, or chemical damage to the internal components of a phone. However, the whole approach mandates using conductive substrates like metals or materials that can be coated with a conductive layer.

Once there, the debonding process can be started by applying a voltage across the two bonded surfaces. These electrically responsive adhesives are currently attracting a healthy amount of interest in the aerospace and electronics segments due to their potential applications and advantages over traditional bonding methods. iPhones could end up being the biggest adopters of this promising technology in the near future.

You can read more about the electrical adhesion and debonding process at a microscopic level in this research paper that was published in the Advanced Materials Interfaces journal here, and this fantastic thesis was submitted to the Sweden-based School of Chemical Science and Engineering Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan. You can read more about the whole technique in the context of recycling at the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Nadeem Sarwar
Nadeem is a tech journalist who started reading about cool smartphone tech out of curiosity and soon started writing…
Forget about the iPhone 16. This new iPhone 17 rumor sounds incredible
The Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max's camera module.

The Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Apple will almost certainly announce the iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Pro series in a few weeks. However, we continue to hear exciting rumors about next year's iPhone 17 series lineup. The latest news comes from Ming-Chi Kuo.

Read more
Apple just warned some iPhone users about a dangerous spyware attack
The back of the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Apple is warning iPhone users in 98 countries to be on the lookout for potential mercenary spyware attacks. According to TechCrunch, this is the company's second such warning in 2024.

Folks in the affected countries are receiving the following message from Apple: "Apple detected that you are being targeted by a mercenary spyware attack that is trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID -xxx-."

Read more
The iPhone 16 Pro could get a charging upgrade we’ve waited years for
Blue Titanium iPhone 15 Pro with the USB-C cable it comes with.

Charging speeds for Apple iPhones have not improved for a considerable period. However, this may change with the upcoming iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 16 Pro Max. As per ITHome, both models could support 40-watt wired charging and 20W MagSafe charging.

Interestingly, the news suggests only the iPhone 16 Pro and iPhone 16 Pro Max models will receive the charging improvements, not the expected iPhone 16 and iPhone 16 Plus models. While 40W still won't match phones like the OnePlus 12 with its 80W charging, it'll be a significant upgrade compared to previous iPhones.

Read more