Considering that all but one of the top-selling smartphones in the second half of 2015 had a non-removable battery (the LG G4 being the exception), you’d be forgiven for thinking that snap-on back covers and pocketable power packs were passe. But try telling that to LG. The company’s U.S. Twitter account went on an all-out blitz against Samsung. The flashpoint? Removable batteries, predictably.
Samsung instigated the exchange, when its Samsung Mobile account touted the Galaxy S6 Edge Plus’ ability to recharge quickly — boasting of a 90-minute zero-to-full charge, to be exact. That’s not new information, as Samsung’s been advertising that stat since the handset’s release date in August, but LG felt compelled to offer a snippy retort. The LG V10, it tweeted, can go from zero to full “instantly” with a removable battery. Zing!
— LG USA Mobile (@LGUSAMobile) January 27, 2016
This might be considered a banal exchange in the grand scheme of things, except for its conspicuous timing. LG’s upcoming flagship, the G5, is rumored to sport a retooled metal design with a slide-out tray engineered expressly to accommodate a 2,800mAh removable battery. Samsung, meanwhile, is expected to stick to a non-removable, fast-charging (zero to full in 30 minutes) 3,000mAh battery for the upcoming Galaxy S7.
These rumors beg the question: Just how desirable are non-removable smartphones batteries these days? It’s a well established fact that making phone batteries user-accessible precludes a seamless design — basic physics dictates that a point of separation exist between the phone case and battery compartment/cover/tray — and in some cases slimness and durability will suffer as well. The clearance between removable batteries and their covers, however tiny, create nooks and pockets of air that both contribute to thickness and deform on impact.
But removable batteries have their benefits. Carry another charged one around, and you never have to worry about finding a wall outlet. Aftermarket batteries sometimes extend capacity beyond the manufacturer-supplied model. And restarting a misbehaving smartphone that uses a removable battery couldn’t be simpler: Take out the battery and slot it back in.
The mass market may have established a preference for phones with non-removable batteries, but a vocal niche continues to promote the alternative’s little conveniences. It’s a niche on which LG has capitalized, and one that it’ll seemingly bend over backwards to promote in the future. The radical new design of the G5 is reportedly in response to weaker-than-expected mobile sales this past year.
Time will tell if LG’s bet on a removable future is a wise one.