Replacing the battery in your tech

Does the battery in your phone or laptop not last like it used to? Don’t overreact – here’s how you can replace it.

20sep replacing the battery hero

A rechargeable battery can only recharge so many times, due to chemical reactions that eat away at capacity with every charge. Once it’s deteriorated, tech companies would like to force consumers to replace the entire device. We can’t accept that.

Replacing your battery is best

Tossing a functional device into landfill is bad for you, because you have to pay for a replacement. But it’s worse for the planet – toxic heavy metals in tech, such as lead and cadmium, become environmental and health risks. Manufacturing your replacement device uses more metal, oil and energy. While you can recycle your old tech as e-waste to save a little energy and recover some materials, using it for longer is much better. If your phone has a spent battery, you should replace and recycle the battery and keep the device in use – but it’s not always that easy.

Manufacturers go to extreme lengths to stop you maintaining and repairing your devices. They’re often glued shut, making it tougher to open them undamaged and forcing you to reseal with your own glue. Apple uses a unique screw on iPhones and MacBooks to prevent you opening them with your own screwdriver. Companies want to maintain control over your tech, even for basic maintenance like a battery replacement. In our view, you’ve paid for it, so it should be yours.

Mobile phones and tablets

If you’ve had a phone or tablet for a couple of years, you’ve probably noticed its battery life disappearing to some extent. That’s normal, but if it barely lasts half of what it used to or shuts off without warning when it drops below a certain charge, it’s due for a new battery.

A few years ago, it would’ve been an easy fix. Nearly every phone could be pried open, the battery easily removed and replaced. These days, nearly every device is glued shut, with a non-removable battery. You can get into them, but you need specialist equipment and a good tutorial. If you’re not confident enough to get your hands dirty, you’re often forced to use an official repairer, which can cost well over $100 for parts, labour and shipping.

Mobile phone battery replacement by brand

Laptops and other devices

Laptop batteries usually last longer than those in smaller devices, but it depends on usage. Some laptops have easily replaceable batteries, as not all manufacturers have started gluing them shut. You can order a replacement battery online, but stick to official resellers or stores you trust – third-party batteries are cheaper, but can be unsafe.

For many smaller devices, replacing batteries isn’t commonplace as you’re expected to simply buy a new device. Wireless earbuds, such as AirPods, are emerging as the worst offenders because their small batteries wear out fairly quickly. The tiny devices are packed so tightly with components that even an official repairer can’t get in to replace the battery. Even worse, there’s no economic value in recycling them due to their size, so the products often end up in landfill. We don’t think that’s good enough.

If you feel your battery has died too early, you may be entitled to a replacement under the Consumer Guarantees Act. That’s good for you, but the only way to avoid the environmental damage is to not buy them in the first place.

So you’ve replaced a battery?

So you’ve replaced a battery?

So you’ve replaced a battery?

Great work! Now, whatever you do, don’t throw the old one in the rubbish. It could catch fire and, besides, have you been reading this article?

Where you can drop it off for recycling depends on where you live. Find out about household battery recycling.

iFixit

If you want to make your own repairs, you need detailed instructions and the right tools. A good place to start is iFixit.com, a wiki site full of crowd-sourced guides that show you how to repair and maintain your devices. The site also sells quality spare parts and all the tools you need – even screwdriver bits to counter those pesky tamper-resistant screws.

Extend your battery's lifespan

Replacing a battery is much better than throwing out a device, but it’s even nicer if you don’t need to do either. Advice for looking after lithium-ion batteries might surprise you, and even contradict how you maintained older styles of battery. Here are our three big tips:

  • Avoid full discharges when possible. Letting your battery get below about 20 percent damages the capacity, so try to find a charger before then. If it gets all the way to zero, recharge it as soon as you can.
  • Don’t let your battery get hot. Let your device cool down for a while if it’s running hot after heavy use, and don’t leave it in the sun for too long. Charging only produces enough heat to cause damage if it’s trapped somehow, so if your phone’s on the charger overnight you should leave it on a hard surface and remove its case.
  • Don’t leave it fully charged for too long. A full battery can lose capacity after a few months without use. Before you leave your device behind for a lengthy trip, consider depleting it a bit first. If your laptop’s always plugged in, let the battery drain once a month.

So your battery's dead. What can you do?

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Member comments

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Philip Ross
11 Oct 2020
Alternative to battery replacement

I consider it is fundamentally dishonest and unethical for the companies to make it difficult to replace a battery. I read the "ifixit" guide for replacing a Samsung S9 battery. The main problems are the extensive use of adhesives and a fingerprint sensor cable.

However, another possible solution, albeit it one with a degree of inconvenience, might be to plug in an external powerbank.

Steven J.
10 Oct 2020
Consumer Guarantee

The `reasonable amount of time' law is too vague.
My F&P washing machine stuffed out after just on five years. The machine cost me over $1200, so wasn't a cheap one. I challenged the manufacturer and they were of the opinion that was reasonable. The cost to have it fixed was around $350.
My option was to go to the small claims court. The fee to do this, the cost of a day off work, and the hassle wasn't worth the risk.

Clark M.
10 Oct 2020
Apple Macbook Air 13" ~2015 battery replacement...

...being an Apple device I expected the worst but... bought a new battery from an after market trader off TradeMe and it's been great. Was down to 30 minutes off mains but now I get several hours like the good old days. Thanks after-market!

Andrew R.
10 Oct 2020
Operating System redundancy as well

I am also finding that perfectly good electronic devices are limited in their applicability because of the continual upgrading of operating systems.

Example 1 -- iPhone 4S iOS is incompatible with the Government's covid app.

Example 2 -- iPad 2 iOS is incompatible with the BNZ banking app.

It seems that the 'lasts a reasonable amount of time" applies to the physical device, its continued usability given operating system upgrades and apps no longer working on an older device isn't covered.

Peter I.
10 Oct 2020
Consumer’s own website didn’t work on a 2yo iPhone

Wrote to this very Consumer org about their website coding not working on a relatively new iPhone. The iPhone C (and older models like perfectly good iPhone 5) are limited to the OS they can operate on and would not display the comparison and test articles. Consumer’s response after some to & fro communication? To paraphrase: “Our site is designed to run on modern and currently available technology. Buy a newer phone.” I found this both astonishing and hilarious at the same time. The hypocrisy is tragicomic.

Mark E.
10 Oct 2020
Modern os

As an it professional I need to point out that operating systems age as does hardware. Old systems do not (mostly cannot) support security updates and do not contain the code to support the features that modern applications need. Modern operating systems use more resources than old devices can provide thereby providing an unacceptable user experience. We are at a point of massive change/progress and this conundrum is the result.

Gerard V.
10 Oct 2020
Android One updates

You can sweat a couple of years extra out of Android phones by selecting a phone that follows the Android One protocol. These phones guarantee to offer security and OS updates for 2 years after the phone's introduction. Google Pixel and Nokia phones, and I think Oppo use this system. My Nokia 4.2 (

Consumer staff
12 Oct 2020
Re: Consumer’s own website didn’t work on a 2yo iPhone

Hi Peter,

We would love it if manufacturers supported their devices and operating systems for longer! However, keeping your OS up to date is crucial for security. We test our website updates on a range of devices, including older phones and tablets. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always cover every user’s situation, though we try to ensure our content is at least legible on unsupported devices.

Kind regards,
Frank - Consumer NZ staff

Hamish W.
14 Oct 2020
Operating system redundancy

I'm a bit sad, because I just consigned my iphone 4 to the scrap heap, partly because it would not do the covid app and partly because the "off" button no longer works. It only turns off when the battery runs flat which will probably kill the battery very soon. The OS on my 2010 ipad lost contact with the modern world about 3 years ago, so I had to buy a new tablet. I'm a bit sad about that too. And, wondering if android devices will last as long!

Jenna R.
10 Oct 2020
Too hard...

After reading this I thought I'd check how easy it would be to change the battery in my phone (Nokia 6), I can't even see how the back can come off. Would need some serious research, and then I'll probably find out I can't and would need to buy a new one anyway. It shouldn't be like this! Changing a battery should be a simple fix.

John M.
10 Oct 2020
Replacing SSD drives on Mac laptops

I have had very satisfactory results, installing new SSD drives
in Mac laptops, with kitsets obtained from:
https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/ssd/owc
In each case, I was able to move to a larger capacity drive.
Do use a wrist strap, especially in dry climates, to avoid damage
from static electricity.

Neil B.
10 Oct 2020
Ditto

Yes, I imported one from the States, along with a RAM upgrade. The company had its own "how to install" videos, which were straightforward and easy to follow. It meant I suddenly had a swift new laptop.

Paul S.
21 Oct 2020
And another

I fitted more RAM and an SSD to my mid-2010 Macbook Pro a few years ago. I've just found the article I wrote about it here: https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/laptop-upgrade-and-repair-our-staff-s-experiences

I'm happy to say that Macbook has just turned 10 years old and is still going strong. The battery life is short - so it stays plugged in on my desk most of the time now. I'm sure a replacement battery would fix that too if I needed to make it portable again.

Paul

Norris Cox
10 Oct 2020
Battery replacement

I still run a Note 4. I can change the battery as easy as a remote for the TV so I have several for when away tramping etc. I can also change out the micro SD just as easy. Dreading the day when my Note 4 fails.