I miss removable batteries

I miss removable batteries

Summary: No one is expected to use PCs anymore in this supposed post-PC world, but everyone is supposed to plug in all their post-PC devices into the USB ports of their no-longer-used PCs to charge.

TOPICS: Mobility

I'm starting to feel just a little bit like Andy Rooney, asking, "Why?" all the time. Today, I need to ask, "Why can't we just use removable batteries?"

These days, it seems like everything comes with a charging adapter -- a USB charging adapter. It's weird. We're all supposed to be using mobile devices that no longer have full-sized USB jacks, but every mobile device has a USB connector for charging.

ZAGGfolio image courtesy of James Kendrick's review

Take the iPad keyboard I'm typing on right now. I had my iPad with me, an article deadline, a Target gift card, and a hankering for coffee. Fortunately, I was near a local Target, so I stopped in. I bought the keyboard (one of the ZAGG ones James Kendrick has recommended), used up my gift card credit, got myself a cup 'o Joe at the in-store Starbucks, and set out to write this article.

Fine, I also got a cheese danish. Satisfied? Truth in journalism, I guess.

Anyway, the keyboard doesn't take batteries. Fortunately, there's a small charge on it, so I'm hoping I'll finish this before the batteries run out, but with a bajillion square foot Target just inches away, I can't go buy batteries and make sure I have power.

The cheese danish isn't half bad, actually.

Anyway, so many other accessories now require USB charging. My media center Bluetooth keyboard doesn't take batteries. My Windows 8 touchpad (no, I don't really use it, but I write about Windows 8, so...) doesn't take batteries. Even my crappy little bedroom pico-projector doesn't take batteries.

Everything needs to be plugged into a USB port and charged. I know this may seem like a convenience to users (except when the power dies and you can't open the thing up), but it's also a gimmee to the manufacturers. They no longer have to include thick power dongles and they're even (generally) too cheap to include a USB to wall-socket plug.

This ZAGG keyboard is a perfect example. It's an iPad keyboard. Yet the only thing in the box besides the keyboard is a mini-USB to full-size USB cable.

So, even though the intended user is expected to have an iPad -- a mobile, full-day-of-charge-not-plugged-into-the-wall-or-why-would-you-need-a-mobile-keyboard iPad -- the way Zagg expects you to charge their mobile keyboard is to somehow find a USB dongle and plug it into the wall or into a laptop or desktop USB port.

Oh, the irony.

No one is expected to use PCs anymore in this supposed post-PC world, but everyone is supposed to plug in all their post-PC devices into the USB ports of their no-longer-used PCs to charge.

It's just not right. Not right at all.

Yes, we bought a bunch of $3 USB wall-socket adapters from Amazon, but that's not the point. I want to be able to change batteries when something dies, not have to wait for something to take a charge. I blame Apple for this. Before the iPhone, mobile devices had removable batteries.

Darn you, Apple!

Topic: Mobility


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Don't you view any ZDNet galleries while eating cheese danish goodies, Dave

    One accessory that has taken the place of replaceable batteries is the "Battery Pack" gadget. In a recent "How to turn your tablet into a mobile workstation" ... ring any bells, David ... a nice gadget highlighted was the New Trent iGeek battery pack offering 9,900 mAh of power.

    Actually, most persons owing dedicated spare batteries for specific gadgets or something like the iGeek would invariably forget to bring that spare energy source when it would be needed the most.

    I, for one, have only purchased one mobile gadget in the past five years that enticed me to also purchase a spare battery for it. That would be my first white MacBook (later given away to a relative). BTW, that spare battery for that particular MacBook is still unused and in it's original unopened box. Needless to say, I have never had a need during the past five years to lament a lack of a spare mobile energy source.
    • indeed

      I carry an Innergie Pocketcell with me at all times. It is light and compact - the perfect charger for an smartphone or gadgets like keyboards. It came handy already few times on a busy day. Once I even charged my iPad with it. The iPad sucked all juice from the little thing very quickly, but I was still able to work few more hours.

      Before buying this, I was thinking of an bigger and more powerful battery, but.. Then came to realize that if you want to travel light, that's not ok. Just put the Innergie in your pocket. But, when traveling with my "full" backpack, I might just use one of those "Juice" packs, that can also charge my PowerBook.
  • Removable Batteries

    My Apple bluetooth keyboard and bluetooth trackpad take removable batteries (AA).
  • Maybe in couple years

    We finally get to see a wireless charging standard that becomes universal. The one you can use for all your e-toys & domestic electronics, everything.
    • The trouble with wireless charging

      It's highly inefficient and wasteful
      Alan Smithie
  • Yes

    Yes, Apple's emerging market phone better have removable batteries. If Samsung can do it, why not Apple.
  • ...

    Apple had the means to do it from a long time, but will NEVER do it. Don't ask me why, its another of their lunacies...
    • Built-in obsolescence

      It's all part of their policy of built-in obsolescence, the same as not letting 3-/4-year-old devices upgrade to the latest OS. The batteries die and can't be replaced, or the device becomes obsolete as you can't get any app upgrades, so you have to buy the latest iGadget instead. Bad for customers, bad for the planet...
      • Good for greed, though

        Can't argue with that.
      • So Android OEMs

        Doing the same exact thing is okay then? It's just an issue with Apple?
  • Environment Friendly

    I think one of the reasons some companies all stop with removable batteries is because they are bad for the environment. It takes a very long and expensive process to properly dispose of a battery.
    I also think we although we live in a very mobile world, a lot of public places now offers power outlet, both for regular plugs and some time even USB. From that viewpoint I guess some people might find it better to carry a small usb cable, than an additional battery. Not to mention that it is a lot heavier as well.
  • It's about product turnover.

    At least in the cellphone world. Every cell phone I've owned prior to my droid Razr required a battery replacement before I was ready to buy a new phone. Now if my Droid battery ages out, I can't simply buy a new battery and pop it in. I either have to invoke customer service to get it replaced (and lose access to my phone in the meantime) or buy a new phone.

    The USB issue itself isn't a big deal to me. Even my car stereo has a USB jack in it; USB isn't just a PC standard any more. It does strike me as a bit of history repeating itself though. Whoever came up with the cigarette lighter jack in cars didn't intend it to power portable devices, but that's what it evolved into. I don't think I've used the actual cigarette lighter in any car I've owned...
  • Personally I prefer built-in batteries in phones and tablets

    Every previous phone I had would break apart with the battery flying across the room every time I dropped it. The tabs holding the battery compartment cover on quickly broke off. In contrast a built-in battery means Apple for example has been able to build in the battery to take up all sorts of odd spaces inside their devices maximizing battery volume and building it in as an integral structural component doing away with the creaking flex of battery compartments and doors.

    Having a nice high capacity external battery pack with a USB socket means I can go for days juicing up all my portable devices from the same small pocketable power pack if I'm away from power that long. I use a Gum Pro battery pack which can recharge my iPhone 3.5x before running out of juice. The rest of the time I have USB sockets everywhere - in the car, at home, in the office, in the plane etc.

    I don't have to turn off the phone to change batteries, you don't have to carry spare batteries of all shapes and sizes for every device separately, you don't have to try and charge the spare batteries separately in special docks. or even worse in your phone. These external battery packs charge off any USB port while you keep using your phone. Far better than having to change the internal battery. IMO.
  • That USB Cable...

    ...plugs just as nicely into a wall AC adaptor or a car cigarette-lighter charger. The only reason I connect a handset or tablet to a PC is to exchange information with it.
    • Missing his point

      You missed this point:

      "Yes, we bought a bunch of $3 USB wall-socket adapters from Amazon, but that's not the point. I want to be able to change batteries when something dies, not have to wait for something to take a charge."

      He wants to be back up and running right away, with completely charged batteries. He doesn't want to wait for a charger.
      • No, You Missed His Point

        "...everyone is supposed to plug in all their post-PC devices into the USB ports of their no-longer-used PCs to charge."
  • I always thought of it more as "PC Plus" anyways.

    Personally, I always thought of it more as "PC Plus" (PC + other devices) rather than a true "Post PC" (PC is dead and gone) anyways.

    Heck, I still have one of those towers, and they supposedly went out of style long ago. And last I checked, TigerDirect and NewEgg are still in business - and they're still selling cases and components - so yes, people are still building their own PCs.

    To be honest - I don't know of very many people who actually threw their PC into the garbage as soon as they bought a smart phone or tablet. Everybody I know still has at least one PC. Often it's a laptop, but it's there. I honestly don't see "Post PC" at all - all I see is "PC Plus."

    You'll pry my big monitor and Microsoft Natural keyboard out of my cold, dead hands ;).
  • I hate removable batteries.

    The problem of removable batteries is that removable batteries by their nature don't store enough power in the first place. That is why they are "removable". Instead, I prefer using a large enough external battery. It is far simpler to use such a battery and it can last much longer than you need so you only have to carry one. For example, my iPhone's external battery is equivalent to FIVE internal batteries. It can last weeks such as when trapped in a blizzard. My MacBook external battery can last three days straight. It lasts longer than any pathetic replaceable battery.