Standardizing Batteries for Watches, Flashlights, and Other Consumer Electronics

If we could start over, with today’s tech, what sizes do we really need? Couldn’t we eliminate some types and pair down the available models?

There are certainly a lot of redundant batteries that could be eliminated. For example, there are carbon-zinc, alkaline, lithium and NiMH batteries available in all the standard sizes. So, you could decree that only the most expensive battery of each size was to be manufactured from now on, and things would work just as they do now - but batteries would be more expensive (needlessly so, for many applications). There are also a lot of watch batteries of different chemistries, and many of them could be culled.

But, the reality is, this is how the world works. Once upon a time there were only 4 types of headlights: Low beam and high beam, in round and square. Now there are hundreds of different types. A technological society is always going to see the proliferation of components. I’d bet that there are over 100,000 different types of transistors currently in production.
Do we need that many?
But, that’s what you get as technology marches on.

Planned obsolescence. Have you ever noticed how laptop batteries from the same manufacturer change from model to model, and if not that detailed, almost from year to year? It’s designed that way. Otherwise, you would not buy the latest consumer product. You would just keep replacing the same battery, year after year.

Ubiquitous consumer products like flashlights are not moneymakers. So no need to change the basic design. Changing the battery requirements forces you to buy the new model. Also, the battery style only lasts about as long as the consumer electronics using it remains in the product cycle. So even if that digital camera works for you, within about a year after the manufacturer no longer makes it, there are no replacement batteries for it. You either go without, or buy a the newer version of the camera, with its own unique battery style. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This is such a moronic argument.
You can STILL get replacement batteries for archaic laptops made 10 years ago.
So, making a new laptop that is smaller, lighter and faster (and uses a different battery) may make you want to replace your old laptop, but it certainly isn’t the battery that is driving the obsolescence.
New batteries are designed for new products.
Would you rather use this or this?

But it is more than that.

Yeah, you could change the design of the Maglite 4D flashlight to use AAA batteries, but who would be willing to spend $20 on the 40 AAA’s it would require to meet the same “mha” need. How reliable would it be with all those contacts?

Having different sizes allows manufacturers to have different prices.

There are tons of places to get replacement batteries if the manufacturer has stopped making them.

Battery technology has been changing at a pretty fast rate in the last few decades, and more importantly there has been a move towards batteries being part of the device in order to reduce space and the like. Laptops it seems to be more about the shape of the laptop changing, making them thinner has been a big move recently.

I dont think planned obsolescence really has much to do with it. Generally theres a change either in size, power or voltage to go with any new battery, rather than the shape alone.


Yes, but why do we need D and C cell Maglites? Shouldn’t one just be the standard?

Why do we need small, medium, large and child-sized drinks?

batteries vary because of the size of the device they go into. there are flashlights that are small and fit in a pants pocket and one that could give a large amount of light for a full over night period. a watch is a different size from a calculator.

they also vary in how long they are expected to supply power and at what rate. illumination, heating or sound can be different from a calculator.

I’ve worked in Manufacturing Engineering and Quality Assurance for nearly 30 years now, often working very closely with the product design function. Never once, NOT ONE SINGLE TIME, have I ever heard anyone say “Let’s make this so it doesn’t last so long.” The exact opposite is true: the longer your product lasts, the better value it is for the consumer. The push is always for better, stronger, faster, longer-lasting.

“Planned obsolescence” is a tall tale spread by people who have no idea how markets really work.


Is the converse true? Has anyone said “Let’s make this so it lasts as long as possible?”

Additionally, the lack of verbal acknowledgment hardly means that it doesn’t exist. Ever plead the fifth?


Everything is a cost/benefit tradeoff. It’s easy to complain that your car only lasted 100,000 miles, but then you probably wouldn’t have spent the extra $20,000 for the model that lasted 250,000 miles, would you?

For some reason, people seem to think that quality and ruggedness are free.
They’re not.

Have you seen the size difference between C and D? Very little. They also both are 1.5 volts. D does provide more current.

D is double the physical volume of C, and about twice the capacity.

I’m not sure we need both D and C though, when we have AA. Rather than split the difference gadgets that use “C” could use one or the other. And do we really need a 9 volt? If something actually needs that much voltage how much does a DC-DC converter cost nowdays to enable the use of a AA or two?

How about:
D Alkaline
AA Alkaline, AA NIMH, AA lithium
Small/Large digicam battery
Something to replacle AAAs, N, CR123s etc.
1 or 2 types of coin battery depending on capacity needed
Watch battery
1 or 2 types of Ipod/Cell phone battery (Even with standardization Apple could still lock them in the case since they’re opposed to the user being able to change a battery rather than throw out the device and buy a new one or send it in for expensive service.
2 capacities of car starter battery
1 motorcycle/ power toy battery
Electric wheelchair battery.
1 type of electric car battery
2 types of notebook computer battery, depending on if capacity or weight is more important

Frankly, the whole argument is absurd.
If you are really concerned about the number of different batteries you need to stock, then only buy products using those batteries. Why are you guys trying to force everyone else in the world to use compromised products?

Not to mention new battery technologies, mainly in the rechargeable area, especially lithium-based batteries. Although i suppose they could just make a battery with a higher capacity but the same size (as with NiCd/NiMH batteries; you can now get batteries with several times the capacity of older models but in the same size). But, especially with things like laptop/notebook/netbook computers, the product itself varies greatly in size and power consumption (e.g. a high-end gaming laptop will have very different power requirements from a low-end netbook, as much as an order of magnitude).

And the federal contracting officers I work with often complain about it, costing taxpayers considerable tax dollars every year. Now that we have our individual unsubstantiated opinions out of the way, a brief search finds:
[li]Is planned obsolescence socially responsible?[/li][li]Apple’s Planned Obsolescence: Customer Revolt Brews[/li][li]Planned obsolescence - The Economist[/li][li]Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America[/li][li]Apple’s Latest ‘Innovation’ Is Turning Planned Obsolescence Into Planned Failure[/li][li]The ‘Light Bulb Conspiracy’ probes planned obsolescence[/li][/ul]

Well, I only looked at the second link, but if the other articles are as boneheaded as that one…

In *what universe * is changing a connector that has been in use for around a decade "planned obsolescence? That would only be true if Apple planned to obsolete it a decade ago, which is doubtful.
These rants are so wrong-headed. If the “planned obsolescence” whiners had their way nothing would ever change. We’d still be using reel-to-reel tape and vacuum tube TVs.
Face it - change is inevitable in a technological society. To scream “planned obsolescence” every time an improved product comes to market is to fundamentally mis-understand the way technology works.