Sucheta Dalal :Mobile batteries: 'Cheap' may cost you dear
Sucheta Dalal

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Mobile batteries: 'Cheap' may cost you dear  

April 22, 2010

India is one of the fastest-growing mobile markets in the world. According to latest figures released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), at the end of February, the country's total wireless (mobile) subscriber base reached 563.73 million (56.4 crore), with an overall tele-density of over 51%.


With this kind of growth, no wonder, all kinds of mobile handset manufacturers and accessory makers are reaping huge profits, by using any method. For example, out of the total 563 million users, if about 10% of them have to replace a battery annually, then there is a market for 5.6 million or 56 lakh batteries, every year!


This 'potential' has attracted numerous cheap (and mostly fake or refurbished) batteries which are available at various streets. Last when I checked, I found 'long-lasting' mobile batteries of almost all handsets available at a street vendor for as low as Rs50 a piece. This is in contrast to the sky-high prices of original mobile batteries. For example, BST-36, an original battery from Sony Ericsson costs Rs1,299; a battery which looks the same is available for about Rs100 at any street vendor.


Most batteries available with street vendors are fake and mostly refurbished batteries. Sometimes, these batteries may even explode, causing damage to both the battery and the phone. (I have witnessed one such incident, where the battery was purchased from an Indian manufacturer, in the hope that it would be better in quality than Chinese ones). Second, the life and output of these cheap batteries is always lower than original batteries.


One techie, Doug Simmons, actually did a study comparing original and third-party or 'duplicate' batteries. Checking the claims of original and duplicate battery manufacturers on the output and life of these units, Mr Simmons found that original batteries made by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are reasonably accurate and live up to their promised ratings, such as output and life span. Third-party batteries are consistently 20% to 30% weaker than their claims. (Check the results of this test here:


Now, the question is, how can you distinguish an original battery from its duplicate counterpart? First and most important, buy the original battery from an authorised dealer of the particular mobile handset and get a bill for it. Second, know the type/model (e.g. BL-C5) of your battery along with its output—measured in mAh (milliampere-hour) or in volts. Inspect the contact pins on the battery; they should be bright yellow without any scratches. Last, dispose your used battery properly and carefully, since there are chances that it may come back to you as a 'new and original' battery by way of refurbishing. 


In 2004, Nokia had come out with a hologram sticker on its OEM battery. The hologram label on Nokia batteries consists of a holographic image as well as an authentication code hidden under a scratch-off area on the label. However, there is no such initiative from other mobile handset manufacturers.


To curtail this phenomenon of refurbishing mobile batteries, both OEMs and users will have to take some initiatives. For starters, OEMs can offer certain discounts on new batteries to customers who return the old unit for recycling, similar to the discounts offered on inverter batteries. In our country, the word 'discount' often works like a magic wand and may help both OEMs and customers.


Customers should also refrain from buying mobile batteries from roadside vendors or from the Internet, since here the chances of you being taken for a ride are high. Paying a little more can actually save you money, as far as mobile batteries are concerned. — Yogesh Sapkale

-- Sucheta Dalal