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(For example) AA batteries are available as rechargeable and non-rechargeable variants.

As they are of identical construction, you have to read the tiny text on the battery to find out if they are rechargeable or not. Many producers do a great job in making it hard to find this information.

What would be good ways to make it easy for users to differentiate these two types of batteries?

Color? Haptics (like corrugated facing)? Symbol? What else?

Bonus points for accessibility (for illiterate and visually impaired users) and internationalization (tourists buying/using batteries with unknown language labels).

User’s main intent would be the question "May I put these batteries into the recharger?".

One time I observed a user having problems with his cableless telephone. He complained that the battery was dead although the phone was on the charging station for the whole day. He opened the phone, checked right positioning of the batteries, he even blew into it. But he didn’t recognize that he was mistakenly using non-rechargeable batteries.

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A good question given that putting a non-rechargable battery in a charger can be dangerous. –  PhillipW Jul 17 '13 at 9:01
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Why not write "RECHARGEABLE" in large text across the battery? –  XenElement Jul 17 '13 at 17:17
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Another thing to address is that regardless of the labeling, some people are still going to do the wrong thing. So should there be some indicator on the recharger to let the user know about this? –  Michael Lai Jul 17 '13 at 23:51

3 Answers 3

In cases like this I have found stickers to work wonders! I made a sketch below:

recharge icon

Stickers provide visual and, depending on their thickness, some haptic feedback. That also solves the problem of not having to physically change the shape of either the batteries or the charger.

I have placed stickers on products and the users were thinking the original manufacturer did this, none of them realised they were put on the products after installation.

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+1 Like the sketch, ties in neatly with the recycle / recyclable logo and the standard refresh icon –  Marjan Venema Jul 17 '13 at 10:40

Probably the best way would be to add some slight physical variation* (maybe a little groove around the battery on a rechargable battery ) so that you couldn't physically fit non-rechargable batteries into the charger.

** ie an 'interlock'

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We can combine ekapros solution with my solution. Cleverly engineered the head of the battery to be square for example will allow visually challenged user to be able to tell the differences and designed the power charger to only accept square tip to be inserted. This will prevent the regular battery to be inserted into the charger and also will not caused any compatibility issue with.

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I'd say too many existing devices into which you might put the rechargable battery, assume the connector dimensions for you to be able to go around changing the connectors shape. –  PhillipW Jul 17 '13 at 11:08
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I'd also note that the design challenges involved in creating a square head are likely greater - more edges, faces, and stress points. –  XenElement Jul 17 '13 at 17:19
    
Hi PhillipW, the square connector can be smaller than the round connector to ensure fitting to existing devices. hi XenElement, yes but given the current technology I will say it's not a problem at all. –  SimonTeo Jul 18 '13 at 9:04

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