I don’t understand my iPod.

I have a first-generation, 10 gigabyte iPod, and over the past year, the battery life has been getting worse and worse. I decided to pretty much give up on it as a portable device about two months ago, when I disconnected it from the charger (into which it had been plugged for the prior 10 hours), started walking to work, and seven minutes later, it died with a low-battery warning. At that point, Shannon and I bought a cigarette-lighter power cord for it and relegated the device to a road-trip role in our lives.

Earlier this week, I happened upon a posting about an affordable extended-life replacement for the battery (I’d love to give the author credit by name, but he or she doesn’t really make a name accessible anywhere obvious!), and after a little hemming and hawing, I decided to give it a shot. I placed the order yesterday.

Given that, of course today was the day that Anil decided to email me a link claiming that all you need to do is open the iPod up, disconnect the battery, and reconnect it, and like magic, the battery’s long life would be restored. I cursed a bit, knowing that my replacement is about 10 hours away from delivery to my doorstep, but tonight I decided that it couldn’t hurt to give the unplug/replug method a try. I opened the little guy up (not as easy as I’d thought it would be!), but then realized that I hadn’t turned the iPod on to see what the current battery state was. I’m a scientist, after all; what kind of scientist would I be without data from both before and after the battery disconnection? So I powered the iPod up.

And therein lies the second surprise of the day. It’s now been almost three weeks since we’ve used the iPod — that was our last roadtrip — and since then, the device has been sitting in a drawer. Under normal circumstances, that would mean I could expect about three or four minutes before power-off… but of course, today doesn’t seem to be normal. It’s now been 75 minutes since I hit play, and the battery indicator shows three bars remaining.

No, really — I don’t understand.

Comments and TrackBacks

QDN: Seriously confused about iPod battery life … today was the day that Anil decided to email me a link claiming that all you need to do is open the iPod up, disconnect the battery, and reconnect it, and like magic, the battery’s long life woul…

• Pinged by Sam's random musings on Sep 24, 2004, 1:04 AM

I should note that my iPod battery is back to it’s dismal storage capacity, but at least I got about 6 months of extra usage out of it. So it’s good that you’re getting a new battery.

• Posted by: Pat Berry [TypeKey Profile Page] on Sep 24, 2004, 11:56 AM

A friend at work had a similar experience with a 3rd gen iPod that was around a year old. Battery life had dwindled to 20 minutes at best, he stuck it in a drawer for a couple months, and on a whim, charged it up and took it on a road trip. It lasted 8+ hours.

• Posted by: jkottke on Sep 24, 2004, 1:24 PM

Hi I have a 1G iPod and twice it died on me. I noticed that both times I did not play it for several days. And then I tried, nothing worked, even when it was plugged in. I clicked and clicked and nothing came alive. So I left it alone for a few days, plugged it in again and yahooooo, it worked again. From the web reading I figured my iPod crashed and somehow got stuck there, and nothing worked until the battery is all drained totally. Only then can it become unstucked and get back to its normal fun self.

• Posted by: visitor on Sep 24, 2004, 6:19 PM

Got my iPod back in 2002. 10G. Still playing same old songs on my weekly 6 hrs journey. Non-stop.

The only thing that I didn’t do with the iPod was charging it with the included charger. I always charge it thru my PowerBook Firewire.

All in all. Never got a problem to complain about.

Then again, when I think about it, maybe it’s because I’ve dropped my precious little iPod on the floor, tarmac etc once to often.

• Posted by: Faris Hassani on Sep 24, 2004, 6:45 PM

How to prolong lithium-based batteries (http://www.batteryuniversity.com/parttwo-34.htm)

That is something that all laptop and iPod and cellphone owners should read.

It does not really describe any problems like the one you’re experiencing though. I would guess that the control circuitry on the batter (not the iPod itself) is out of whack. These circuits attempt to predict battery life based on short term metrics of how it has been used in the recent past.

If your use of your portable device is very irregular, than these circuits get messed up pretty fast. Sticking your battery in a drawed for a while could help reset the circuit’s knowledge of how your battery has been used (since the circuit is constantly tracking that info even when the battery isn’t being used… one of the reasons why lithium-ion batteries don’t hold a charge as long as nickel chemistries).

Try resetting the circuit (full charge, full discharge, and full charge again) every month or so to avoid having these problems in the future. The old battery is probably dead both as a result of the circuit being messed up and from the damage caused to the battery’s actual cells from repeated full discharges which is something lithium batteries don’t like. Do NOT fully discharge your lithium-ion batteries more often than once every 30 charging cycles. Even doing it that much can damage the cells but is unfortunately neccesarry to keep the charging circuitry from malfunctioning too much.

Li-Ion batteries are not quite all they’re cracked up to be, but they’re still a far sight better for most portable devices than the older nickel-based chemistries. It would just really help the situation if device makers would try harder to educate consumers about the differences between the old rechargeable batteries and the new ones so that people can get more life out of their batteries (well up until the 2-3 year max that all lithium batteries have).

• Posted by: anonymous_stranger on Sep 25, 2004, 2:31 PM

I fly to Asia quite often and needed a battery solution for my ipod ( 22hr flights). Found this to be an elegant solution for little $$
70 hrs+ www.batterytech.com

best money spent.

• Posted by: rus on Sep 25, 2004, 7:25 PM
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