The 24 Hour iPod Battery

The 24 hour iPod Battery: Fact or Fiction? It would be great if our iPods could play non-stop for 24 hours but is it really possible that such a battery exists? Apple has just introduced the completely remastered iPod Nano. The new Nano is more of the same with the exception of its new ability to hold up to 2,000 songs and can come to you in 5 new colors.

Apple’s marketing spin touts that the remastered iPod Nano, with its new anodized aluminum enclosure and rounded edges, makes the iPod nano look as dazzling as it feels. Apple says the new iPod Nano is sleeker than ever—3.5 inches tall, 1.6 inches wide, and just over quarter of an inch thin. Plus with the iPod Nano’s brighter color screen, album art & photos gain even more brilliance thanks to a 1.5-inch color display that's 40% brighter than before. The new iPod Nano’s can come in silver, green, pink, blue, and black.

Apple also announced new movie downloads from their iTune service. You can buy and download movies starting at $10.00.  The final announcement from Apple is that they unveiled a new 80 Gb iPod Video player.

All of these new announcements would be great if they were coupled with a practical 24 hour battery life for watching those movies and listening to those iTunes and MP3 files! The reality is contrary to that! For example:

The ipod battery life of an ipod classic with a 2200 mAh, measured in hours is UP TO 20 hours, or 79% longer than the original ipod classic battery.

The ipod battery life of an ipod 3rd gen with a 850 mAh, measured in hours is UP TO 13 hours or 35% longer than the original ipod 3rd gen battery.

The ipod battery life of an ipod 4th gen with a 830 mAh, measured in hours is UP TO 12 hours or 32% longer than the original ipod 4th gen battery.

The ipod battery life of an ipod mini with a 500 mAh, measured in hours is UP TO 6 hours or 25% longer than the original ipod mini battery.

The ipod battery life of an ipod photo with a 900 mAh, measured in hours is UP TO 14 hours or 29% longer than the original ipod photo battery.

When considering battery life claims remember to consider just like Apple’s legal team is careful to stipulate that the real nature of iPod Batteries is that the iPod battery can power iPods “Up to” the indicated times with music playback only. Also like Apple’s legal stipulations “Rechargeable batteries have a limited number of charge cycles and may eventually need to be replaced and that battery life and number of charge cycles vary by use and settings.”

The legal stipulation that Apple makes clear can be broken down as follows:

First, rechargeable iPod batteries once their useful life is complete will stop working. This is no surprise since a battery is a device that stores chemical energy and through an electrochemical process (electromotive force) converts the stored chemical energy into electric energy via a direct current. The chemical conversion is a process of chemical change created by adding or losing chemical substances (electrons, oxygen, lithium etc.) inside the battery and used by a connecting iPod. As the chemical conversion begins a reaction produces an electron flow. Once the chemical is activated oxidation and reduction occurs and the flow of electrons takes place, thereby creating a direct electrical current. Considering that electrons flow 62 quintillion per second (62,000,000,000,000,000,000 electrons per second) then it takes only a very small moment for power to be created and here is the kicker – the only way to stop is to let the chemical exhaust itself! The chemical inside the iPod battery can be activated  by placing a load on the battery (i.e. by connecting your battery to a device regardless if the device is turned on).  Once the load is placed on the iPod battery electrons collect on the negative electrode, when an electrolyte separates and conducts electrons between the negative electrode and the positive electrode. This flow creates a current. The electron current, or electricity, can then be directed to an iPod and used as a power stream. Once electrical current is established then the only way to stop it is to let the chemical degrade to the point where the capacity is almost non-existent. This is called battery degradation and begins once the chemistry has been activated. Battery degradation is the normal wear and tear effect of battery usage and its inevitable effects are declining capacity, increasing internal resistance, elevated self-discharge, and premature voltage cut-off on discharge.

Second, iPod Battery life and number of charge cycles vary by use and settings. What this means is that Apple designed the iPod battery to power an iPod under specific conditions (i.e. controlled test conditions). From those tests Apple made their claim about the iPod battery life span. There is nothing wrong with this whatsoever; however what is critical to remember is that consumers don't live in a controlled test environment. Having worked with hundreds of thousands of battery users I can tell you confidently that every user of rechargeable battery devise (i.e. iPods, PDAs, Laptops, DVD Players, Cameras, Cellphones) user their device slightly different. These differences impact how long or how little your rechargeable battery will last. This is a fact. You can test this yourself by using your iPod battery in different tests and time each test to see how long your battery will last. It will be different each time.

But regarding Apple’s iPod battery life claim the key phrase to remember is "up to". So even if the battery lasts an hour Apple is legally covered!

For example Apple claims that the 30GB iPod Video will play music for 14 hours, photo and music slideshows for 3 hours, and iPod on-screen video for 2 hours. In a iLounge test they found that the new iPod Video played music for 15 hours and 30 minutes, photo slideshows for 2 hours and 32 minutes, on-iPod video for 2 hours and 10 minutes, and iPod-to-TV video for 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Apple also claims that the new 60GB iPod will play music for 20 hours, photo and music slideshows for 4 hours, and video for 3 hours. Again in In a iLounge test they found that the new iPod Video played music for 19 hours, 50 minutes, but exceeded Apple’s photo and video claims, playing a music photo slideshow for 4 hours, 47 minutes, iPod-screen video for 3 hours, 23 minutes, and on-TV video for a hefty 5 hours and 24 minutes.

But again everyone may experience slightly different battery life play times. For example here is a situation from a user quoted from the Apple fourms:

"It is clear that when you use the click wheel a lot, you assume that your battery life gets smaller quickly. I had a problem with my ipod 5G 30Gb battery life : Firstly, I charged it (as soon as i received it) until the plug icon appeared on the screen (1h 30mn) . Then I listened music 'til it was fully discharged. The battery life was approximately 8hrs. Then, this battery life decreased to 5hrs last day. I called Applecare ; the guy told me to restore my ipod, then to let it discharge fully, and to refill it for 4 hrs even if the plug icon appear on the ipod screen. After that, I synchronized ipod to itunes and let it play all night long to see the battery life now. It played music with default settings during 15hrs 'til it shut down. These are the Apple specifications for that ipod. My problem wasn't the battery, but the battery life calibration, which has not been done as it should."

The reality is all batteries including batteries designed specifically for iPods (regardless of generation) have a certain amount of capacity and once the full amount of the capacity has been used then your battery will stop working. This is the normal function of battery design.

In fact consider this taken from Apple iPod Warranty Care: "Your one year warranty includes replacement coverage for a defective battery. You can extend your coverage to two years with AppleCare Protection Plan. During the second year, Apple will replace the battery if it drops below 50% of its original capacity. If it is out of warranty, Apple offers a battery replacement for $59, plus $6.95 shipping. Apple disposes your battery in an environmentally-friendly manner." So basically Apple is correctly telling you that your battery will die with time and use. No questions about that; and that Apple is telling you that your battery replacement plan will cost you a total of $59, plus $6.95 shipping. Folks: iPod batteries can be bought for $9.99 depending on your iPod model.

The admittance by Apple that your ipod battery will eventually die is based on real limitations of the battery's internal design specifically the iPod battery’s capacity.

Until next time – Dan Hagopian,
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