The lifespan of the iPod's rechargeable battery has recently generated a lot of press coverage worldwide; especially after the Neistat brothers highlighted the iPod's Dirty Secret. But Apple claims that reports suggesting that it has been inundated with calls from iPod owners experiencing reduced battery life are not true.
And this week's Macworld.co.uk poll would suggest that the problem has, in the words of one of our readers, "been wildly overstated and time will show what a trivial issue this really is."
Of the 1,047 readers polled 70 per cent have not experienced any reduction of battery life, and of these nearly half (49 per cent) admitted "I accept it will lose charge over time."
Although 30 per cent of respondents have experienced decreased battery life just 14 per cent of these people state that they are "unhappy" about the situation. The remaining 16 per cent have already accepted that their battery will not live on indefinitely.
However, 21 per cent of the iPod owners who have not yet experienced reduced battery life say that if it does happen they "won't be happy".
Many readers posting related comments on the Macworld forum report that their iPods are still going strong. Even first generation iPods, which are now over two years old, "still go for hours", according to one iPod owner.
One reader notes: "I bought a 5GB iPod almost the day they came out. I handed it to my disabled son who has thrashed the living daylights out of it every day – with no loss of battery life at all. If it packs up on him tomorrow it's been worth every penny."
Another reader notes of his two-year-old iPod: "The battery still lasts longer than the 10 hours quoted, usually about 12 hours."
But the forum also features the tales of some iPod owners who have experienced a reduced battery life.
One forum user tells his story: "I followed the instructions on iPodlounge to preserve the life of my battery, never letting it pass two bars of depletion. The battery wasn't lasting as long after about a year, but I expected that. However, after about 14-15 months it wasn't even lasting the duration of my walk to work (20 minutes). I really felt cheated."
Having tried "every kind of recharge and software restart suggested" this reader eventually purchased a replacement battery.
Other stories highlight a potential flaw in the battery level indicator. A problem that some readers indicate is fixed by a iPod software upgrade.
One reader points out: "There was one version of the iPod OS which did have a flaw which made the battery manager rather pessimistic. Some people were seeing very short battery lives, but a software reset solved the problem and miraculously restored the battery."
In fact on one Web site an iPod user sets out to explain how by doing exactly this he "managed to gat a two-year-old iPod, one that couldn't hold a charge overnight, running again at about 70 per cent of its original charge capacity simply by installing a firmware update."
In what could be an example of this problem, one reader explains: "The only issue I have with my 40GB, two-months-old, iPod is its battery level. Even after leaving it charging all night the level drops to 75 per cent as soon as I unplug the power. I think it is actually fully charged but just doesn't show it. I've never had it conk out."
Another adds: "My iPod has its quirks. Say my iPod battery indicator shows 25 per cent charge. I plug it in until it is fully charged. I unplug it, and guess what – the battery status indicator stays at 25 per cent. However, if I start using it for 5 minutes the battery status indicator creeps up to about 95 per cent."
Other readers note that there might not be a battery life issue at all if iPod owners followed guidance about prolonging the life of their lithium-ion batteries. However, there is some dispute over which piece of conflicting advice should be followed.
The best medicine
One reader says: "It's very important to adhere to the battery charging instructions – only recharge when the battery is almost flat and then fully recharge. Quick re-charges from only half-depleted batteries harm battery life span. This is the case with all rechargeable items – not a specific Apple problem."
Another reader disagrees, saying: "This is the opposite of good Lithium (Li+) battery care. This used to be the case with NiMH and NiCd batteries, but Li+ batteries do not like being discharged completely. The best way to care for a Li+ battery is to top it up whenever possible – but not excessively."
Adding to the confusion, another reader says: "The official Apple line is to recharge the iPod every 14-18 days minimum."
Readers point out a number of sources for information on looking after iPod batteries. These include Battery University - a Web site providing "practical battery knowledge"; iPod Battery FAQ, which seeks to answer many of the questions surrounding the battery issue – although it is not affiliated to Apple; and Apple's own Knowledge Base articles.
Battery University offers the following advice to prevent battery failure: "Avoid frequent full discharges because this puts additional strain on the battery," and "Never store the battery fully discharged".
Apple suggests that iPod owners should: "Install the latest iPod software, use the Hold switch, and keep iPod at room temperature."
If taking better care of the battery, or an iPod software install doesn't solve the problem, Apple is offering a number of schemes through which iPod owners can extend the lifetime of their iPod.
These include 12 months hardware support and 90 days of phone support, the chance to replace an out of warranty battery for £79, and extended customer support for £59.99.
However, some readers feel that this is not enough. One says: "Paying £79 to send my iPod away for a fortnight to replace a battery with a retail value of £30 tops and a changeover time of ten minutes or so is a rip off. I'd prefer to pay £25 for a battery and change it myself."
Another reader notes: "Nintendo's GameBoy Advance SP has a concealed battery. When it goes you just send the unit off and it comes back within the week with a new one. Free of charge. Apple should do the same."