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The [Amazing] iPod Battery

Date:  Tue, 3rd-Aug-2004prevnext

Tags: Apple, Commentary, Hardware

I knew, as soon as I ordered my beloved iPod, that its battery life wouldn't be sufficient for my needs.

I travel up and down the country frequently, I spend weeks in hotel rooms and I am often on-site with clients. With just 8-hours of run-time, the iPod was going to give up on day 1...

“it manages to power the iPod for almost 72 hours”

My iPod was just a couple of days old when I read about BTI's "iPod Battery" over at iPodlounge. Quoting from their review:

"An advertised product promised five times better performance than something you already own, but it turned out to be ten times better... The iPod Battery is a rechargeable external battery advertised to keep an iPod or iPod mini running for 'up to 40 hours of music play per charge,' but as we've discovered, there's a significant likelihood that your iPod will get closer to twice BTI's estimates."

Needless to say, I placed my order there and then.

Putting the BTI Battery to the Test

I'm not going to review the battery here, since iPodlounge's review is already comprehensive and informative. However, I did want to test the battery to verify the performance iPodlounge recorded.

I wanted my test to be as accurate and as scientific as possible. Before I began the test, I ensured that both the iPod and the iPod Battery were charged to maximum capacity.

I configured the iPod to play continously from the 2,124 tracks I currently have within it. I turned "shuffle" on (stress testing!) and the backlight off. I made notes for the duration of the test, which I am duplicating below:

Apple's MP3 player extraordinaire, the iPod
  • 26th July, 2004 @ 15:00hrs - Start
  • Midnight - 9 hours of run time has elapsed, iPod Battery (external) still showing battery level at 100%
  • 27th July, 2004 @ 15:00hrs - iPod has now been running continuously for 24-hours. External battery level now reading 75%
  • 28th July, 2004 @ 17:00hrs - iPod has now been running continuously for 50-hours. External battery level still reads 75%. I have already achieved 25% more run-time than BTI's quoted "40 hours"!
  • 29th July, 2004 @ 09:00hrs - iPod has now been playing for 66-hours!!! Battery still reads 75%!
  • 29th July, 2004 @ 10:30hrs - The external battery level is now reading 50% - after 67.5 hours!
  • 29th July, 2004 @ 14:30hrs - The external battery is now reading 25%.
  • 29th July, 2004 @ 14:50hrs - External battery still reads 25% but the iPod is now running off its internal battery. As accurately as I could measure, the external battery powered the iPod for 71hrs, 50mins. As an aside, the iPod worked its way through 1,112 tracks in this time.
  • 29th July, 2004 @ 22:00hrs - The iPod (now running on its internal battery) finally dies, having played continuously for an extraordinary 79 hours.

Isn't that amazing?

BTI quotes 40 hours for its battery, yet it manages to power the iPod for almost 72 hours. Apple quotes "up to 8 hours" for the 40GB, 3G iPod and, despite all the rumours of poor battery life, actually manages to achieve a respectable 7 hours and 10 minutes of continuous play.

Charging the Batteries

Surely this incredible performance comes at a price?

Having drained both batteries I expected to spend a day without my iPod while the batteries were recharging. However, the replenishment of both batteries took less time than I anticipated:

  • The iPod's internal battery recharged in just 2.5 hours
  • The BTI iPod Battery took 4 hours and 50 minutes to reach full capacity (BTI claim that subsequent charges should take less than 3 hours to complete)

Neither of these figures are bad when you remember that both batteries had been completely drained.

For Your Eyes Only

BTI's Dave Sarazen, in commenting on iPodlounge's review of their product wrote, "BTI worked with Apple during the R&D phase of this battery and they requested that the battery NOT charge the iPod's internal battery."

Well, to wrap up this article, I'm going to share with you a little secret - you can recharge the iPod from the BTI battery:

Connect the iPod to the iPod Battery with the iPod in "Disk Mode"[1] and the internal battery will be recharged from the external one. I have tested this and it works perfectly (disclaimer: I cannot say for certain that recharging the iPod in this way will not damage either the iPod itself or BTI's iPod Battery - you do this at your own risk).

[1] To switch the iPod into "Disk Mode", depress and hold the "Menu" and "Play/Pause" buttons until the iPod restarts. When the Apple logo is displayed, depress and hold the "Previous Track" and "Next Track" buttons until the "Disk Mode" display appears.

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