Howto: Maximize your iPod Battery Life

Charging your iPod is a rather simple process. Just plug it in the wall or into your computer. But is it really as easy as everyone thinks? The answer is No, or at least not if you want to keep your battery in good health. Plugging the iPod in to charge it is just the means to charge. Much care must be taken when charging the iPod’s battery to make sure you don’t overcharge it.

The iPod (all versions, except maybe the Shuffle) use a Lithium Ion battery. All that needs to mean to you is “some kind of rechargeable battery”, but it is actually a rather fascinating technology. Lithium Ion batteries are in many consumer electronics, such as some digital cameras, cell phones, and MP3 players like iPods. They are used mainly because of their light weight compared to other battery standards. Many laptop computers also use Lithiums, though they have larger ones than normal electronics. Regardless, they are also sort of sensitive. Anyone can charge it and be relatively safe, but charging it in a way to keep your battery going for many years is the tricky part. That is what I hope to demystify.

The first thing you want to keep in mind is overcharging. That is, you don’t want to charge the battery too much. Lithium Ions are designed in a way where they can actually be harmed by being charged too much. So, for example, charging a battery over night is a bad idea. Once or twice won’t hurt anything, but don’t make it a regular practice. Moreover, the batteries like to be worked a little bit. Think of it as a battery that likes to exercise. If you plug in your fully-charged iPod while listening to music, it will not be utilitizing the battery at all, which will slowly but surely harm the life of the battery. Instead, you should keep it unplugged as much as possible. By letting your battery be used on a daily basis is a lot better than just keeping it plugged in all the time. Fully using up the battery on a daily basis is not the ideal situation, but it should not harm it as badly as overcharge or not exercising the battery at all.

On the note of fully using up the battery, fully discharging the battery is recommended approximately once a month. So, ideally, if you use up about half your battery each day, and then charge it fully every night (taking care not to overcharge) you will never completely dissipate the energy. A full discharge is, however, a good thing in moderation. It “cleans the system”, so to speak, getting rid of any electrical abnormalities. Naturally, your battery will be fully depleted some days with a lot of use. It is not a big deal if it is fully depleted more than once a month, but try to keep it to a minimum.

Another major concern is temperature. Keeping your iPod (and its battery) in your hot car is a really, really bad idea… perhaps worse than overcharging. The ideal temperature for Lithium Ion batteries is about 60° F, but can operate safely anywhere between -4 and 95° F. So, realistically speaking, you should be fine unless you leave it in a trunk of a car in the middle of July or if you put it in the oven.

Also, if you plan on not using your iPod for an extended period of time, such as going on a month-long vacation or something like that, you should fully charge it before you go, and as soon as you come home. Lithium batteries, as mentioned above, like/need to be used, so letting them sit for extended periods of time can harm them.

One final note is that of the battery indicator. Apple’s site has an article that describes the fact that the battery indicator in pretty much every iPod is inaccurate. In fact, they are inaccurate in almost all devices, as it is impossible to measure it perfectly. So, don’t worry when your iPod seems to be running out of battery according to the indicator. Just listen to it as long as you want. If it does in fact run out, then you can charge it then. Otherwise, charge it when you are finished. Charging while you are listening should only be done after the battery is substantially depleted already.

I keep my iPod in the dock nearly all the time, but keep the dock connector that actually connects the dock to the wall unplugged most of the time. I don’t usually charge it until the indicator shows only a sliver remaining. When I do charge, I only do so for four hours (or until it is fully charged), not overnight.

When you get the hang of it, it isn’t really that difficult. However, care should be taken if you don’t want to be shelling out $65.95 every six months. For the record, my original 15GB iPod got around 6 hours of battery life after one year of use. Considering it didn’t get much more than 6 hours when I first bought it, I think this method words pretty good. My new Video gets some ridiculous amount of music play time. I’ve never actually timed it, but it’s at least ten hours. If you have an iPod, try to follow the above instructions. You will be glad you did when your iPod can playfor years to come.