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Originally published Saturday, April 23, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Getting Started

Dealing with span of battery on iPod mini

My iPod mini plays only three hours of music before it needs recharging. When I note in a column that Apple charges $100 for a replacement...

Special to The Seattle Times

My iPod mini plays only three hours of music before it needs recharging.

When I note in a column that Apple charges $100 for a replacement battery, readers respond with links to sites such as that sell iPod batteries for as low as $30.

That's good news, but since the mini is a little less than a year old and I've paid for AppleCare iPod service and support (two years for $59), I figure I can get the defective battery replaced. Apple technicians have been helpful when I've called before, so I'm confident this problem will be solved.

When I call to report the issue, instead of offering a replacement battery, the technician instructs me to turn off the backlight and EQ settings, recharge, and then play back one song continuously until the battery runs down.

If it lasts 7 to 8 hours, Apple considers it acceptable. Never mind that I can't read the screen without a backlight and would never listen to a single song continuously. Still, I follow his directions and on those settings, the battery endures for 7.5 hours.

Meanwhile, readers inform me that the new iPod mini comes with a battery that lasts 18 hours.

That definitely would be an improvement. I call my Apple contact and ask to try the latest mini to see how long the battery actually lasts (when I play more than one song).

She sends a shiny blue iPod mini (6GB $249; 4GB $199) that's irresistible. I connect it to my Mac with the included USB 2.0 cable and it takes less than an hour to charge and import the songs from my iTunes library.

So far, I'm impressed. Or I would be if I weren't so used to Apple's easy-to-learn-and-use products that I expect them to start up and run without a hitch.

Now for the battery test — I'll use this iPod the way I think many people use a music player — for an hour or two a day, sometimes skipping a song, sometimes adjusting the volume, and with a 5-second backlight. We'll see how many hours it can go before it needs to be recharged.

While testing, I can't help but notice how good the music sounds, how easy it is to operate this player, and how well-integrated it is with the iTunes library (which organizes and plays music, and connects directly to the online iTunes music store).

Songs auto-synced to the iPod are organized just as they are in the iTunes library on my computer, so on the mini I can easily access the same playlists, albums, artists and folders I've created in iTunes.


The battery lasts 9 hours, across 9 days. That's considerably longer than the battery in my original iPod mini, and OK with me if I only have to recharge every week or so. Plus, on long trips, when played continuously, this mini will likely run for upward of 18 hours. Still, I wish Apple would use a switchable rechargeable battery so when the battery runs down, or dies, I could simply swap it for a charged backup.

All in all, I like this little blue mini a lot. In fact, it's the best music player, in my opinion, if the battery can endure over time.

Now let's take a look at a couple of the accessories iPod owners are rapidly accumulating — we'll cover two portable speaker systems today and more items in a coming column.

The Harmon Multimedia JBL On Stage ($160) 4-speaker stereo system plays music from any iPod (or other MP3 player). It's shaped like a 7-inch, 1-pound doughnut; the iPod sits in the front, surrounded by two speakers on each side that pump out 6 watts per channel while plugged into a wall outlet. Plus, the iPod recharges while it sits.

My 23-year-old daughter takes On Stage and an iPod to a party and reports the sound system works well for the living-room event. She says On Stage is easy to use and the music coming from its speakers is clear and sounds pretty good.

Another smaller and even more portable speaker system from Harmon Multimedia, JBL On Tour ($100), looks like an oversized eyeglass case that opens to reveal two 1.5-inch speakers.

Plug the device into a wall outlet, or load four AAA batteries, to power the two speakers that pump out 3 watts per channel. The batteries reportedly provide more than 24 hours of continuous play at normal to high listening levels, and rechargeable batteries can be used instead of disposables.

I plug the new blue iPod mini into this sound system and note that the speakers produce audio that's better than what comes out of my laptop, and not quite as good as sound from the OnStage 4-speaker system, which isn't as good as sound from Harmon Multimedia's larger and more expensive sound systems. However, OnTour and OnStage are a good deal more portable.

Beyond audio accessories, if you're interested in learning more about how to use an iPod portable music player and iTunes software more effectively (for both Mac and Windows users), read "iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual" third edition, by J.D. Biersdorfer.

Write Linda Knapp at; to read other Getting Started columns, go to:

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