A few years ago, I was given an iPod as a freebie. As I think I’ve mentioned since then, I think the iPod is not a great design (clearly a significant proportion of the population disagrees with me), but it does play music and I couldn’t argue with the price.
Four and a half years later, one well known flaw in the design brought itself more forcefully to my attention. The battery died.
I can’t complain too much about the mere fact of battery death after so long; but I can (and intend to) ridicule the contemptible design æsthetic that considers it acceptable to build an expensive electronic device with a battery that isn’t designed to be replaced.
If the device was dead, so be it; I wasn’t losing much, not having paid for it in the first place. However, a quick search not only showed that the alternatives I’d vaguely heard of did exist, but they were available at the sort of price that made it an easy decision to attempt iLazarus surgery.
I experimented a little before sending off the moolah. iPodDoctor provide instructions online for opening up your iPod, so I was able – after a bit of nervous experimentation – to ascertain that I could open up my iPod. Reassured, I sent off a bit over a tenner for their big fat battery (there’s a slightly cheaper and less powerful one that’s easier to fit) and two days later it arrived.
The iPodDoctor instructions are pretty good, but fall down slightly in a couple of areas. One is regarding opening the iPod; although there’s a good, clear photo showing where to apply pressure to make the case flex and begin to open, it doesn’t make it quite clear enough exactly where you’re looking for a gap.
Perhaps slightly illogically, I was looking at the casing from the side, waiting for a gap to appear there between the white plastic front and the
shiny scratched aluminium back. I was looking in the right place, but from the wrong angle. You need to watch from above, as the metal casing flexes slightly outwards from the white front, not downwards.
Once you see a small gap, you can insert an implement to pry the casing clips apart,and once you succeed in that (a bit fiddly) it’s quite straightforward to gingerly separate the two halves of the casing, taking care not to damage the printed circuit connector between the two.
As I wanted an idea of how difficult it was to open the iPod before ordering, I went ahead and opened it with a metal dental tool (very handy for sculpting Milliput when patching or remodelling miniatures). iPodDoctor provide plastic tools for this job with the battery, and if you wait for those you might manage to avoid the very slight buckling of the metal casing that I achieved in my ham-fistedness. However, you’ve got to look fairly closely to spot it.
The next hurdle is physically replacing the battery. The iPodDoctor battery claims to have something like a 70% greater capacity for charge than the one it’s replacing. The cheaper/less challenging battery they offer claims a 30% improvement. However, the 70% battery doesn’t just have a greater electrical capacity; it’s physically bigger.
In order to fit it in, you have to squeeze it under the circuit board that the external iPod connector is mounted on. This is the other area where the instructions fall down slightly.
The instructions just say you have to fit the end of it under that circuit board. If you are slavishly following the instructions (as I tend to, first time around with easily-busted electronics) it may not occur to you that this is the reason why iPodDoctor also include a little star screwdriver with their battery. It took me a while for the penny to drop; a bit dumb perhaps, but I genuinely think this is something that should be explicitly stated by the instructions. You should unscrew the circuit board, slip the battery in while it’s loose, then tighten the board down again on top of the battery.
It’s not rocket science, but if the instructions have been careful and clear on almost everything else, it can come as a bit of a surprise that such a crucial step is missed out.
Well, once that little problem was solved it all began to come together, and it wasn’t too long before everything was carefully snapped back together and the iPod could be plugged in to charge.
Everything worked, and for not much more than a tenner – and some frayed nerves! – I have an operational iPod again. I’m pleased that there was a cheap option to get it going, and for me as a geek it was kind of interesting, but you know what? It shouldn’t be that hard. Sorry, the iPod is a clever design, clearly a very commercially successful design, but I still think that fundamentally it’s kind of a bad design; a classic case of form triumphing over function.