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iPod Battery Replacement

posted May 01, 2006

iPod showing full battery charge

Happiness is a full battery meter.

My 30GB iPod is now about 2 and a half years old, and it still works great except for one thing: the battery. When new, the battery would last about 8 hours (which was about what Apple advertised for the third-generation iPod). However for the past few months the battery life has been dwindling down. This is a big deal for me, since I listen to my iPod during work, and the battery life was down to about 6 hours. I’d either need to start working part-time, or do something about my iPod’s battery.

I found out about Sonnet’s iPod Replacement Battery kit which was only $30 and the kit let me replace the battery myself. This was much better than spending $66 with Apple which would involve me shipping my iPod back to Apple. Plus by using Sonnet’s kit I’d get a chance to see what’s inside the sleek little iPod.

The Kit

Contents of Sonnet iPod battery replacement kit

Sonnet provided the replacement battery, two plastic tools and a CD-ROM containing an instructional video (available in several languages). There was no printed documentation, and not even a PDF document on the CD-ROM itself, but that was actually fine. No written instructions were really needed. The video was complete (with one minor exception that I’ll mention later) and the job was quite simple.

Opening the Case

As I mentioned, part of the reason for ordering this kit was that it would let me take my iPod apart. Something in my engineer’s brain needed to see what was inside. Part of the coolness of the iPod’s design is that there are no external screws holding the case shut. Opening the case requires a bit of force, lots of patience, and the two small plastic tools that Sonnet provides in their kit. You could probalby get the case open using some thin screwdrivers, but you would scratch up the metal case in the process. The plastic tools provided did a nice job and didn’t leave a single mark on the case.

Sonnet’s instructional video showed the person opening the case using just one plastic tool, but that didn’t work for me. As I worked the one tool around the case, the opposite side of the case would slip closed. The fix was simple: just use the second tool as a wedge to keep the case from slipping closed. I just kept the second tool in one spot while I worked the first tool around the case and then it opened quite easily.

Opening iPod case

Inside the iPod

Once I got the case open, it was easy to gently open it up and lay the two halves next to each other (see the picture on the right). The bulk of the electronics are on the front half of the case, with just a thin connector going to the back half of the case to the headphone jack.

iPod case open

A thin blue rubber cover provides some shock protection to the hard drive. The picture on the right shows the view underneath the hard drive (the top of the iPod is closest to the camera in this view). The battery is the rectangle on the left side and the small black square on the right side is the back side of the connector between the hard drive and the circuit board.

iPod with hard drive lifted up

The hard drive connector was easy to disconnect, but a little tricky to get back together during re-assembly. The picture on the right shows how the hard drive connects to the main board. During re-assembly, it’s important to be patient when trying to re-connect the hard drive. There was a nice solid “click” when the connector was properly re-attached to the main board.

iPod hard drive connector

Replacing the Battery

The original iPod battery is a Lithium-Ion, which is similar to many laptop batteries. No voltage is marked on the original battery. The Sonnet replacement is a 3.7V Lithium-Polymer which I believe is newer battery technology than Li-Ion. The original battery wires hooked under the a corner of the circuit board to stay out of the way of the case. The wires on the replacement battery were a bit too short to hook under the circuit board in the same way, but I had no problems keeping them out of the way of the case when closing it.

Original iPod battery connection Replacement iPod battery connection

The Results

Including spending time taking pictures as I went, the whole process took less than 30 minutes. If I didn’t bother taking pictures, I probably could have done it in half the time. Sonnet claims the replacement battery will last 30% longer than the original (on a third-generation iPod like mine). My informal testing indicates that their claim is probably true. After charging my new battery overnight, my iPod easily played all day at work and had plently left over when I was done. I would guess that my new battery life is around 10 hours, which matches the 30% improvement that Sonnet advertised.

I’d recommend Sonnet’s replacement battery to anyone with an iPod that isn’t holding its power as long as it used to. For first-generation iPods, Sonnet claims their replacement battery has 78% more capacity. They also show a 50% capacity increase over the stock iPod mini battery.

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