The Amazing $350 Disposable iPod

You’ve probably heard this before, but I now know it from first hand experience: iPods are designed to last no longer than 2 years.

My $350 30Gb iPod Photo was 1 month out of its 1 year warranty when it displayed the infamous ‘sad face of death’. After waiting in line to see my friendly neighborhood Apple ‘Genius’, the guy put the iPod up to his ear and pronounced the hard drive dead. He then told me that the iPod cannot be fixed for less than the price to replace it.

When I expressed dismay, he told me that the hard drive does not last as long if you ‘use it a lot’. He also told me that I could trade in the dead iPod for ‘10% off my next iPod’ – yeah that’s a great deal – at this rate I’ll be paying around $290 a year to use an iPod.

I would be interested to hear in the comments what’s the longest anyone has had an iPod working?

I’ve also added an excerpt from a great NY Times article on this subject below:

Good Luck With That Broken iPod

My iPod died.

It happened right after Christmas — a Christmas, I hasten to add, in which I gave my wife the new video iPod, making it the latest of the half-dozen iPods my family has bought since Apple began selling them in October 2001. We also own five Apple computers, and have become pathetically loyal because of our reliance on the iPod. To the extent that Apple is using the iPod to drive sales of other Apple products, the Nocera family is proof that the strategy works; we’ve probably spent more than $10,000 on Apple hardware since the iPod first came out. Alas, at least three of the iPods were replacements for ones that broke.

This time, though, I decided to get my iPod fixed. After all, it wasn’t even two years old and had cost around $300. Like all iPods, it came with a one-year warranty. Although Apple sells an additional year of protection for $59, I declined the extended warranty because the cost struck me as awfully high — a fifth of the purchase price of the device itself.

Anecdotal evidence — like chat boards filled with outraged howls from owners of dead iPods — strongly suggests that you can write the rest of this story yourself. You start by thinking: ”I’ll just call Apple!” But it’s so hard to find the customer support number on Apple’s Web site that you suspect the company has purposely hidden it.

Eventually, you find the number and make the call. Although the tech support guy quickly diagnoses your problem — a hard drive gone bad — he really has only one suggestion: buy a new iPod. ”Since it is out of warranty,” he says, ”there’s nothing we can do.” You’re a little stunned. But you’re not ready to give up. On the Apple site, there’s a form you can fill out to send the iPod back to Apple and get it fixed. But you do a double-take when you see the price. Apple is going to charge you $250, plus tax, to fix your iPod. There is no mistaking the message: Apple has zero interest in fixing a machine it was quite happy to sell you not so long ago.

Now you’re reeling. You’re furious. But what choice do you have? You can’t turn to a competitor’s product, not if you want to keep using Apple’s proprietary iTunes software, where you’ve stored all the music you love, including songs purchased directly from the iTunes Music Store, which you’ll lose if you leave the iTunes environment. So you grit your teeth and buy a new iPod. Of course since it’s a newer machine, it has that cool video capability. But you’re still angry.

You’ve read recently that Apple has sold 42 million iPods in less than four and a half years. Thanks to the iPod, Apple just reported its most profitable quarter ever. But you wonder how many of those 42 million units have gone to people who feel, as you do, that you’ve just been taken to the cleaners by Apple? You also wonder why do iPods seem to break so frequently? And why is Apple so willing to tick off people who spend thousands of dollars on Apple products by refusing to deal with broken iPods?

Or at least that’s what I wondered as I went through the five stages of iPod grief.

CUSTOMER support is the ugly stepchild of the consumer electronics business. Companies like Dell and Palm and Apple have customer support centers not because they want to but because they have to. Computers, personal digital assistants and other digital devices are complicated machines. They break down much more frequently than, say, old analog televisions. And consumers expect the companies to deal with problems when they arise.

But customer support is expensive for gadget makers. ”A phone call costs a company 75 cents a minute,” said the writer and technology investor Andrew Kessler. ”An hour call is $45.” As prices have dropped sharply for computers and other digital devices, keeping those phone calls to a minimum has become supremely important to consumer electronics companies that want to maintain their margins and profitability.

That’s why all the big tech companies try to force customers to use their Web sites to figure out problems themselves. It’s why so many of them bury the customer support phone number. And it’s also why, when you do call, companies like Dell teach its support staff to diagnose computer problems over the phone, and then talk you through some fairly complicated repairs. With its machines so inexpensive, Dell simply can’t afford to allow too many customers to ship the computer back to the company to be fixed.

Consumers, though, don’t really understand this. As much as they like being able to buy computers for less than $1,000, they don’t realize that one of the trade-offs is minimal tech support. Nor do the companies spell this out; instead, they pretend that their service is terrific. Thus, there is a gap between what customers expect from companies that sell them complicated digital machines, and what companies feel they need do to ensure that those machines make money.

With the iPod, Apple has turned this gap into a chasm. On the one hand, because the price of an iPod is far lower than the price of a computer, Apple has even more incentive to keep people from calling; one long phone call turns a profitable iPod into an unprofitable one. Nor does it make economic sense to repair even the iPods under warranty. Instead, Apple simply ships you a new one.

On the other hand, an iPod is a very fragile device. The basic iPods are built around a hard drive, a device so sensitive that ”if it takes one shot, that will pretty much kill it,” according to Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group, a technology consulting firm. Its screen cracks easily. Its battery can’t be easily replaced because an iPod can’t be opened up by mere mortals. All of these were conscious design choices Apple made, some of them having to do with keeping the cost down, while others were done largely for aesthetic reasons. But given how much wear and tear an iPod takes — the core market is teenagers, for crying out loud — is it any wonder that they break? ”If you get two or three years out of a portable device,” Mr. Enderle said, ”you’re probably doing pretty well.”

Which Apple doesn’t tell you. Indeed, it doesn’t say anything about how long you should expect your iPod to last. And so consumers buy it with the expectation that they’ll put all their music on it and they’ll carry it around for a good long time. And when that doesn’t happen, they feel betrayed.

Steven Williams, a lawyer who brought a class-action suit against Apple a few years ago over the failed battery problem, told me that he was amazed to discover, as the litigation began, that Apple seemed to feel, as he put it, ”that everyone knew iPods were only good for a year or two.” Thanks in part to the lawsuit, the battery issue is one of the few Apple will now deal with: if your iPod dies because of the battery you can send it back and get a new one for a mere $65.95, plus tax. Of course, you then lose all your music.

”Apple has been willing to alienate a certain percentage of its customer base forever,” said Chip Gliedman, a vice president with Forrester Research, the technology research firm. Why? Because Apple is an extraordinarily arrogant company. ”Apple thinks it is special,” is how Mr. Gliedman put it.

At this particular moment, of course, Apple is special, and it can get away with being arrogant. It has a product that everyone wants, and for which there is no serious competition.

But it seems to me that Apple is on a dangerous course. Yes, it has strong incentives to minimize tech support, but to say ”Not Our Problem” whenever an iPod dies is to run the serious risk of losing its customers’ loyalty. ”I believe that the iPod is one of the most brilliant platforms ever devised,” said Larry Keeley, who runs Doblin Inc., an innovation strategy firm. But, he added, he has long predicted that the ”maintenance issue,” as he called it, would be the product’s Achilles’ heel. ”Consumers are just not conditioned to believe that a $300 or $400 device is disposable.” Mr. Keeley, whose daughters all have iPods, has come to believe that their natural life ”is just a hair longer than the warranty,” and that Apple’s level of service is ”somewhere between sullen and insulting.”

And, he warns, the day will come when the iPod has a major competitor. ”There will be competing platforms, and they’ll get robust, and other companies will figure out how to crack iTunes,” he said. At which point, Apple will reap what it is now sowing.

A final note: You may have noticed there is no Apple spokesman defending the iPod or Apple’s customer support in this column. When I called Apple, wanting to know, among other things, how long Apple believes an iPod should last, I got a nice young woman from the P.R. department. She said she’d try to find someone at the company to talk to me. That was on Wednesday.

I’m still waiting.

85 Responses

  1. Johnny says:

    Apple relies on the design of their products to make money. The products themselves are not well engineered. This is nothing new in my opinion. This goes for all of their products. We tried having Apple laptops around the office for a while, we all got so unproductive (due to the damn things locking up all the time), that we just went back to PCs. Now we use those laptops as doorstops–such a waist of money.

    Alas, as long as Apple doesn’t get any competition in the “design” department, people will keep on bying their broken devices.

    P.S. I’m not an Apple-basher. I gave their hardware and software a chance and was just really disapointed.

  2. Private says:

    I have a second generation iPod that a bit more than four years old and it still works great. I’m not planning on buying a new one until this dies though if an updated video iPod comes out that would seriously tempt me.

    Hard drive on mine hasn’t failed. My original concern when I bought the thing was the battery, but mine lasts somewhere between 5-6 hours now and thats good enough for me. New batteries are so cheap ($7) anyway that I’ll probably replace it in a few months no matter what. I use it 4 days a week on the 1 hour commute to and from work, and a few hours outside of that and have to recharge it twice a week.

  3. Enrique says:

    Between my wife and I, we’ve owned 6 iPods in the last 5 years. My share has been two: the original was a gift — where the FireWire connector became unsoldered after 2 years — and the 2nd Generation 20GB which I still use daily — mostly to move files to the office and back. My wife has had an original 5GB with the same bad FireWire connector after two years; a silver Mini that we sent it in for Apple’s Battery Replacement Program (just as the warranty was about to end) and received a refurbished Mini that lasted 100 days. That mini got traded in (10% off at least covers the sales tax) for a Nano. I’m hoping the the non-Hard Drive Nano will last somewhat longer.

  4. christofunk says:

    You should be interested by this intersting survey at macintouch about ipod failure rates :

    I did not have failure with my 5th gen yet…

    Christofunk, happy Simpleviewer user

  5. Mac Commercial says:

    And they say Windows Freezes and Locks and this and that…
    Well I’m running the Beta Windows Vista And Look out Mac…
    That is the hidden little story behind The Infamous Ipod Sad Face
    Of Death, which by the way happens in all of them.
    They are built to fail….
    did you hear that….Built to fail….
    So you can go buy another one to retrive your Ipod only data…
    man o man…

  6. Brendan Smith says:

    Ok, look – I’m no Apple zealot, never owned a mac and the only ipod I owned I’ve already sold off. That declared I can keep typing.

    The ipod I bought I had purchased as a broken unit off ebay. The HD was making clicking noises and the screen had that sad face of death. I can’t say that it was meant to die. The hard drive was made by toshiba (not sure if they are the only drives used by ipods). I opened the unit and the hard drive plactic clip connector had come off. I re-seated it and up she started. Horray! Cost me AU$80 for an ipod!

    However, two days later the drive exhibited bad sectors and poor battery life. I bought another drive from ebay (AU$70) and AU$30 for a battery – I was still all good for a $180 all told.

    I sold the unit for $200 – I just found I never used it enough. Would I buy another? Not sure – I feel proficient enough at fixing them – just not sure I have the need for them. Emotional purchase anyone?

  7. None says:

    You can probably fix the ipod by slamming it on a hard surface.
    Metal side down as hard as you can. Worked for me.

  8. Drew says:

    5 years.
    P.S. They’ve only been out for 5 years. The shortest I’ve gone without an iPod failing on me is…oh, wait. That hasn’t happened yet.

  9. Patjamas says:

    I’m on my 3rd video iPod. Within the first 2 weeks of their release I had my first one melt and the replacement also melted. So far my new one has been fine.

  10. ken says:

    I have two iPods, a 3rd-gen and a 4th-gen. Neither has had any problem, though I did have a refurb 4th crap out on me out of the box and Apple replaced it via DHL two days later.

    Think about it – if an average of 13.7% of iPods fail (figure according to the Macintouch self-selected survey results), then that means that over 86% of iPods are out there working just fine. Your bad luck is just that… bad luck. It has nothing to do with Apple designing something to fail.

  11. Niklas says:

    I have a 2th-gen iPod 20GB that i use every day. It works just fine!

  12. Josh says:

    My third-gen iPod has had some battery issues. The first battery stopped holding a charge after two years. The second lasted another six months. I should be getting it back soon. I bought a service contract with Best Buy that is good for another year and a half. In theory, that should be enough time to get a replacement when it kills another battery or two. 😉

  13. Administrator says:


    Do you think a 13.7% failure rate is OK? For how many other products would this be acceptable?

  14. Ed says:

    Apple is going down. This iPod nonsense is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s also the walled-garden approach to file formats and iTunes, the incompatibility of iLife with my life, the arrogance (i.e. the word “podcast”), and the increasing regulatory pressure, especially in Europe.

    Apple is one of 10 ‘Stocks to Sell’
    “Apple is a terrific company that may have reached it’s market peak”

    Is Harvest Time Over?
    “Apple’s success has been built almost entirely on the sales of iPods. Popular as they are now, we’re starting to hear music fans grumble. They may be stylish, but they certainly don’t last forever and I can’t tell you how many people I know who have found theirs breaking shortly after the warranty expired.

    Problem is, if these people want to buy a different kind of MP3 player, they often find the songs they’ve bought through iTunes are only compatible with iPods, unlike songs bought through other online music companies. Sound familiar? This kind of exclusivity is exactly what brought Apple down when it refused to cooperate with a new software company called Microsoft. Steve Jobs’ inability to play nicely has hurt him once before and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a backlash from music fans frustrated with the limitations of iPods and iTunes. You can’t keep a customer hostage.”

    10 Things Your iPod Won’t Tell You
    “At issue is Apple’s proprietary format, which makes the iPod incompatible with other digital-music technology. According to Chris Crotty, senior analyst for consumer electronics at iSuppli, such closed systems either move toward compatibility or get surpassed by the competition. Think of AOL’s early bid to set up its own online world — highly successful, until the bigger and better Internet rendered it obsolete. Apple is similarly positioned and could end up painting itself into a corner, just as it did with Macintosh. “Over time the market prefers open systems,” Crotty says.”

  15. Strom says:

    I’ve had an ipod “photo” (ie, the first color ipod, before they made all of them color) since they came out. It’s 40Gb , and I have never ever had the slightest problem with it . I probably use the thing at least one hour everyday , and when I’m at school I probably get a good 2 or 3 hours out of it every day. Granted, a few of my friends have had troubles with their ipods, but a lot of the time it comes from disconnected hard-drives. I can see the argument that Apple simply doesn’t make their products to last, but I can’t cite personal experience to that statement.

  16. Gregory Fleet says:

    I have an original Mac-only Firewire iPod (very scratched — from the bottom of the my son’s backpack trip to Europe). Works perfectly. Very very very heavy use. I have a third generation iPod (the one with the four buttons above the scroll-wheel). 40G so is my main home jukebox — used daily for years. Also, a nano — less than a year old, and a 30G video. No problems at all.

  17. Huw says:

    *sigh* …. people get so bitter about Apple and iPods … such good little products that some characters are desperate to see them fail …. human nature, I suppose.

    Look at the Macintouch survey – 13.7% headline failure rate . . hmmm, now read the commentary:

    • “Many readers acknowledged damage or accident as the cause of failure” – I guess that means dropped iPods, which are hardly Apple’s fault!
    • “Roughly half the described failures were battery-related” …. note later comment: “. . . many readers considered a dramatically shortened battery life to be a failure” . . . !!

    No wonder that Macintouch comments: “…we can’t help but wonder if this means the dead-iPod failure rate is significantly less than indicated by survey numbers” …

    My personal family experience: we’ve had four mp3 players, three of which have been Apple (original 5Gb iPod, 40Gb 3G iPod, 2Gb iPod Nano). All have been used everywhere and everyday. The only one to end in a black plastic bag was the non-Apple player – all three iPods are still functioning fine, even without battery replacements . . .

  18. Felix says:

    Strom said: ‘a few of my friends have had troubles with their ipods, but a lot of the time it comes from disconnected hard-drives.’

    Does that mean it’s easy to fix a disconnected HD? How would I diagnose + fix this?

  19. GG says:

    First to answer your question, I have a 2nd gen iPod that’s still going strong. Replaced the battery myself about 1 1/2 ago, it works great! My 4th gen iPod is almost a year old, no problems yet.

    Now, as far as your iPod problem is concerned, here’s my advice: Go to back to your local Apple store and ask to see the manager. Raise he11!

    I was sitting at the Genius Bar at the Skokie, IL Apple store about a month ago while I was getting my iBook worked on, and this guy came in with a 4th gen iPod that was physically twisted. The whole body was twisted/warped! It looked like the guy had placed the thing in a vice and hit it on opposite corners to bend it. Now, he was not very happy because the iPod didn’t work. Imagine that. Now, I sat there and thought, “What an idiot. There’s no way he’s going to get that replaced.”

    Guess what? The manager came out, asked, “What can we do to make you happy?”. Answer? “I would like this iPod replaced”. They did it.

    Additionally, I have a friend whose 4th Gen iPod died just after warranty. He took it to the Milwaukee Apple Store, and they let him buy an AppleCare warranty for it after the fact, and then promptly replaced it!

    So, you can DEFINITELY get it replaced, you just need to stick to your guns. If you own a lot of Apple products, let them Apple know about it. If you’ve been responsible for others buying Apple products for themselves, let Apple know about it. Ask for the manager. Whatever it takes.

    I’ve personally been responsible for lots of money being put in Apple’s coffers, and there’s no WAY I’d let them get away with that.

    Just my opinion.


  20. duf says:

    -sigh too- I’ve owned 7 Mac desktops and 4 laptops since 1989. A few had to be returned for warranty work. A few were replaced by better/faster/cooler models within 2 years. One is still in service after 5 years (by my 6 year old). I’ve also worked on PCs running DOS, Windows 3.1, 98se, 2000, and XP. I don’t buy bleeding edge anymore. I don’t make major updates to my OS until it’s been through a rev or two. I can’t afford the downtime.

    My 3rd gen iPod 20 GB needed a new battery after a year of use. It was part of a class-action lawsuit that resulted in a $50 credit at the Apple store. I replaced the battery myself for $25, and put the $50 toward a refurb Shuffle (better for exercising). My wife’s iPod Mini is running strong after a year and a half of heavy use. No compaints.

    I’m lucky to get a year out of my cell phones. The volume knob on my 3 year old Ford Focus stereo doesn’t work. I’ve replace my DVD player 3 times in the last 2 years. My Nikon 990 lasted a decent 3 years before the number of burned out pixels became unbearable. Canon fixed the CCD on my Vistura camcorder 4 times before replacing it with a newer model (and much cheaper build), which lasted 6 months before the battery wouldn’t hold a charge…

    Bottom line for me is that all gadgets have a best-case lifespan that depends on use/abuse, build quality, and proprietary design limitations. Not to mention obsolescence. You don’t HAVE to buy Apple’s DRM AAC music files from iTMS. I prefer buying the CD and ripping my own to a higher bit rate MP3. Keeping the CD is the only hope of future-proofing my digital music I can think of. Then again I still break out the vinyl when the mood strikes me.

    My first generation Sony Walkman (blue metal case, dual volume sliders) outlasted every cassette tape I bought for it. I retired it after 7 or 8 years because it weighed as much as a brick, couldn’t record to tape, and couldn’t play CDs. Can’t imagine how much I spent in AA batteries over that time period. I’d get about 8 hours out of each pair. All those cassettes are now land-fill.

    Make informed buying decisions. Don’t buy bleeding (or even cutting) edge tech without knowing the risks. Suck it up people, or get out of the game.

  21. Eric3 says:

    Interesting… My 3G iPod, which I bought used by the way, has been going strong in the two years I’ve had it. Of course, I recently replaced the battery once the old one got so underpowered it couldn’t even spin up the drive on its own, and manually reformatted the drive down to 10 gigs (from 20) when a bad sector appeared around the 10.1 gig mark. (Here’s how: )

  22. Eric3 says:

    ^the link will take you to the aforementioned site^

  23. Edified says:

    My 2G iPod is still kickin’ along quite nicely. The battery life is still 3+ hours after more than 4 years of use. It’s missing a vertical line on the screen but other than that it works well.

    Cheers, Ed Palma

  24. Huw says:

    Good comparison with mobiles (and other gadgets!), Duf ….

    In the nine months that my teen son has been punishing his iPod Nano (still working fine at time of typing!), he’s gone through 4.5 mobile phones: a Motorola, a Samsung, a Nokia, a Sagem, and his current Samsung has lost the ability to send texts and the screen is dying …

    If Apple made a mobile, I’d probably get him to buy it!!

  25. More says:

    My girlfriend iPod (3G) is showing signs of illness but still working quite well (except for the “less-than-2-hours-sometimes-even-less-than-1-hour-battery” issue).

    Mine, (4G) has been replaced 2 times already (lasted less than a year). It’s my third iPod, the other two has been sold to friend for a really reasonable price (less than half the price). Both died a year (or so) later.

  26. michelle says:

    I bought my 3rd gen ipod in spring of 2003. It still works as a music player, but I used its generous 30 gb hard drive as a portable drive for my freelance work and it has started corrupting larger files. The battery life could be better but it holds a charge long enough for a 4 hour plane flight.

    To be fair, I have used it nearly every single day for the past 3+ years. And for what it’s worth, I bought it as a refurb.

  27. Nick says:

    I have a 3G iPod that I got for college graduation. It still works fine. The battery power is lower than when I started, but I mainly use it in my car so that isn’t much of an issue. I excpet given battery technology for that to happen.

    I even have a 1G iPod that I gave to my parents, that still works almost perfectly, minus small mechanical issues with the scroll wheel (pre-digital). I think that any product given the whide release of one such as the iPod is bound to have lots of press about it’s failures, as happy people don’t complain. Maybe you are doing something to your iPod that mistreats it more than myself or others, or maybe you are just unlucky. I agree that would be frustrating, but there is no way Apple wants them to fail. That is silly, and they aren’t Microsoft.

    Get a case, if you don’t have one, keep it safe, don’t drop it, don’t leave it in the sun, all the usual things, and you should have a nice digital music player for many years to come.

  28. Damyan P. says:

    I have an 20GB click wheel. I have it for about 1 year and 1/2 and so far no problems. I used it as external hdd, and I use it pretty much everyday. Thank god it’s still working… I’m waiting now the battery to die on me cuz it’s getting there and if apple still want the $100 I may get a new iPod. BTW one of my friends send hid ipod for replacement of the battery and guess these idiots lots his ipod. So instead the old one he got brand new video 🙂 which good but not that good. Turned out that video is shit and screen broke on him so now he swithced to creative. I hope apple realize that making cheap mp3 players in china is not the way to make bussines. Every new generations is cheaper and cheaper the prices stay the same. Bottom line Steve Job is not a angel and he is probably greedier then anyone on this earth.

  29. Clarence says:

    My original iPod 5GB is working great in my car…. 🙂

  30. Chuck says:

    My original 5GB is still working, as are all five of my iPods. The only one that was replaced was the one I got free working at Apple, and it went bad from using it as a boot drive every day all day behind the GBar.

  31. oedipus says:

    a few years ago my 1G 10GB model got zipped up in the top pocket of my backpacking backpack. that top pocket was washed and tumble dried. after looking for my iPod then remembering where i had left it, i immediately made plans to have to go down and buy a new one.

    lo and behold, i took it out of the top pocket, pressed the middle button and magically the thing still worked.

    my roommate at the time, who happened to work for apple’s laptop engineering department, was friends with an iPod product manager. he told that person my story and the manager wasn’t surprised by what transpired, although he gave my iPod 6 months to live.

    that was 2 years ago and my iPod still works.

  32. Lucas says:

    got it more than 3 years (20gb, which i can update later with a new HD which gives me 40gb space instead of 20gb :)), had tiny problems once with updating and itunes crap, but besides that it works great.

  33. Wiel says:

    My iPod 2nd gen, also works fine.

    Battery is still up to 7 hours, I bought it from the net secondhand, and it had been used heavy.

    I’m thinking of replacing the battery for a higher model, you can get batteries that last up to 20 hours for iPods now, so why not change it yourself. The tools needed are included in the battery package. 🙂
    I think my iPod is going to last a long time with me, even if it falls from tables sometimes, it keeps on going!

  34. Chris says:

    My iPod has been running strong for 4 years. Its even one of the ones that people sued about the battery life so I got a $50 store credit even though mine still works beautifully. I think at one point, by accident it actually ended up falling off of my desk and when I went to pick it up
    and then of course my chair leg scooted on top of it and then all of my weight shifted right on top of it. The case was a little bit bent but I noticed the other day after I left it in the car for an entire HOTTTT Texas day the caseing fixed itself. Since then I’ve bought an iPod photo and ruined it during the Rose Bowl parade… it rained really really hard and it ended up in puddle in my pocket. I took it to the apple store when I got home and they replaced it giving credit to “mechanical failure.” Shortly after with my brand new replaced iPod I sold it for more than I paid. Lesson learned… iPods last a long time if you dont drown them, and even if you do the apple geniuses aren’t really that smart and will replace it no questions asked. I still have my original unit running as good as ever, minus some wear and tear, because I’m not the most careful person with them. I’m going to go get lost in a forrest now and knock on every tree I can so hopefully this whole post doesn’t kill all of my iPod luck.

  35. Nat says:

    Felix you can borrow my first generation iPod till you get a new one, it still gets six hours of battery life.


  36. Rich says:

    The same thing happened to me……………as soon as the warranty expired; the iPod died. The Apple genius said “There are a lot of little moving parts” So………..had to buy a brand new video iPod for $299 but I got a whopping 20% off and “the deal of a lifetime” on an extended warranty. It lasted about a year and a half. So………..I figure I have to spend $300 every two years to keep up with the latest technolgy.


  37. Rich says:

    I have one of the first ipods (5Gb 1g) and it still works, the battery life is crap. an hour at most. but for in the car it is still a champ and I often forget to turn it off so it just plays all day and night off the car battery.

    So that would be 5+ years I thing… they came out 01 right?

  38. I’ve had a 2nd gen 4GB iPod that is nearly five years old now, and it works just fine. I don’t use it much though, and it’s so heavy compared to the current model, and the battery life and display is crap, but that’s technology for you.

  39. Fatkat says:

    Someone who lives close to the Apple HQ should start a website, where you can mail your broken, dead, melted ipod into them, and pay $50.00 to have it thrown through the window of Apple’s HQ while on Video! – That’s worth $50.00. Just imagine how fast Apple would change it’s policy after replacing hundred’s of their big windows.

  40. Maria Clifford says:

    I have the original iPod circa 2001. My only complaint is that if I charge the battery, I have to use the iPod right away. The battery lasts a day, whether you use the iPod or not. Then you have to recharge it. I had another MP3 player before that – the Rio. The iPod was much easier to load with music. Since I don’t have thousands of songs I’m thinking of getting an iPod shuffle. I just use the iPod for the gym. I’m 61, so I’m probably not your typical user.

  41. cerian says:

    I bought my 40gb Apple Ipod in Jan 05. Eleven months later it died. It was in immaculate condition. They replaced it.
    Then four months later, the new one also died. New Apple products only have a 3months warranty.
    It’s a month out of warranty, and in the same condition as when it left the store, I wrote three letters to Apple before they could be bothered to scrape together a reply. Literally scrape…it was a lovely mixture of cut and paste and terrible spelling.

    It’s really annoying that Apple are allowed to only guarantee they’re new replacement product for 90lousy days. It’s also really annoying that the product is so useless that it only just limps out of the warranty, and then Apple just shrug their products.
    And finally, it’s really annoying that Apple KNOW they have a huge problem with this product. These people are meant to be computer specialists, I imagine with the technical know-how they all have between them they can google ’40gb ipod’, or maybe even open that bulging mail-bag of complaints. But instead of replacing their faulty ipod with something from a range that i don’t know…hmmm…maybe WORKS! They have kept they’re heads down and chuckled evilly knowing that eventually everyone warranty runs out and then we’re all finished.

    I also don’t understand the answers on this link that include ‘yes my ipod is fine…’but you have to use it straight away after charging it because it doesn’t hold it’s charge’, or ‘the display is rubbish’, or ‘the battery lasts an hour’, or ‘I couldn’t update it off i-tunes’.
    Doesn’t that mean that it’s not working correctly?

  42. mick dowling says:

    hi my 4th generation 40gb ipod hardrive crashed exactly one year to the date it was bought, Apple did refurbish it for me after a few phonecalls

    but it crashed again 6 months later and the harddrive is completely finished.
    I am so dissapointed in Apple as I have a g4 which hasnt given me any problems in 6 years, so I expected quality especially since they charge so much for the ipod. but I feel ripped off totally and I have lost all my faith in Apple, so rather than pay the ridicolous price to repair it. I went online for a solution there are sooooooo many ipod customers out there in the same situation as I was. do a search its incredible to think they have so many unhappy customers. so I found a site explaining how to take you ipod apart and replace the hard drive yourself, this is what i did, i bought the hardrive
    for half the price apple would charge me to repair it, and it was all so easy.

    you know when your harddrive has crashed and banging it a few times just doent work, you have nothing to loose but do it ureself

    I bought new hard drive on ebay , at a good price

    spread the word

  43. Martin Hax says:

    Whenever I hear the word “Ipod” I get cranky… The product behind this word cost me quite a bit of money, quite a bit of time, and a hell of a lot good music.

    PS: Maria Clifford is one cool lady!

  44. Kristan says:

    I have been using a third gen 15 gig iPod several hours most days, both for music and holding images downloaded from my cameras, since June of 2003. I know others mileage may vary, but so far 😉 my iPod is doing quite well.

  45. Beerzie says:

    Duf has it pretty much right. I won’t bore you with long sob stories, but I have had products that I like made by good companies — Honda, Cannondale, Bose, IBM, Canon, Apple, Nikon, and Sony, to name a few — that have lasted 2-4 years and then taken dirt naps. Part of the reason for this is because I use my stuff/gadgets a lot, and while I am careful with them, I don’t baby them. You really can’t expect complex products, especially electronic ones, to last a long time.

    However — and Apple better watch their asses on this one, because they are screwing up — there should be a commitment by companies to service and upgrade broken stuff in a way that is customer-friendly. No one is asking them to give away the farm, but most repairs on an expensive item shouldn’t be more than 50% of the replacement cost. This kind of commitment would be less profitable in the short term, but in the long term would build loyalty and higher sales.

  46. grumpyjane says:

    Well…just returned after more than an hour with the Apple Genius tech. I bought this 3rd generation IPod for my son. They replaced it twice soon after we bought it when they couldn’t fix it… now no warranty left. We had to replace the ear buds twice so this last time we spent $$ to buy a set of Shures. The nice Apple tech told me to try buying the part myself, although it was not an easy task to open but I could find instructiions online… to replace the face w/ scroll wheel and buttons. It would save me the $250 for apple to repair. I’ve own 6 Apple computers myself and donated others to schools… love Apples… (have 2 PCs)… but I don’t think I’ll replace my son’s Ipod. It’s like throwing money away. I love MACs but the support nowadays even for the computers led me to buy the 2 PCs…. and I was just almost ready to replace my husband’s powerbook with the new IMac… Maybe need to think about it some more.

  47. Andres says:

    hi. what you’ve had is BAD LUCK. we, at home, own 7 iPods, of all their kinds, and they all work GREAT. no single problem in any of them!
    we all use macs here, thank God, no PCs anymore… best puter in the world. Never had a problem, never a single thing replaced… just new hard drives replaced, more memory…
    nothing wrong with my Apple products.
    go to the store and ask them for a replacement. they have to replace it!!!
    my 2 cents.

  48. Erik says:

    It would be interesting to see a failure rate comparison between iPods and competing products. One of the problems with iPod failure rate discussions is that they usually devolve into anecdotal comparisons.

    As for Johnny’s vague statement about Apple hardware being unreliable, my experience has been quite different:

  49. Andrew says:

    Any mass-produced device is going to have gems, and lemons. Be it cars, computers, televisions, DVD players, etc. When you sell millions of a single product some are, mathematically, going to go bad, through either production or use. You can’t expect the iPod that gets dropped on the floor at a nightclub, into a puddle of beer, to work very well after. But those who use the product as instructed and take care of the products their hard-earned dollars bought, tend to live beyond expectation.

    That said, I am of the latter group. I have four iPods in my family; a 512 shuffle, a 1st gen 4GB mini, a 3rd gen 20gb, and a 2nd gen 20gb, all of which have given us zero issues. The only time any of them haven’t worked is when we don’t charge them.

    I’ve heard people complain about their new car not starting, but don’t have problem leaving their lights on at night. Apple consistently has the best tech-support in the industry, and issues I’ve had with my Macs have been handled quickly and correctly.

    If you’re looking for one person’s experience to typify the majority, keep looking. Take responsibilty for your purchases, and if you use your iPod everyday and not while sitting at your desk, $59 for AppleCare might be a good buy for you. Think long, not short, term.

  50. Tim says:

    For some years I’ve been a happy and loyal Mac user, that is until my laptop died. I got a completely ‘tough shit’ ‘not our problem’ totally arrogant attitude from them and their appalling customer care service. They eventually offered to fix it for free but the service provider made the machine worse, it had a virtual rebuild and after three visits still didn’t work.

    I continued to dig in and complain and kept on pointing out I had been a long standing customer. Eventually they backed down and offered me a replacement Macbook Pro. Of course I was happy about this but had completely changed my feelings about Apple. They even called to tell me that my Macbook Pro had been ordered only to call me the next day to haggle me down to a white Macbook.

    I went in to the Apple store and kicked off in the Genius Bar (they should really call it the disgruntled laptop and iPod owners Bar). We eventually struck a compromise and I’m awaiting a Black Macbook.

    It’s probably true that their arrogance will come back and haunt them. I’ve closed my .Mac account, sold my big monitor an Mac Mini and I’m now running a second hand iMac which I’ll get plenty of use out of. What will I do with my Macbook? Not much to be honest for fear of losing data.

    In the future I will seriously consider other operating systems and hardware. If Windows Vista si any good I’ll buy a Sony Vaio quicker than you can say QuickTime.

    Wake up Apple.

  51. nixter says:

    I have a rev2 Tangerine iMac that is going on a second child using it for games. It never has had a problem and i just booted it up after 3 years in a garage. It works fine.

    I also have a G4 Mirror door tower that is my daily user. Going strong.

    As far as my ipods i have a 20GB click wheel that had 1 HD failure, they fixed it (bestbuy) and I have never had a problem. It also sits in my car all day long since I have the Alpine iPod attachement.

    I really thing that solid state memory is where it is at for portible music players. In a few years … maybe alot less you will start seeing them replace HD devices. Lighter better battery life and more stable ( especially when dropped, no heads moving)

  52. marshall says:

    That’s sounds like the same track record my 40 gig 4G had. I was lucky enough for it to die the same month my warranty ended. They give me another 4G which died within a couple of days, then another that lasted a month. After my third replacement, they offered to give me a 30 gig 5G as a replacement, which is still alive and kicking…. * knocks on wood repeatedly *

  53. TommyWP says:

    I have and 40GB iPod, since I bought it not problem at all. I use it everyday for my music and in the same time as external Hard Disk and still working as good as the first day I opened the little black box. Some people simply have bad luck, I don’t have any complain with the Apple products that I own like an iPod, MacBook Pro, Apple Cinema Display, Apple Software or Apple itself. For the people who are talking about Windows or Vista, I believe this post is all about “iPod”, sadly Microsoft always gonna be just a copier of Apple.

    What is the different between people who use Apple and the ones that use Windows??

    People that use Apple is because we want to use it……people who use Windows is because they have to use it!!!……Huge different.

  54. Pete says:

    I’ve just ordered the “coffin” for my fourth replacement ipod video since JUNE!!!! All 4 have had the disk error.

  55. […] Nope. Just that looking for some stuff off the net, I came across an interesting article about this chap and his love hate relationship with his ipod. After reading through the comments, I can only say 1 thing. The lifespan of your ipod really comes down to 2 things – Luck, care. […]

  56. Selfy says:

    My 40gb generation 3 iPod is still going strong. I’ve had it for about 3 years now. Amazingly, I still get a full workday of listening out of it on a full charge. However, it will discharge itself completely if I don’t use it for a few days.

    However, I still remeber the wise words of the webmaster of this site. He told me not to rely solely on the iPod to store all my tunes. Wise words indeed, as mine has corrupted quite a few times and needed a reformat.

  57. roanne says:

    that’s one hefty price for a disposable item.

    i’m fond of iPod nano/vid, but honestly, i didn’t find iPod photo very useful (coz I still use my digicam to flickr the pics).

  58. Callum says:

    I bought a normal non-colour screen 40GB iPod…. and then I’d say about 6 months later, it displayed the sad face icon, I sent it to Apple and got a replacement… Now I’d say 1 or 2 months later, 6 days ago my iPod stopped working, there I was listening to music, and then it turns itself off and doesn’t come back on, I try charging, it becomes extremely hot, I tell Apple, send it to them.
    And this is where Apple know the problem and know it’s gonna cost them an iPod. ‘We have determined that this is accidental damage or misuse and is not covered by our 1-year warranty plan and will be returned to you unrepaired’. The next day I get my iPod back, stick it on charge in hope for it to work, after about 10 minutes it’s charging, about 10 minutes later, it’s off again, then later that day I put it on charge, left it overnight, woke up in the morning and it was fully charged.
    I took it off charge and it turned off, then after a minute it turned on, worked okay but the top centre of the screen was darker.
    Then after about 5 minutes it turned off again, became so hot it was burning my fingers and then I looked down the hole where the earphones plug it, with a lamp shining down it, I see what looks like a melted motherboard. This means, the cost is a brand new iPod, this iPod is not fixable and Apple want to not give an iPod to someone and not get one back. Therefore I want to sue Apple but I don’t know if I could win the case….

  59. spinx says:

    I have a shuffle and after a year it was broken with flashing light. Apple replaced it in warranty. The new shuffle that i receved after one month was broken too with the same problem. The warranty was expired but after a very worry call to apple assistance they accepted to replace it again.
    Try to call them, they can make exception for warranty replacement…

  60. I hope apple realize that making cheap mp3 players in china is not the way to make bussines.

  61. Avery says:

    My 1st Gen iPod lasted 4-5 years, the last drop finally killed it off. I could have fixed it by replacing the hard drive cable (somehow the drops cut it in half), but decided to upgrade to a larger ipod. Original was only 5gb. lists a 30gb notebook drive (which is the drive in the ipod) at around $40. A little research and time, you could probably salvage your ipod.

  62. slowtrain says:

    I have been very 10gb 1G ipod is still going strong. not a single problem in 5 years.

  63. Matt says:

    I’ve been using my 60gb iPod Photo for at least 2 years, probably longer. Never had a single problem.

    Knowing my luck it’s probably gonna break tomorrow.

  64. ilya says:

    all of my ipods died withing a year lifetime. but i only had 4th & 5th generation ipods. i have since stopped bying mp3 players that are hdd based. to hell with moving parts. however my former boss still has his 1st generation (museum item) ipod which works fine. and i think it’s all because apple got cheap on the parts and hdds. sucks.

  65. Dylan says:

    I have to agree with “Private.” I had a 2nd gen. iPod that lasted me for almost four years. Then the battery finally died and I gave up on trying to get the battery replaced, and went ahead and got a new one. The new one is alright, but it hangs up a lot more than my old 2nd gen. Something definitely made a change in the hardware when they tried to cram 40g into something the size of a credit card.

  66. Monk says:

    Have a 5th gen 60G video and bought it the week they came out. Literally tracked the shipping from China to Alaska to me in the states. Have not had a single problem with it yet. Almost ready to buy an 80G because I have 1G left available. I’ve used pretty much every option from address book to pics, and now have a couple games on it. Use it a minimum of one hour a day and still never a glich. Knocking on wood. I would love to know though, is there an opinion out there as to the best program to backup what I have on it? I have used Copypod and Transfer Tunes before but still wondering if there’s anything else out there. Some tunes came from my old hard drive which crashed so the only place they are now are on the new pod…..Happy Holidays….

  67. Werner says:

    re Callum (iPOD extremly hot, battery problem): I had exactly the same problem – an Apple returned the player just five days ago without repairing it (still in warranty period).

    We should sue Apple.

  68. Lucas says:

    4G Gold Mini here (B+W screen), got it soon as it was released. Replaced the battery myself in 2006 and no problems.

    A clue to how many are traded in for repair is how often refurbished ‘Pods show up on Apple’s store. Which for $100 bucks off retail, and free shipping is probably the smartest way to buy them.

  69. anonymous says:

    Apple has me on their hook. As a fourteen year old male, i enjoy my music. Apple has enhanced this music. They are incredibly stylish machines and cannot be matched for their size of memory combined with sound quality and stlye. However, like in many of the posts above say, they are not built to last. Their warranty lasts only a year. My ipod photo (purchased from Hong Kong a year and a half ago) shows it’s dead ipod face nearly every time I turn it on. The way around this problem, is to turn it upside down, facing me, then lifting it and smashing it down on my hand continuosly (when it’s starting up, showing the darkened apple logo, before the dead ipod logo shows.) Despite this, I am satisfied with with the life of the machine because I must admit that I have dropped it once of twice. It was not kept in the best of conditions and has taken a few dents in it’s very nice metal back casing.

    This is a large inconvenience for me and even though I have at least 10 GB of memory left available, I will shortly be buying the Ipod video. This is because no MP3 player can match the qualities shown by the Ipod.

    Apple has me on the hook and there is nothing I can do about it.

  70. KB says:

    I’m glad to see so many people have had success with their Ipods. But you cannot discount those who haven’t. I personally have had my 4th or 5th generation replaced under warranty only to the replacement die a few months later (not under warranty).

    The Ipods breaking down is only a part of the problem. The larger issue is the response from Apple when you take your Ipod in or call the customer “care” line. How can anyone callously say just buy another one. Excuse me, but a $400 product should last longer than 7-8 months. Why would I buy a product that has failed me twice? I am extremely disappointed with Apple’s response to my problem. You can get better customer service from a fast food or casual dining restaurant.

    I was going to buy an Ipod for my sister, but not now. Maybe if Apple was more willing to remedy the problem I’d be a bit more supportive. But I’m just disappointed and have no desire to support Apple. It’s just too bad all of my music is on Itunes on the Mac.

  71. Heather says:

    Yah, My 30g Photo iPod (now 2 years old) will be fully charged before I go to sleep, I’ll turn it off and lock it, and when I wake up and look at it it is ALWAYS on, and almost dead.

    Perhaps there’s an Apple Ghost that likes to go around at night powering on iPods to drain the battery. You never know.

  72. Mitch Haase says:

    I have owned 5 iPods and the longest one lasted was 2 1/2 years.

    If Steve Jobs didn’t smoke the “skin flute” I personally guarantee you iPod reliability would not be a problem.

    Mitch Haase

  73. Hannah Andersen says:

    I got my iPod nano when I was still in intermediate school. Year 8 in fact so that was 4 years ago…and I didn’t actually buy It here in New Zealand, I bought it in Hong Kong for real cheap cause we haggled with the store owner for about and hour and got heaps of free stuff with it too. When I returned to NZ after my 3 week holiday, no-one had even heard of an iPod Nano, the iPod mini [old ones] had only just come out here, so I was pretty ahead of them all. I Use it ALLLOT and even now after 4 years, 932747247247234 Billion New versions of the iPod and me, still, with my iPod’s pitiful 2GB capacity which annoys the crap out of me because I’ve got something like 13GB of music…
    It Hasn’t Died Yet!

  74. Brad says:

    I have had an original ipod – dead after a couple years
    I have had a 2nd gen type ipod – dead after a year
    i have had a 1st gen nano – broke after a year
    same goes for my partner – the same lot – all broke….
    disposible is correct, but they fail to let consumers know that..
    its a great conspiracy, and apple is getting away with ripping people off..
    it will come to an end somehow someday…
    im anti-apple now, and im all the more richer..

  75. Amanda says:

    I own a 80g classic ipod. Bought for me to replace my nano which my dog got a hold of this last christmas. While plugging it in to a usb port on my laptop to be updated it didn’t want to connect. So trying a different port, I connected it again and now the screen is stuck saying ‘connecting, eject before disconnecting’ and it wont updated, and I cant turn it off.

    I’m trying to let it die then try recharging it.

    Seeing as it should be under the 1 year warranty it comes with automatically, if my idea doesn’t work, do I just call them and explain to them it’s frozen up and ask to send it and fix it or replace it?

    Just want to be sure, I dont feel like having to worry that I might have to go buy a new ipod when I’ve only owned this one for about 6 months..

  76. Misafic says:

    Hi, im not quite sure what i think about ipod… Wait i know they suck! i bought a ipod 30gb video as a going away present for myself. i thought great an ipod all my friends have one. but realised my mistake shortly after. it occasionnaly froze but i thought no thats normal everything freezes occasionnally i was ignorant shortly after what happens but the earphones break. no surprise there. seen the price for replacements? No, $48 (au) $48 theres no way id buy them so i get a cheap pair good for now there fine for the time being but what happens next just after the warranty expires the casing breaks it wont fit together. Typical. i now use my mp4 no use using ipods. great look rubbish quality apple really needs to improve or they will lose another costumer.
    thank you And good night

    P.S. i hope you people at apple are ashamed.

    P.S. Written by a 13 year old kid.

  77. […] I finally got myself a MacBook Pro. I’ve had a love / hate relationship with Apple products over the years and I’ve considered switching for a while. One of […]

  78. I’m on my third iPod. My first croaked *just* out of warranty (eleven days or something annoying), the breakage of my second was kind of my fault – I snapped it in two.

    I’ve had the third for about 2.5 weeks now and so far so good. I wonder what it will be like 50 weeks down the line though?

  79. developar says:

    I won an iPod nano exactly before two years :
    And it is in my car all the time under our sunny sunny sky and it is working , but lately It is running out of charge quickly !

  80. Oliver says:

    Well, I don’t know about the other iPods, but if you want one that will NEVER break, get the original iPod Shuffle. I am serious. After about 2 years, one of the earphone disks slipped so only one earphone works, but aside from that, in the 3-4 years I have had it, its never had any problems. And built on to that fact, I once accidentily left it in my trouser pocket and it went through a washing machine and it STILL works… Through one earphone.

    I have brought an iPod Nano Video now as well. After about 6 months, it jammed up completely and would not respond to any commands and – because there is no off button – you can’t jut reboot it. I just left it off charge for a few days until it went flat and turned off and then recharged it and it was fine again. Turned out one of the songs on the iPod was buggered and it caused the iPod to just jam.

  81. Zan says:

    To the person who slammed the iPod on a hard surface to fix it: What was it doing prior to the slammage? LOL

    I have a guy who will replace a dead hard drive or motherboard for $45, a battery for $30, and an earphone jack for $35. Not a great price for an item that costs hundreds of dollars, and you end up needing to repair something on it at least once a year, but it’s better than the highway robbery that Apple tries to convince us to spend! And he polishes it all shiny-like too and puts it in a pretty case.

    There are some great companies out there who will repair iPods for far less than Apple. I *hate* Apple, but I love my iPods, what can I say?

  82. […] and downright nasty character every time I read another fawning journalist’s article about the Ipod and How It Has Changed Our Lives. (I particularly like those that wonder philosophically: for the […]

  83. Cathy says:

    I love my ipod. I have had 3 so far. I upgrade every once in awhile. Here is what I have learned to do tho.’ I use my ipod for hours every day. The batteries get old after awhile. I am NOT a tech wizard but I am a bargain hunter. I went on youtube and searched for ipod battery repair. I went on ebay and bought a $10.00 battery. I sat with my laptop and paused the youtube video when I needed to and replaced my battery. It is really quite simple. I even replaced the earphone jack on my husbands ipod. It is so simple to fix. I have never bought a new ipod. I buy used ones on ebay and if they need to be fixed, I do it. Trust me…if I can do it…ANYONE can do it.

  84. Sarah says:

    I love my my iPod. I got it for 50 dollars brand new for a friend. I probably wouldn’t have gotten one if she hadn’t had one to get rid of. So anyone, I’ve had it for about a little more than a year, and my mother put it through the wash last week! But I let it dry out completely for like 3 days (which I only knew to do because of the internet. Isn’t technology GREAT?) and last night it turned on just fine! Yippeeeeeee!

  85. TR says:

    First saw the sad-face ipod icon after 6 years of on-and-off use. I thought it died and tried every combination of reset buttons that I could find online. Finally I just slapped it hard on a table. After plugging it in and out of my computer i magically worked again!

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