Final: iPod mini battery tests | iLounge Article


Final: iPod mini battery tests

The results are in: after last week’s initial tests of the iPod mini’s battery performance, we noted that we were cautiously optimistic that Apple had quietly remedied certain issues of concern to iPod users, most importantly accurately estimating the mini’s duration of continuous playback. Mid-week, we updated our findings to reflect surprising intermediate results, and now after a series of eleven tests, we have reached several conclusions that might interest potential iPod mini buyers.

Three Types of Tests

We performed a total of three types of tests on the iPod mini, two of which were documented in our previous reviews and report, and one of which is new.

Type A consisted of a full recharge and discharge of the iPod mini’s battery without user intervention or backlighting, using “shuffle songs” mode, no equalizers, and 50% volume with headphones attached.

Type B was identical to Type A except that “shuffle songs” mode was disabled and the iPod was instead allowed to play continuously in sequence through its song list. We did not expect to see a significant difference between the iPod mini’s performance on Types A and B, because in both cases the mini was given complete control over the caching of songs, regardless of the order in which they were played back.


Our third test was an attempt to duplicate results achieved by Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, using the same testing mechanism he tried with two pre-production iPod minis some weeks ago. (Thank you, Mr. Mossberg, for contacting us to share your testing conditions.) Like our Type A test, Mr. Mossberg used shuffled playback, but he also set the iPod minis on 75% volume and turned the Vocal Booster equalizer setting on, each of which adds to the strain on the battery.

Type A Test Results

For reasons further described below, after printing our intermediate findings, we concentrated the majority of our remaining testing efforts on Type A-style tests. Initially, the iPod mini had failed to meet Apple’s estimates in this type of testing, falling below six hours on its first test and barely exceeding that on its second.

However, after each Type A test, we saw that the iPod mini’s performance improved, eventually exceeding Apple’s estimates by over an hour and a half in three successive tests. In fact, the mini eventually delivered ten hours and ten minutes of continuous playback, coming within half an hour of Walter Mossberg’s ten hour and forty minute performance.

  • Test 1: iPod mini hits 10% at 5 hours playback, 0% at 5:20, dies at 5:45.
  • Test 3: iPod mini hits 10% at 5:33, 0% at 6 hours, dies at 6:19.
  • Test 7: iPod mini hits 10% at 8:55, 0% at 9:22, dies at 9:39.
  • Test 8: iPod mini hits 10% at 8:43, 0% at 9:23, dies at 9:46.
  • Test 9: iPod mini hits 10% at 9:21, 0% at 9:54, dies at 10:10.

For comparison’s sake, we ran a Type A test on a third-generation iPod that had been discharged and recharged over the course of many months, and found that it came within ten minutes of Apple’s estimated eight-hour battery life:

Test 5: 3G iPod hits 10% at 7:14, 0% at 7:29, dies at 7:50.

By Test 7, and continuously through Test 9, the mini’s battery appeared over time to outperform the third-generation iPod under similar (though not scientifically identical) Type A testing conditions. We had seen similar better-than-3G results for the mini in Type B tests, but were not sure whether the mini and 3G iPods were behaving truly differently, or whether the iPod mini’s battery was still being broken in.

Our working assumption at this point is that after approximately five discharges and recharges of the battery, the iPod mini is capable of consistently delivering power performance near or exceeding Apple’s estimates. Prior to that, we assume, it may not charge or discharge as efficiently or predictably, yielding the discrepancy in results we saw during our first four tests. We had not changed any of the testing conditions or the audio library on the iPod mini, or used the device for leisure listening during our test period. Therefore, holding everything else equal, we can only assume that the performance improvements came from an increasingly broken-in battery.

Type B Test Results

After printing our intermediate Type B findings, in which the iPod mini exceeded Apple’s estimates by approximately one or two hours, we did not continue to run further Type B tests. Though we continue to caution readers that Type B does not represent realistic usage conditions for typical iPod users, the use of smart playlists and other non-interactive forms of continuous audio playback will yield relatively impressive performance times such as these.

  • Test 2: iPod mini hits 10% at 7:50, 0% at 8:49, dies at 8:58.
  • Test 4: iPod mini hits 10% at 8:42, 0% at 9:40, dies at 9:56.
  • Test 6: iPod 3G hits 10% at 7:10, 0% at 7:30, dies at 7:48.

Even nearly fresh out of the box, the iPod mini outperformed a well-primed 3G iPod by over an hour on its first test, and over two hours on its second. We believe that battery priming is most likely the reason our comparative test of the third-generation iPod yielded results consistent with Apple’s stated estimate, and statistically almost identical to the 3G iPod’s performance in Type A testing.

We can only assume that another run of this test, slanted as much as it is towards battery conservation, would now yield results matching Walter Mossberg’s best time, given that our iPod mini’s battery has had additional burn-in time since we ran these Type B tests days ago. But instead of running this easy test, we decided to run Mr. Mossberg’s more demanding test and see how our mini would perform.

Walter Mossberg Test Results

Our final two tests of the iPod mini duplicated the test conditions used by the Wall Street Journal’s Walter Mossberg on two pre-production iPod minis sent for review by Apple. For reference, Mr. Mossberg achieved three scores across two iPod minis: 7:46, 9:15 and 10:40, or two to nearly five hours better than our first Type A test.

We administered our tenth total test at the relative peak of the mini’s performance, following Test 9’s ten-hour, ten-minute Type A result, and we were not expecting a substantial difference when this test was run. But we were surprised.

Test 10: iPod mini hits 10% at 6:28, 0% at 7:08, and dies at 7:27.

Puzzling? Yes. We were going to call an end to our testing after ten successive runs, but we had to run one more test to see whether our results necessarily varied that dramatically from Mr. Mossberg’s findings. And they did.

Test 11: iPod mini hits 10% at 6:32, 0% at 7:04, and dies at 7:19.

When Test 10 had concluded, we wanted to believe that the iPod’s battery was merely experiencing occasional hiccups. After Test 11, that possibility became harder to believe. These certainly weren’t the positive notes we had hoped to end our testing on, but we couldn’t ignore the results once we had them.


After more than a week of sustained iPod mini battery testing, we’ve come to three conclusions. First, after nine tests on the mini, we averaged approximately eight hours and ten minutes of music playback before battery death, a respectable number. While this duration may not compare favorably with certain competing products, it exceeds the battery life Apple advertised for the mini, as well as what we squeezed out of the 3G iPod, surely positive findings for potential and current mini owners.

Second, after seeing the mini’s battery performance improve after almost every test, we feel as if there’s no cause for alarm regarding its day to day performance, and in fact there’s reason to believe that the typical user will see better and better results for a week or more after opening the box. While concerns remain over the battery’s long-term lifespan, with 300-500 charge cycles (or approximately 18 months) of performance expected from a Lithium-Ion power source, all we could ask for - or perhaps expect - from the next iPod is a battery that’s easier for users to replace.
Third and finally, though we were disappointed that our mini failed twice to duplicate Walter Mossberg’s results under nearly identical conditions, we’re not going to worry about it. Our current working assumption is that the typical iPod mini will exhibit performance peaks and valleys before falling into steady output around or slightly surpassing the eight-hour mark under optimal conditions, falling somewhat sharply if users make significant use of the hard disk, backlight, volume, equalizer and controls, in descending order of importance.

Of course, we would hope that the next-generation iPod includes significantly improved battery performance, but if the iPod mini is any indication, Apple’s already on the road towards that goal. For users who want to relax with eight to ten hours of continuous music - like we do, especially after more than a week of monotonous iPod battery testing - the iPod mini will likely deliver all it promised, and probably more.

Jeremy Horwitz is a consumer electronics fanatic who practices intellectual property law in his spare time. His recent book, Law School Insider, has been called the “best book about law school -ever,” and he continues to contribute to Ziff-Davis electronic entertainment magazines.

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Stop arguing which iPod is better and read the battery test thing.

Oh, btw, I’m not sure which iPod to get. If it wasn’t for that sound distortion thing, I would get mini, but right now I’m thinking the new iPod.

Posted by AMK on May 21, 2004 at 6:43 PM (CDT)


Why are we all trying to convince each other of the superiority of one ipod over the other?  Clearly, there is a range of different Ipods that will meet the needs of a range of different users.  Some people don’t need that much HD space and others can’t live without it.  Some don’t need the mini for whatever reason, like they may not exercise with it.  I for one was weaned on tiny Flash MP3 players and would hate to run with the massive 3rd gen ipods.  For me, the ipod mini was a happy compromise in size and memory. 

So, stop arguing and shut up please!!!  Its just like cars:  some people like the Infiniti G35, some want the Hummer H2.  It’s your own taste and available money!  The important thing is Apple’s churning out fine Ipods and Ipod Minis and leading the market in that area.  =)

Posted by hank on May 21, 2004 at 11:33 PM (CDT)


i want an ipod and i cant decide between a 15gb and a mini. i want a 15gb coz of the space, but i want a mini coz of the size!

i just dont know if i can wait till the mini comes out in australia!

Posted by jwg on May 22, 2004 at 5:05 AM (CDT)


Hey ppl, Im Mark Lewis and if you want to buy an Ipod for

Posted by Mark Lewis on May 23, 2004 at 4:10 PM (CDT)


“Mark Lewis” are you just scamming people with one of these pyramid “matrix” schemes where people pay money, go on waiting lists, and try to recruit lots of people who don’t understand the Law of Powers?

Posted by Matrix Scams on May 23, 2004 at 6:20 PM (CDT)


who wants to know?—it really depends on what you are going to do with it. i got the ipod mini because i can exercise with it, which was a big factor in my decision. sure, you can exercise with its brothers, but its not as light and convenient. if you are also looking to log a LOT more songs in than just 1000 then the others are probably a better choice. i have the mini and my boyfriend has the 20GB. if you want colors, the ipod mini is for you. if you want greater storage space, spend the extra $50 and get the 15GB. but if you are only looking for a FEW more songs than 1000, you might want to go with the mini—you can just transfer songs, it takes like 2 minutes to update it. it’s really up to your preferences and what you want to do with it.

Posted by ipod mini silver girl on May 25, 2004 at 8:40 PM (CDT)


I am going to wait for the 2nd Generation Ipod Mini. I consider the current mini excellent except for the smallish HDD. My music collection is 5.66 Gig. When Apple release a 10 gig version of the mini, i am sold 100%, I am sure it will come out.

Posted by Adam Carter on May 31, 2004 at 2:37 AM (CDT)


Personally, I prefer the 15gb ipod, because I have alot of MUSIC!!!! just kidding, i got the ipod because the mini isn’t available anywhere where i live.

Posted by J-Dawg on May 31, 2004 at 7:21 PM (CDT)


I read this preview of the new Creative Touch Zen and it says that it has a battery that will do 24 hours (!) playback on a single charge.


Posted by Creative Touch on June 7, 2004 at 5:47 PM (CDT)


Well I just decided to go for a mini rather than a 3G, purely because I don’t need 15GB of space, and that being replaced by better navigation, size, battery life and appearance with enough left over for a bunch of albums from iTMS is fine for me.

I didn’t buy it to look cool, I bought it so I don’t have to projectile vomit every time I want to change track, then have to eBay it and get the next horrific Mp3 player with its own brand of memory card and ability to record 2.5 seconds of Fm radio. I bought it because like almost all other Apple products are 100% PERFECT, they do EXACTLY what they are supposed to, nothing more, nothing less, and they do it with casual ease.

I’m not a fanboy, I’m just not an anti-fan.

Posted by Suspect on June 16, 2004 at 1:46 PM (CDT)


2 1/2 years ago I rushed out and bought the orignal 5g Ipod. I couldn’t believe I was spending $250+ for an MP3 player, but I had no regrets untill the battery died. I swore I’d never give Apple another dime, much less $99 to REPLACE A BATTERY!

I bought a Creative Nomad Zen 30gig for $219 and I loved it, and still do… sort of… The great thing is, the cover pops off, the battery is right there, when it dies I can buy a new one and pop it in. I will have this for a long time if the hard-drive holds up.
Any Ipod is almost a “disposable” item when you consider the cost of battery replacement vs buying a new one… and the battery WILL die, probably right after your $59, extended warranty expires.

Then there’s my 14 year old daughter… she wanted a mini… I fought it, but finally gave in… only to find out there were none to be had!

Getting it was a miracle! Everyone in the area is sold out. I live in the Boston, and I mean everyone. All distributors within 75 miles. I asked if I could put my name on a list at the Apple store, they said “we were taking names, but we have 400 on our list so we stopped, we may get a few in to sell on a first-come-first-serve basis”. I was in shock, but I was “lucky” and got one of those. I was allowed the priviledge of plunking down $250 for the mini and another $50 for the arm-band and case. Oh joyous day!

We’ve only had it 2 days and I’m already jealous! If all you need is 1000 songs at a time, get a mini over a regular. It is so small and light and easy to use. I just hope the battery lasts. If you need more space, compare the Zen and Rio to the Ipod.  If you do buy any MP3 player, learn about battery care… heat will greatly shorten it’s life

I have 25gig of extra space on my Zen to back up my hard-drive… big deal… all I really wanted was an MP3 player. I had a bad experience with a 5gig Ipod, a good experience with a 30gig Zen but if I needed to buy a new one right now it would be the mini…that is, IF I COULD EVEN GET ONE!

Posted by MrBob02140 on June 18, 2004 at 10:27 AM (CDT)


Continued from above…

If you really have to have one now, the only way is Ebay. Would you believe 8 people have paid $400 to $470 for a pink one. I thought the colors were stupid but check Ebay, 100’s of any color have sold for over $300 but only pink ones for that absurd price. But be careful of SCAMS, people have paid hundreds of dollars for “Instructions” on getting a mini for free or $75, I dunno but sure sounds fishy to me! Ebay is a good indicator of what the public thinks, how “stupid” we can be and what the market will bear. Money speaks louder than words.

I’ve read this whole thread and it’s pretty funny to read some of the early predictions. It’s also sad to read all the insults! This is simply a matter of individual preference and need. Learn the options, read the reviews, go look at them if you can, and decide what’s best for you.

Anyone who says,“people who buy a mini are idiots, spend the $50 and get 15gig more” just don’t get it!

Posted by MrBob02140 on June 18, 2004 at 10:28 AM (CDT)


I dont see the problem here ! If a guy likes to have 4 different Ipod

Posted by Mini-Owner on June 19, 2004 at 11:24 AM (CDT)


I can’t believe how many comments there are…and yet none of them have entailed some good old fashioned spontaneous cursing. HELL DAMN FART!

Posted by Beautiful Justin on June 26, 2004 at 5:12 AM (CDT)


yez eye agreeee wth sum ov thoz pplz up thar tht say othur ppl neeeed engrish lessonz lol. 

Geez, if you’re going to use English, use it.

Please use punctuation, please use capitalization, and for God’s sake, use correct grammar!

Posted by Isaac Zafuta on June 29, 2004 at 4:28 PM (CDT)


ok im only 14 and im about to buy a mini ipod…someone said that the battery only lasts like 18 months and the new battery costs like 100 bucks…i cant afford that…whats the catch? should i buy one or not???

Posted by victoria on July 5, 2004 at 10:42 PM (CDT)


ipod mini is the best eva mp3 playyer to come out   it not just an mp3 player its a whole lot more than that u can play games its a calender not many people r gona use all the memory ive got 400 songs on mine an i use the rest as hard drive space for my pc   once i had a very importand pice of home work to do and my printer was bust it was due the next day so i saves it on my ipod mini an printid it from school it saved my ass

Posted by ipod fanatic on July 15, 2004 at 11:00 AM (CDT)


MIni is out in Canada 26th July 2004

Posted by me on July 22, 2004 at 10:31 PM (CDT)


why is everyone saying “SPEND $50 MORE AND GET A 20GB”? people can make their own informed decision on what to buy when they go look at ipod instore. I pesonaly choose the mini because of its size and I think 4GB os ok, it holds enough so I can listen to it at work everyday (the only place i use it) and not hear the same song more than once each week, at the end of the week I can get rid of the songs i no longer want and replace them, its no big deal. In reality I probaly only update the song list once a month. theres NO way I could listen to the radio 8 hours a day for a week and not hear quite a few songs more than once.

Posted by stacy on August 6, 2004 at 4:15 PM (CDT)


there is something wrong with my mini :o(

...its batter is dying when the battery indicator hits about 80% so it dies in about an hour of use after i charge it overnight.

any quick suggestions or should i just take it to the ipod repair people at a mac store?

Posted by gabs on August 9, 2004 at 10:58 AM (CDT)


oops.. got my mini from bestbuy here in Toronto. Love it. wait a minute… u mean i could have actually got a 15 GB for an additional $50? wow. Since I left that deal on the table.. u go pick it up. I am happy with 4G.

Posted by Cute Chhokra in Toronto on August 18, 2004 at 10:56 AM (CDT)


the ipod battery does not last 8 hours
i have had to send the first one back that i bought due to problems
and the second one
and the third one is not working right either
the guy on the apple support line told me to limit my playlist to 32MB——yes MB—-to get the most of my battery—which is absolutely LUDICROUS—-i mean the thing holds 4GB!!!!!!!
also what they do not tell you is that if you skip forwards or backwards, use the equalizer. backlight and all the other cool features—this will DRASTICALLY cut into your battery life

Posted by David on August 30, 2004 at 11:47 AM (CDT)


i finally got my ipod! however i’m a little worried abt the battery life. is the money well-spent?

Posted by jueming on September 3, 2004 at 8:50 AM (CDT)


I like the mini better than the ipod.  I see why some people need the 20g or the 40g capasity but I only have 400 songs.  To me the size and the better look is worth it.  Plus the mini looks better.

Posted by Pdub on October 21, 2004 at 12:06 AM (CDT)


To get the battery time improvement, should I let the battery run until it dies the first few times I use it?  Or do you think I will get the same effect just using it as I normally would; a few hours at a time before recharging?

Posted by Jen on October 28, 2004 at 7:45 AM (CDT)


why not get a Sony Mini…the sound quality is MUCH better :)

Seriouly, I like my mini (which is a gift)because it’s small, nice color, and since I never finish listening to all 1000 songs, I only keep the best ones on my mini, so the storage is not a big deal…especially for someone who keeps all the songs on her computer hard drive.

Battery life sucks though:(

Posted by lili on November 8, 2004 at 4:02 PM (CST)


(Refering to the earlier posts)- I went with the mini because even though I could get 15 more gigs for $50, 1,000 songs sounds pretty good to me.  I can’t affort anything more than the mini, even $50 makes a diffrence to a teenager (who, in case you haven’t noticed, are the majority buyers)

who wants to know, i love my mini, and 1,000 songs runs longer than the battery life permits, (by the way, the green looks a lot better in person than on the computer screen)

oh, i thought i’d add that iTunes is great.  i listen to christen music, and even I can fing a lot of songs on iTunes, they have a great selection

Posted by iLove on January 22, 2005 at 8:56 PM (CST)


People really need to get over it and understand the facts that everyone have different taste, and it is their own money and decision to buy what they want.  I got an Ipod mini as a gift and love it. Im sure people who own 20G, 40g or even ipod shuffle love their Ipod just as much.  Really guys, dont you have better thing to do than b*tching about people and their bussiness??

Posted by Siamprincess on March 4, 2005 at 6:40 PM (CST)


This is an interesting conversation. I have read a lot of posts here and I would just like to say, buy what you NEED! It’s totally up to you. Who ever has more than 1,000 songs, good on ya and thats when you get the Ipod, don’t need that much space? Then go for a mini. Not a hard desicion. I just would like to know, would you have the time to listen to more than 1,000 songs at a time? I mean, if you like the look of the Ipod Mini and don’t want to spend the extra money, I’m sure 1,000 songs would be just fine, even for a long trip you probably wouldn’t listen to that much. If you think you do need all that space for songs or other files and can afford the Ipod, get it.

Posted by Shmokin on May 6, 2005 at 6:37 AM (CDT)


look, im 14 and i get this. take a 4 gb ipod mini for example and say you have 1000 songs that are 4 minutes long. lets do some math. 4 times 1000 is 4000 min. how many minutes are in a day? 24 times 60 is 1440 min. now who here is going to listen to music for apx 3 and a half days come on.

Posted by Australian-Chap on June 25, 2005 at 6:35 PM (CDT)


and now my second posting say you have a 20 gb ipod. thats about 10000 4 minute songs thats 40000 minutes of songs. now there are 1440 min in a day time for math again. 40000 divided by 1440 is apx 28 days. what the heck what moron is going to listen to music for 28 days straight and dont say your not going to listen to all the songs on there because if so why did you put it on there!

Posted by Australian-Chap on June 25, 2005 at 6:48 PM (CDT)


I need help b/c my ipod takes FOREVER to charge! it used to take 4 hours but now it;s taking like 5 weeks! How do i fix it? what should i do?(i have ipod mini)

Posted by SuperSam310 on November 19, 2005 at 6:52 PM (CST)


I need help b/c my ipod takes FOREVER to charge! it used to take 4 hours but now it;s taking like 5 weeks! How do i fix it? what should i do?(i have ipod mini)
SuperSam310 <b>on 11.19.05 at 03:52 PM

Well that is same like mine and all what you need to do is just let your IPOD charge until 1 month and then I gurantee you that you will get fully charge batery :) enjoy ! “ROFL”

Posted by (`*-.__.[Gucci Bunneh].__.-*`) on November 29, 2005 at 2:20 AM (CST)


Mi Ipod doesnt Turn ON… it seems like is not Working… And When i connect My Ipod To the computer , the computer says “Error, There’s no USB Dispositive Insert”

...So Help..!! Plz.. I bought my Ipod the last Week .. So What Can I do?

Posted by Aaron AGD on December 11, 2005 at 5:13 PM (CST)

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