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Teardown: iPod shuffle 4G ‘extremely difficult’ to open

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Tuesday, September 7, 2010
News Categories: iPod shuffle

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In completing its teardown of the fourth-generation iPod shuffle, iFixit has indicated that the device is “extremely difficult’ to open, rendering it nearly unserviceable by end users. iFixit found that the device’s control wheel is attached to the logic board via a connector, making it easy to remove, while the battery is soldered to the logic board, making replacement difficult. In addition, access to the shuffle 4G’s internals is only possible by removing the device’s back clip assembly, which is both press-fit and glued to the body, requiring “a good half hour of prying and heat-gunning to open.” Overall, iFixit gave the device a two out of 10 on its repairability scale, with 10 being considered the easiest to repair.

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Comments

1

it seems more, and more, that apple goes out of it’s way to make it more difficult for end users to use their products the way they want.

The fact that, not only do they not have replaceable batteries, but they actively try to thwart users from replacing batteries should show even the most solid fan-boi that Apple is nothing more than any other corporate entity.  money hungry and greedy.

There is no other explanation for not letting end-users replace batteries in this day and age.

Apple is trying to force the upgrade.

Posted by crash613 on September 7, 2010 at 7:05 PM (PDT)

2

Excuse me? REPAIR an iPod shuffle? An item that costs less than a decent pair of shoes and which given it’s a battery, a chip and not much else, probably would survive being run over by a car? And as for replacing the battery, I’ve had a 2rd gen ipod shuffle since the day they were launched. I use it three times a week for the gym. The battery is still pretty much as good now as it was when I bought it.

The number of people who would want to take a shuffle apart and put it back together again is vanishingly small. I mean, literally would all fit in a taxi together. The very idea Apple should design for them, as oppose to the millions of people who would never even think of taking it apart, consider it to be more or less disposable and who just want it to be as small, light and durable as possible is bordering on insanity.
if you make it dismantleable (is that even a word)  it would be less durable. If you make the battery replaceable, the battery compartment door catches are a weak spot, especially on something as small as this. The IPod shuffle is designed to be a wearable player that is effectively indestructible while being used for sports, not a school project for some geeks to take apart to figure out how it works.

Talk about having expectations that are out of sync with reality.

Posted by Jonathan on September 8, 2010 at 3:09 AM (PDT)

3

Talk about two extremes where each case is argued in a non-representational manner. No, most people would not want to disassemble a shuffle. But I’ll wager close to 100% would be willing to unscrew a single small phillips screw and pop in a new battery or have a spouse/child/neighbor more than willing to do it for them.

I have a decent consumer aimed digital camera, takes me all of 3 seconds to swap the battery. I’ve got a $10 cell phone, takes me all of 5 seconds to swap the battery. The household’s many Nintendo products all have easily swapped batteries with the removal of a plastic panel.

Making batteries user replaceable is no burden to company or consumer, it’s not, so don’t insult the world’s intelligence by making things up about decreased durability and whatnot. The only things in my house that don’t have user swappable batteries are the $2 cheap Chinese goods with flashy lights the relatives insist on buying for my kids (and, let’s be honest, even most of those have easily accessed screw compartments where I can swap batteries if I’m inclined) and my Apple products. Everything else somehow manages to be just fine with swappable batteries, and many of these items (c.f. the digicam) are better made, more complicated, and cheaper than most of the Apple products.

On the other hand, unless you cling to some belief that Apple is going to start engineering their products with some sort of user accessible panel and battery that can simply be swapped without detaching data ribbons and, nowadays, resoldering, don’t pretend this is anything new. The 4G shuffle is simply an extension of what Apple has been doing since 2001 (and, truthfully, is an extension of what they’ve been doing with their computers since at least the early 90s). As their obsession with reducing size has grown more intense, so hasn’t their space saving shortcuts, of which copious adhesive and combinations of otherwise unrelated parts (btw, the battery has been soldered to the logic board as far back as the 2G nano) is a major part of the space saving strategy.

Apple could and should be making easily swappable batteries in their products. There is no practical explanation for their nigh decade long refusal to do this (and the fact that most of the other mp3 player makers followed suit doesn’t count wink ). What Apple has done is carefully wage a campaign of lowered consumer expectations to persuade enough people that this is a reasonable approach to expensive devices when all it actually does is force replacement of devices. I still have a functioning cassette walkman style player from about 1989, why? Ran off of easily replaced batteries. I don’t have a functioning iPod manufactured earlier than 2006 even though I’ve been buying them since 2004, why? Run off of hard to replace, non-standard Li-ion battery packs and eventually the hassle outlives the benefit of trying to replace it.

Sure, for *most* consumers, these non-swappable batteries will remain functional enough for the time they will keep the iPod, that doesn’t make the practice right. On the other hand, this is Apple, they’ve NEVER been consumer friendly and anyone who ever convinced themselves they were never went to upgrade a Macintosh in the early 90s and found the RAM slots buried beneath a Chinese puzzle box’s worth of components that took 30 minutes of unclipping and unscrewing to access or went to upgrade a processor - a processor that Apple made for a motherboard that Apple made - and discovered it was impossible because Apple soldered the CPU to the mobo “just because” and you had to buy the combo at 90% the cost of a new Mac. Apple has not shown themselves to be consumer friendly in terms of keeping their products running indefinitely at any point in their history, so don’t go expecting anything to change now. Yet, don’t go explaining away what is clearly a greedy and anti-consumer practice with one goal: to force upgrades.

In other words, Apple sucks when it comes to their practice of non-swappable batteries and other components, but that horse stopped being even a grease spot years ago.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on September 8, 2010 at 6:25 AM (PDT)

4

Erm, no. I don’t see the need to replace batteries on an iPod, and definitely not on a shuffle. And I’m quite sure most people will never think of doing that as well. Why do I want to worry about swapping batteries if I’ve got something that works? I don’t need to use a shuffle for fifteen thousand years.

Yes, I have a 20 year old Walkman that I think still runs if I put batteries in, but I sure ain’t gonna bother.

Posted by tarZen on September 8, 2010 at 8:43 AM (PDT)

5

@CodeMonkey:  Sure there is a reason:  AAPL
Stockholders.  You know, the people Apple’s Board are actually answering to?
Consumers buy things that they like based on what they know to decide if it pleases them.
Apparently, for most, Apple does a good job.  As a stockholder, I’m pretty pleased too.
Doesn’t mean I like ALL of Apple’s decisions, but look no further than their satisfaction ratings, stock price, and sellout products to know SJ knows a thing or two about running the #2 company in the USA.

Posted by sb on September 8, 2010 at 11:42 AM (PDT)

6

CodeMonkey

Your argument that Apple is building products to drive upgrades doesn’t really seem to fit my experience. I have, as I said, a 2nd gen iPod Shuffle. It still functions perfectly. I’ve never felt the need to replace the battery. I’ve never cared that I couldn’t replace the battery. I had no compunction to replace it with the 3rd gen and I equally feel no compunction to replace it with the 4th gen.

If Apple’s strategy was to nickel & dime their users with feature-short upgrades and expensive accessories - like, oh, I dunno, spare batteries I would rarely use - then that strategy has comprehensively failed. If it’s to sell a lot of iPods , evidence suggests it’s massively succeeded.

And the fact your digital camera has a replaceable battery is irrelevant. here’s why : The iPod shuffle is not a digital camera. My car has a replaceable battery, it doesn’t mean it’s the same as an iPod shuffle either. For the market sector the iPod sector is aimed at, replaceable batteries are not an issue - otherwise the iPod shuffle would be a failure and it isn’t (well the 3rd gen was, but not because of the battery being fixed in place). If we take is as valid that the iPod shuffle is designed to be a worn ipod while travelling (e.g. commuting) or doing sports activities then the battery is hardly ever going to run out at an inconvenient moment.

And if you really think the fact your camera has a replaceable battery doesn’t affect it’s durability I invite you to do a comparative test with me. I’ll hold my iPod Shuffle at shoulder height over a concrete floor, you do the same with your camera. Then we’ll both drop them and see which one the bits fly off.

Jon

Posted by Jonathan on September 8, 2010 at 1:12 PM (PDT)

7

@Jonathan,

Just a few things,

First, how would Apple offering replacement batteries be nickel & diming users? They wouldn’t be required to buy them unless they wanted to, and in that case it would cost less than buying a new iPod.

Second, you’re basically arguing that the shuffle (and other iPods for that matter) shouldn’t have replaceable batteries because people have gotten used to the batteries being non-replaceable. Maybe people have lowered their expectations in that area, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be an improvement. Also, it’s not like it would be impossible to achieve—with a slight redesign and a touch of added thickness, the iPhone 4’s battery could have been easily user-replaceable.

Lastly, the durability comparison isn’t fair. The digital camera has an LCD screen, glass lens, and a number of other delicate components that a Shuffle does not, high power drain requiring a fairly large battery, and all these things contributing to a much greater weight that increases the force of impact. The Shuffle hardly has anything to break, and an additional aluminum case part that screwed on firmly wouldn’t hurt anything.

That said, I realize the large majority don’t seem to care if their electronics are designed to be disposable, and I’m not going to change thei minds, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a waste.

Posted by Jerome on September 8, 2010 at 1:53 PM (PDT)

8

“That said, I realize the large majority don’t seem to care if their electronics are designed to be disposable”

That’s because after 10,000 years of “civilization” the large majority still can’t tell the difference between their own actual self interest and what the men in power told them was their self interest.

Just as Apple is interested in getting as much money from me as possible by doing the least, my interest is in giving them the least money possible to get the most services and product. We are not friends, we are, in fact, diametrically opposed with but one link: they have something I want, and I have something they want. That’s the long and short of a consumer’s relationship with a corporation. Somehow Apple has pulled off that great mind trick of getting the people they are, by definition, ripping off as much as possible to not just accept things, but to praise and defend this very ripping off.

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on September 9, 2010 at 6:19 AM (PDT)

9

Picture a scenario where an Apple from an alternate universe gets sucked into ours. Our Apple continues to ship models year after year with their oh-so-cool industrial design and parts basically engineered to last 2 to 3 years. Apple Prime ships identically functioning products at the same cost, but instead of blowing their money on shiny chrome backs that can’t be removed and shaving fractional millimeters of thickness off each year, they’re slightly boxier with panels that come off with a common small screw driver and use standard rechargeable battery packs you can order from anywhere and parts are chosen with a 5 year before failure rating…

They function the same, sync with iTunes the same. The only difference is one company’s products are somewhat thinner and curvier, but will need to be replaced every 2 to 3 years at the longest, and the other company’s products will last on average 5 years before any failure other than battery occurs and batteries can be replaced by anyone with a functioning hand and $10 for a battery pack off of Amazon.

Which of those two Apples wins in the market place?

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on September 9, 2010 at 6:28 AM (PDT)

10

I assume this “Apple Prime” also would have the decency to not use scratch-o-matic chrome backs at all? Seriously, that bothers me even more than non-replaceable batteries. How people are continually smitten with expensive and “shiny” new iPods which they know will look terribly worn and scratched within months, I don’t think speaks well of pop culture. Consumers basically have two choices—have the player look like junk after a little while, or preserve that nice shiny design… by covering it up.

Posted by Jerome on September 9, 2010 at 6:11 PM (PDT)

11

“I assume this “Apple Prime” also would have the decency to not use scratch-o-matic chrome backs at all? “

Damn right, where’s our worm hole punching through to a space time anomaly when we need one :D

Posted by Code Monkey in Midstate New York on September 10, 2010 at 3:08 AM (PDT)

12

I just got my first IPod ever, free from my bank through a rewards program.  I’ve never bought Ipods before because I can always get another Mp3 player with similar (or better) features/storage for much much less. 

It’s very slick and nicely designed, and much tinier than the previous ones, and love the shiny anodized aluminum.  It’s cool because it was FREE. But I would have never bought the thing.  Too expensive compared other players…and I hate HATE apple’s business model of creating a device where users CANT replace the battery.  It’s pure greed I think. Force the user to pay for their battery replacement service or buy a new Ipod.  Almost all electronic devices (BEFORE THE IPOD) allowed the users to change batteries.  It’s a very simple and practical concept. But Steve Jobs does not like practical. Now unfortunately several other Mp3 manufacturers have followed Apple’s twisted business model for some of their products (ie: Sansa Fuze).   

People who don’t mind paying for this “battery replacement service” or buying a new Ipod coz the batteries are toast on the old one have money to burn.  Not all people got money to burn, some people work paycheck to paycheck and actually expect an electronic device they buy to last for several years, and not be a useless paperweight when the battery goes toast. 

So I will enjoy my FREE Ipod, and then sell it as-is/parts on Ebay when the battery goes toast probably in 2 years.

Posted by Assunta on October 4, 2010 at 10:04 AM (PDT)

13

People who don’t care they are being ripped off with a product that has a non-user replaceable battery are people who have been successfully brainwashed by Apple business model. 

Yes you guys are right, very few people would want to disassemble an Ipod to replace the battery…but that is because Steve Jobs and Co. made it HARD, VERY HARD to open any of their products and replace the battery.  If all you had to do was remove one screw, then I bet a lot of people would be happy to replace a battery on an Ipod.  I mean why buy a new unit when you just need a new $5.00 battery? 

Apple’s business model sucks, and thats the reason I will never buy their products.

Posted by Assunta on October 4, 2010 at 10:21 AM (PDT)

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