Final: iPod mini battery tests

Final: iPod mini battery tests 1

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.

  1. If you happen to be near an apple store its worth a trip in to actually see the mini in person. I was amazed at how small it really was. There’s no substitute for comparing the size differences in person. I especially couldn’t get over how thin and light it was.

  2. i am from new zealand and i would like to know when the mini comes to my shores. at the moment we only have 15,20 and 40 gig models which can cost alot down here*, $600* for the 15g, $750* for the 20g and $1050* for the 40g so i really hope the mini comes out soon so i can get an ipod that doesnt cost too much or will bring down the prices of the others.

    * prices in nz dollars


  3. nothing but the ipod mini should be bought. somewhere up there it says that it doesnt have a radio tuner…hoo the hell needs a radio tuner when you have your personal music selection right there! psssh. the mini is much betterthan the regular ipod. gurantee if you guys hoo have regular ipods bought the mini you would agree with me. much much much better. in every way. who cares about more storage? i have every song since the 5th grade (im now in 9th) on my ipod mini…i only have 659 songs…1000 songs is almost too much! by the time you get to 1000 i gurantee the very first song you put on there wont be as apealing…as well as the other first 200

  4. The above is ridiculous. Neither the ipod nor the ipod mini is better. If u like colourdy gadgets and dont need much space and dont want to spend too much then the mini is for you. on the other hand if u need a lot of space and money isnt a porblem then the ipod would be better. Dont attack people for buying the ipod mini, if everyone had the same it would be a mighty boring world wouldnt it

  5. I just wanted to no everybody oponion in what they would rather have mini or a fifteen gb what are the pros and con and when do both of the come out in perth australia thanks

  6. In my opinion, the Mini is overpriced for its capacity…alright, more colors, better scratch resistance, smaller size, better battery life…but for 50 bucks you can do away with these small things (personally I like the pure white of the regular iPod better) and get 11 more gigs of space. I’d only buy a Mini if I had exactly 250 and no more, and desperately wanted an MP3 player.

  7. I still have my gen. 1 GB iPod, have had every other model and sold them to my coworkers and kept my 40 GB model. I bought the mini as a curiosity and found I use it more than any other. I load it up with books and the best picks from c.d.’s I have ripped. My 40 contains the complete disk wile I only put the best on my mini. I work @ SLC Int. airport as an avionics tech and it hangs on my ID badge, hardly noticeable. I do custom installations in 20 to 40 million dollar aircraft and do component level repair on any thing electronic or electromechanical. I have tested all the ipods with my HP distortion analyzer with varying results. I just purchased a set of Shure E5c and E3c and I’m testing the Etymotic ER4 And ER6 phones. Any one who tries any of these units will feel they have been ripped off for buying any songs from iTunes, they sound raspy, ratty and digital “glitchy and mechanical” nothing short of 256 AAC or 330 mp3 sounds worth a crap and if you spend the money to buy a full CD instead of going to your local music store, getting the original c.d. and ripping it is being ripped them selves and being made a fool of. the only thing itunes has to offer is audio books and the occasional obscure song you just have to get for your collection. I suggest going to the library and get it that way. I love Apple and there products but itunes just bites the big one. (HEY APPLE, MAKE YOUR MUSIC MATERIAL AT LEAST AS GOOD AS THE PLAYER!) All the ipods look good on the spectrum analyzer as well as the distortion analyzer, battery lives are good as long as you care for yore iPods, witch the average user doesn’t have a clue how to do. The Sure E3c’s give you the best bang for the buck and if you get a set you will never put your ipod down. The dynamic outer ear style phone the iPod come with are like listening to a crappie old AM radio. I’ve been designing 200,000 + dollar sound systems for personal G3, G4 etc. aircraft and have developed some iPod accessories that will appear after the patents are complete. I you are interested in what we do go to for a sampling. By the way don’t look at the $50.00 difference as dive space difference, but a way of getting a musically superior and technologically superior device that won’t be covered in scratches every time you set it down on your desk.

  8. The battery-life is the least of my worries. If you putt AIFF-files on your iPod and keep it at the right temperature the battery lasts more than an hour longer than if it is cold or the files are highly compressed mp3 files. The decompression inside the iPod takes a lot of power. Well that is my own experience.

    BTW: What’s the discussion about which iPod to choose? Price and capacity aren’t the issue here. In my opinion the iPod mini is a fashion statement. Why else the colours back again? The 3G iPod is the ‘serious one’ and the mini is the ‘cute one’, right?

  9. Jzus, seems that a lot of people have been drinking the Apple kool-aid again…

    iPod is great. I’m buying one today from the apple website. But it’s just the best mp3 player to buy. It’s not the 2nd coming of Christ.

    If you own more than one or two of these things, than you probably also have an iMac or G3/4/5 and drive a Volkswagen Jetta/Beetle/Passat and wear DocMartin shoes and drink Zima.

    Stop worrying so much about image.

  10. I’ve been anticipating the arrival of the iPod mini in Canada for some time now…

    I’m actually quite happy that it’s not out right now, because the factor of saving up the money in the first place is the most important one. The fact that people in their reviews are nagging about “JUST ADD $50 FOR 11 GB MORE SPACE!!!”, it’s not about capacity with the mini, for the majority of the people, the size (of the actual mini), the colour and the new features are surely enough to convince people to throw in the dough.

    Besides the capacity point…
    Most people don’t even NEED 4 GB. I’ve got a music library of over 245 songs, and the iPod mini stores almost 4 times more the songs!! Besides the point, I don’t think I’ve EVER listened to ALL of my songs anyways!!

    The iPod mini is just perfect for me.

    -Tony M.

  11. I have a mini.
    All of the people who say “$50 more and I get the 15 gb one”
    I was out for something really compact, sleek, and a damned good looking thing.
    iPod mini delivered.
    People also fail to realize how easy it is to put music on the iPod, and then replace it.
    Nobody will listen to that much music, consecutively.
    My brother has a first generation, and he can’t even remember what is on his iPod.
    for $50 dollars less, you get a much nicer (in my opinion) design, I barely even notice it in my pocket, and performance is wonderful. To those who actually listen to 10000 songs straight, hooha to you and my congradulations. But don’t diss the mini.

  12. I’ve had my 15GB iPod (3rd gen) since last summer and wouldn’t trade up the capacity for the mini’s coolness factor. But that’s just me. People have different tastes, and Apple has catered for them with different models.

    The next ‘Pod I’m getting will definitely have more storage capacity! I’m currently sitting at 2635 songs with 1.6GB unused (i use 160bps or 192bps encoding with AAC and MP3 formats respectively).

    Oh, and as with regards to the mini having 3.76GB HD space, that just comes from the habit of manufacturers quoting HD space with one GB as 1000 MB, rather than the actual 1024. A cheap trick by all HD manufacturers to make their products look like they had more capacity than they actually do…

  13. Im getting either a 20 gig for the space. I have 512mb pos player and Im sick of swapping songs around… If I got a mini I’d still be swapping stuff around. A larger capacity is also used as back-up, which anybody would agree is better than looks etc…

  14. I have a 15 gig iPod, and while i’ve only got 9 gigs of music, i still use it to back up some of my files. I agree with Ami, most people with iPod minis are the losers in the subway pushing the button that makes the ringing noise on their new craptastic video/camera phone and pretending they are getting a call, because they’re such losers. Also, yman, Canada sucks.

  15. For all you Canadians out there:

    “Apple Computer has pushed back the international debut of its iPod Mini from April to July, citing stronger-than-expected demand in the United States and a limited supply of hard drives.”


  16. Have a 10GB iPod, but went ahead and bought the mini. I painted the clip-on carrier black to match the inner fairing on my bike. Blue paint on the mini almost matches my bike perfectly. I use ER6’s under a full face helmet. What a blast! Used it today. I still had batt. power after a 205 mile ride.

    iPod was to big and bulky to take on my rides (ain’t that insane?!) So, I use for backing up a large portion of my HD as well as transferring major data downloads.

    Talked two of my riding friends into buying the mini!

    The only thing I do miss is the remote that the iPod had. Anyone know if they’re working on one of those for the mini?

    Have fun! Happy listening to all!

  17. I just personally like the normal iPod better–I like the design better and I like the navigation. The mini just never felt right in my hand, that’s all. I’m sure it’s a great product though.

  18. I think that if Apple came out with an iPod that had a built-in FM tuner and voice recorder, no one would object to these features.

    In my opinion, MiniDiscs are on the way out. I have some reasons that I won’t get into here.

  19. You guys are making such a big deal out of the apple mini. Have you seen other mp3 players? Before i got my GEN 3 15GB iPod I had the Rio Nitrus. That is a $250 1.5GB Mp3 player…released after the iPod. After having firmware updates with it, I took back the Rio and paid $50 more, not only for 10x the HDD capacity, but an awesome all around mp3 player. The only trouble i have is switching from drag and drop ease to iTunes playlisting. Importing and organizing 18+days of music is not a hobby :P. Damn those hairline scratches!

  20. I think walkmans and iPods are good, because you can listen to music as you walk around.

    That’s all.

    Can we get some perspective, please?

  21. My son would like me to send him an I Pod. He is in Afganistan with some access to electricity, internet, etc. This isn’t some kid hanging out by the family computor. I need real help in deciding what to send.

  22. July I presume… the same goes for Australia (my country). There was a delay due to huge demand in the US.

    I have the 3G 15GB and I am 90% happy with it. Battery life is awful. When skipping tracks often, using backlight, EQ set on Dance, and volume at 75%, battery dies in 2-3 hours. It makes me sick, apart from that I love it to bits.

  23. The only reason I have an ipod is because it was free. I would have never spent so much money on an mp3 player. They all do the same thing, play music, why would you want to pay more than you have to.
    As far as getting a mini or a regular one they are different. If I had to go on style I would get the mini but as far as space the 15 GB or larger is better. If I had the choice though I would have chosen a different brand. I’ve never cared for apple and it doesnt work all that well with my Dell.

  24. I have the 15GB iod and it works alright but I hate how sensitive the buttens are. It always turns on and runs down the battery. It scratches way to easy and I dont like how It only comes in white (ugly)
    I think the ipod is a total ripoff. if I had $300 to waste I wouldn’t buy this

  25. Why does the replacement battery cost $99 whe you can get a cellphone battery for 10 bucks. it’s insane! why would you pay $99 for a battery?

  26. I just got my ipod mini the other day, after a month of waiting, and was wondering how best to discharge the player? I’m running it on the lil’ dock (thru my sound system, borrowing my cable from my XM radio, now if the Mini only had XM *grin*) until it runs down then recharging it, kinda like how the laptops seem to work. Is that the best way or would it damage the battery? Thanks for any tips anyone can give me.

    BTW, one the mini versus non-mini debate, geez you like what you like and you get what you want, don’t put down one player over the other they both look great and work nicely. I went for the mini because as a girl I like things small, shiny, and cute (which both fit but the mini does so better) but also because I only have a limited amount of CDs to change into MP3s and all my songs together number in less than 1,000. Hey I was fine with my iRiver iFP-180t 128MB player and this is a huge improvement in space.

  27. “Does anyone know how much the mini’s battery is affected by running AAC files encoded at 320 kbps?”

    Less compression means more bitrate and hence more disk access. So the iPod isn’t able to buffer as much into RAM and the hard disk is spinning more.

    Now, spinning up and down the disk consumes a lot of energy (due to inertia) but the iPods power management subsystem is optimised for ~140 Kbps bitrate.

    You are definitely out of spec.

    Just for laughs, try playing back some uncompressed raw AIFF files – the disk will be constantly on and your battery will drain at an alarming rate!

  28. Everyone talks about songs, but does anyone have any info on quality of sound for classical music on the iPod or iPod mini?

  29. Does anyone know how much the mini’s battery is affected by running AAC files encoded at 320 kbps? All of my material is encoded at this rate and I seem to get far lower battery times than those shown in the tests above.


    Bill J.

  30. We had battery issues with our new iPod mini. It did freeze two times and we sent it in for service at AppleCare. We were concerned that the battery life only lasted about 2.5 hours even though we charged/discharged it several times. AppleCare service is very good…very professional and friendly.

  31. I am goin crazy here. Europe is retarted, the ipod mini is comin out in like July/August! I do not have time for this shit, and if i want it now, i have to order it online all the way here from the states, and the gadgets i want with it, will all add up to around 330 euros, wow there, don have the money, i could buy another mp3 but they all suck compared to these gorgous ipods.

  32. For the record, I don’t own anything by Apple — iPod or otherwise.

    I was actually “thrown” onto this website by some freak accident, when a search on “mp3 music format” led me here. However, I was amused by all your internal bickering on which iPod is better, if the mini is “cool” or not, etc..

    If you’re all happy with your own purchases or decision not to own one, does anybody really care what the world thinks? Why do you feel a need to justify or defend your love or hate of the iPod mini? That was a rhetorical question — I won’t actually be expecting a reply as I won’t be back in this forum — no offense! 🙂

    Have fun…

  33. i’m after an ipod to use to store my digitel photos on while traveling over seas,. what do i need to do this and were are they avalible in New Zealand?

  34. The mini ipod is Awesome i got it yesterday and it is mad sick. You have to be a domeass to not like anything about the ipod mini.

  35. “If you own more than 2 iPods, you are a LOSER. realize that.”

    Spoken like someone who is on their second iPod.

  36. you are all gay. the i-pod mini is clearly superior in every manner. size? smaller. weight? lighter. look? coloured. price? cheaper. when will all you ipod mini haters wake up and realise that you are only masking the fact that you are now embarassed that you have a ‘huge’ ipod instead of the cooler mini??? get a grip of your lives!! losers.

  37. “i know the 15gb has more space but the mini has the looks and is the best thing ever made so far from APPLE and i love it i have 400 songs in it including Hilary duff, Linkin Park, Aaliyah and a whole lot more and you guys are saying that is not much space you guys are crazy how much songs do you need you are not going to listen to all of the are you? well i guess you are not so stop it@”


  38. Yo! I got my self a brand new silver mini with the engraving, dock, service plan and the whole kitten kaboodle. This is what I say. The box that it comes in is sweet. The way that it opens is amazing. And tell me, does money just grow on trees? “50 bucks more” is a good amt. of money. Plus the big Ipod is cool but OLDSCHOOL. Were in 2004 dude. It’s time to get sleek, short, and sweet. The mini is great!!! For those of you musicaholics. The Ipod maybe the way to go. But for me, If need to show off my mp3 player to my friends, the Ipod mini does the trick. Now I got some downloading to do! Over and out

  39. ipod mini is for people who cant afford a real ipod and bitch about it being better so eat my 20 gb 3G You cheapasses ohh and those 40 gigabyte owners.. dude 40 gigabyte is same size as g1 so 3g is meant to be slim bot 40 gb isnt so 40 gigabyte sux for its big arse thats why i got 20 gigabyte

  40. The joys of the pod, in any form ,lies in it’s ability to “provoke” enjoyment, create options, and enhance your life….those mal-contents suck it up, and destress your lives…
    those who are podders, already know that music makes the day …well…. much more fun, and something you can share…with friends and signif. other…..just to name a few.
    So share the wealth, talk about potential design flaws, be productive…detox if you can, and love the music whatever form you prefer.Remember you only go around once….you might as well enjoy the ride!

  41. Im debating wether to buy the ipod or the ipod mini.

    If you have itunes and a bunch of songs already on your computer couldn’t you just buy the ipod mini (smaller storage) and just keep changing the 1000 song list?

    But I do realize that the ipod allows you to voice record which the ipod mini doesn’t.

    But then again I am on a budget.

    Is the ipod worth the extra 50 bucks?


    Anyone, Someone, help me decide, which should I go for?

  42. “ipod mini is for people who cant afford a real ipod and b**** about it being better so eat my 20 gb 3G You cheapasses ohh and those 40 gigabyte owners.. dude 40 gigabyte is same size as g1 so 3g is meant to be slim bot 40 gb isnt so 40 gigabyte sux for its big a*** thats why i got 20 gigabyte”

    So you slag off the mini but then preach the 20gb over the 40gb because it’s smaller, did you think before you wrote that?

  43. What about temperature effects on battery performance? It seems this is a fairly significant issue that wasn’t taken into consideration… although I doubt it could account for the 3+ hour difference in the Mossberg test.

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