iPod and over-charging

Reader Danny Sat is concerned about his iPod’s battery. He writes:

I recently got a Bose SoundDock and wanted to know if it was a bad thing to keep the iPod permanently mounted in the dock, as the SoundDock continuously charges it. Is there any danger to the battery from doing that?

When I’m out and about, talking about iPods, I hear this question a lot. The answer is, generally, no. The iPod is a savvy little piece of gear and it understands when enough is enough. It won’t overcharge when connected to a power source for days on end.

Some folks (other than Apple) suggest that it’s a good idea to undock the iPod once a month or so and let it work off the battery for awhile. Allegedly this will “exercise” the battery and provide it with a little longer lifespan. I haven’t tested the theory because, frankly, I don’t have the patience to conduct multi-year battery trials. Given that the iPod is a portable music player and even the most devoted homebody is likely to leave the house on a monthly basis, it certainly won’t hurt to take your iPod for a walk every so often.

This question is usually followed with “So, how often should I charge my iPod? Should I run it all the way down? Run it half-way down? What? For godsake, what!?

After dashing a cup of ice water into the anxious questioner’s mug I follow up with this:

Don’t worry about it. Enjoy your iPod.

Yes, you can fret about the absolute perfect method for charging the iPod so it lasts for as long as physics allows, but it’s eventually going to die and you’ll either replace the battery or get a new iPod. Running it all the way down and letting it sit for a week with no juice won’t recondition the battery—the batteries in iPods don’t have a “memory” that needs to be reset by running them dry as did some older battery-driven devices. Nor will the battery become overly stressed if you recharge it at the end of each day even though you’ve used only a quarter charge.

In short: Charge it when it’s convenient for you and makes the most sense. If you’re going on a trans-Atlantic flight, by all means, find a spare power outlet at the airport and top it off. If you charged it the day before, have listened to it only for a couple of hours, and don’t feel like taking it out of your backpack, leave it where it is, enjoy its many gifts the next day, and charge it the next time you think of it.

Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter

Comments