Don’t Believe The Hype

For iPod owners contemplating purchasing an iTrip, pause a second.

I’ve been unhappy with my iPod battery life pretty much since I purchased it six months ago. Finally I’d had enough and sent it off to Apple support to be checked. It took them three weeks to run a one day test and the test showed it was fine. They sent it back and, $20 later, I had my same iPod that still seemed to have a battery life considerably shorter than the promoted 12 hours.

It was only a few days later I realised what was wrong.

a) I mainly use my iPod in the car to and from work.
b) I use a Griffin iTrip
c) The iTrip FAQ told me ” it uses VERY little power from the iPod and has no real effect on battery life”.

It was believing C that cost me $20 and no iPod for almost a month.

I finally twigged that C may not be correct so I ran my own test.

I kept the volume level the same for each day, set it to shuffle play and did not touch the unit until the battery expired.

Day 1 – iPod, no headphones. Batteries lasted 11.5 hours
Day 2 – iPod with iTrip. Batteries lasted 7.5 hours (No power bars visible for about the last hour so it looked as though it had run out after 6)
Day 3 – iPod with headphones attached. 11 hours.

Now this is very unscientific and a sample size of one but the iTrip reduced my iPod battery life by approx 32% – that seems a lot more than a ‘VERY little’ reduction to me.

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14 thoughts on “Don’t Believe The Hype

  1. bacco

    But is the quality of the output worth the reduction in battery life? My current FM transmitter device (the Belkin Tunecast 2) gives poor output and chews batteries…

  2. tony Post author

    I had a test of the Belkin before getting the iTrip (thanks Rob!) and the iTrip is superior. The Belkin transmitter was no where near as powerful, sound quality suffered and it did chew through the AAs.

    The power really only became an issue after a weekend away – we drove for three hours to get to where we were going, using the iPod all trip and my recharger failed that night so we didn’t have enough power for the longer trip home. And before people ask – I have my Nokia hands free in my lighter socket so I don’t have a charger for the car.

  3. Richard

    I agree with both the reduced battery life and the quality of the unit. My iTrip has been a source of entartainemt when in the back seat of a friends car controlling his radio. 🙂

    It is dissapointing about the battery life though. If you leave the iTrip on whilst the iPod is off, the battery still ontinues to drain at an increased rate.

  4. John Davis

    If you want a radio, why not buy one? In Japan there are 100 yen shops. You can get a tiny credit card sized radio for 100 yen (less than a dollar). You can get decent ones for about twice that.

    Yours sincerely,

    John Davis

  5. tony Post author

    Ah – Richard, another mystery solved. I’ve wondered why the battery drains fairly quickly. Time to start removing the iTrip whenever it’s not in use.

  6. Philip

    A transmitter has to use a fair bit of power (ie more than would be used just creating an audio feed for a set of headphones) so any information saying it uses ‘only a little bit’ is stretching things.
    If you always used the transmitter in the car (and don’t take it out of the car), just buy a transmitter that uses a separate power source, connect it to the car and leave it there. Then just plug the player into the transmitter when you get in the car.

  7. Charles

    The test is invalid. The iPod uses a different amount of CPU processing for different bitrate mp3s and AAC files, and thus draws different levels of power depending on the encoding of the music files. You can’t just put the iPod on shuffle, you have to play the exact same playlist for a valid comparison between the naked iPod and the iPod + iTrip.

    Try again.

  8. tony Post author

    Charles.

    Apart from the fact I said this test was very unscientific in the post all my songs are 128bit AAC. Every single last one of the 5500+.

    I don’t plan on trying again.

  9. Dave

    I never had any problems with iTrip and battery life. But you see, I spent the additional US$20 and bought a cigarette lighter power cord!

    Seriously, if you plan to drive a few hours at a time, that’s the only way to go.

  10. Sam Kass

    I love my iTrip! I’ve tried Belkin, the tiny AirPlay, and the iTrip, and no question the iTrip is the best out there. The AirPlay has a lot of audio artifacts, and often produces a high-pitched whine that makes it completely unusable. The Belkin is unwieldy, and a pain. It would be nice if the iTrip had the AirPlay’s hardware-settable station, or an internal battery like the Belkin, but its quality and convenience win.

    I also bought a cheap cigarette lighter-to-Firewire adapter from Fry’s and can recharge my iPod while playing in the car. This is especially convenient with a base-station style iPod, so you don’t have to turn the iTrip on its side to get to the Firewire port.

  11. Philip

    The test was fine and would probably give similar results if repeated on the same machine. To get a good idea of the power consumption, use a multimeter to measure the current it draws when it’s turned on. You will need to work out which segments of the plug deliver power to it, but that shouldn’t be hard. Use small alligator clips to deliver power from a battery and measure the current. This current, of course, should just be published in the instruction manual. But they might not want to be that honest.

  12. Ren

    And of course, I can rub salt into various wounds and make a real shit of myself by saying that the MP3 player we recently bought runs forever on a couple of AAA batteries and plugs straight into the stereo input in the car…

    *ducks for cover from the insane iPod people*

  13. Charles

    Even songs encoded with the same bitrate may have different CPU processing demands and thus draw different power levels. AAC is a variable bitrate format, so even if all your files are encoded AAC at 128, each song will still require different levels of CPU demand, depending on the audio in the file.

    As I said, the test is invalid unless you use the exact same playlist. There is a big difference between an “unscientific test” and an “invalid test.”

  14. Sea

    I’ve made the same observations as the original writer. The test being “invalid” or not, the results seem very realistic. Without having done any actual measurements, I would have guessed that the battery life time is shortened by roughly half when the iTrip is connected.

    This hasn’t, however, bothered me very much. It’s a simple fact that the energy needed for the radio transmission doesn’t come from nothing. Much more annoying is the fact that the iTrip drains the battery also when the iPod is in standby state.

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