Apple: iPods last "for years," not "four years"

A story on iPod repairs that originally ran in the Miami Herald earlier this month and got picked up on the Chicago Tribune's Red Eye had a sensational quote from Apple spokesperson Natalie Kerris about the iPod's lifespan, reporting that she'd said iPods were meant to last "four years." The Tribune's Web story, published on Monday, prompted a number of reports across the blogosphere, including one right here in an earlier version of this post in the Browser. But on Friday, Kerris started telling bloggers that she'd been misquoted. Kerris claimed that she'd told the Herald that iPods are meant to last "for years," not "four years." That's one heck of a convenient homonym, but the Herald and Tribune ran corrections.

The report nonetheless raised the awkward topic of iPod failure rates, sparking conversation on numerous blogs. Kerris, for her part, claimed the iPod failure rate was a "normal" 5 percent, but the Tribune cited a Macintouch survey suggesting a higher number: "The survey reported a failure rate of 13.7 percent, roughly half of which were battery-related, while the other half were hard-drive-related." The newspaper then found another expert who claims 15 percent is the industry average for device failures. One out of six gadgets a dud? Is that really acceptable for any manufacturer?

The bottom line, writes Matthew Himmler at Bloggingstocks, is that Apple should worry more about the failure rate. Himmler, a self-described iPod junkie, points out that should the problems persist, the chances for Microsoft's Zune look that much better.

What do you think? Do iPods fail too often?
Posted by Oliver Ryan 4:28 PM 47 Comments comment | Add a Comment

I have never had a problem with my iPod that was purchased in Feb 2004. Nor have I had any problems with my iMac that was purchased in March 2002. I still use both on a daily basis. How many Microsoft users have a computer that lasts that over 4 years?
Posted By Jeff, Diamond Bar, CA : 11:51 AM  

My experience with my iPod failing (would not startup at all, plugged in to the wall or not) resulted in my sending it back to Apple. They promptly returned it with a letter stating that it was within "normal" failure rates and would not be repaired or replaced. They reset, but I still have occasional problems with it. I was very surprised, as far as I understand Apple always has a very high quality rate, must be just another old wives tale, or good marketing.
Posted By DB, Chandler, AZ : 11:51 AM  

Yes, iPods have a much higher failure rate than other electronic gadgets in the market place today...They can get away with it because the demand is high !

Exactly the same thing happened with VW cars 4-5 years the company suffers as original owners try to sell these cars in the second hand market....I am predicting the same for iPods..soon cusotmers will get over the 'cool' factor and start complaining...
Posted By john singh, jersey city, nj : 11:55 AM  

In the end it doesn't matter what the actual rate is, the negative pereception will kill momentum on the product if they don't get it under control. The "built in obsolesence" model evaporated in the seventies, and I cannot fathom why Apple would risk the status of their brand simply to turn more product. they need to salvage their customer relations with a long term fix...oh, that may involve a bit less profit in the short term, but it will buy customer loyalty in the long term.
Posted By Mike M. Portland, OR : 11:56 AM  

The failure rate of 15% after 4 years sems perfectly in line with a throw-away society addicted to junk food, quick fixes and lost of delay gratification gene. Every Sony walkman product I owned lasted aout as long and the technology was not nearly as advanced.
Posted By Lamont Buffington MI : 11:58 AM  

My Nano battery never lasted for more than 3 hours and is advertised to last up to 14 hours.
Posted By J Farbowitz NYC NY : 11:59 AM  

Thank god the $350 IPOD i got as a gift isn't going out of my pocket. It's lifespan is only 2 years. What is wrong with Apple? I would never buy these creations.
Posted By new jersey : 12:01 PM  

I loved my Ipod when I got it. It died at 14 months old and I treated it very gently. Apple was kind enough to replace it with a refurbished one, even though I was out of warranty by 2 months. The new refurbished one died after its 90 day guarantee. I have not replaced it. I cannot see buying another as I now use Pandora and XM to listen to music at work and use SlimDevices to listen to my music at home.
Posted By Allen Levinson, New York, NY : 12:04 PM  

Sheesh...the Microsoft Zune looking better because of iPod failure rates?

I think people would have to mentally remove themselves from common understanding that Microsoft's software fails so often and easily.
Posted By Daniel, Richmond, VA : 12:05 PM  

It depends on what the meaning of "failure" is. The battery technology used in the iPod will not recharge forever and 4 years is a lot to ask of it. If the is replaced after the stated number of charge/discharge cycles this is not a "failure" in the way that it is being used here.

The dirty little secret with most all electronic products these days is that they are being built "lead free" to comply with the EU requirements. The use of almost pure tin for solder is a major reliability nigtmare just waiting to cause premature failure of electronic products. The US military, for one, refuses to buy lead free electronics for critical applications and lead free solder was abandoned in the 1930s because it was known then to cause short circuits after the product was in use.

Find out if Apple is making their products that they sell outside of the EU "lead free" or RoHS compliant and THEN you have a story.
Posted By John, Medford, NY : 12:06 PM  

My iPod shuffle is a bit tempermental, but I chalk it up to the fact that it is an electronic device. I'm sure discmen and other MP3 players have just as many problems. The thing is that iPods are in such demand that negative press about the lifespan is just going to make the problem seem bigger than it is.
Posted By Clinton, Montreal, Quebec : 12:09 PM  

I think the failure rate is way higher than Apple would like to admit. Both my wife and I have the 40 gig ipods (3-4 years old). Both have failed several times and my wifes is currently in for service, again!
Posted By Stuart, Buffalo NY : 12:10 PM  

I was really bullish on Apple after I bought my ipod a few months ago with the thoughts of switching my Windows based computers to Macs. After my experience with the lack of quality of the ipod, I am going to stay away from Macs as I have a bad taste. The hard drive and battery went out on my ipod in a matter of months. This is unacceptable!
Posted By Ofek Hayon Henderson, NV : 12:10 PM  

I bought one of the first 4GB Ipod Mini's back in November of 2004; the battery and player were good for about 6 months. Since I must charge the player from 4 to 6 hours to get 1.5 hours of use from it; about the time it takes to workout. But what else would you expect when you send the designs over seas and use the cheapest parts you can to make a few extra dollars. Personally, I am sick and tired of buying low quality throw away products from the East, why can't that stuff be built in the U.S. for North America.
Posted By Joe Gakenheimer : 12:12 PM  

4 years!!! Are you kidding me. $300 for a device to is built to fail.
I understand that Apple needs to make a profit and wants continuing revenue...
But give me a break. I will looking for other MP3 once my IPOD SELF-IMPLODES in another year!!!!

A very ripped-off owner.
Posted By Jesse Cicon, Draper, Utah : 12:13 PM  

Bought a U2 generation ipod, died after 6mths, luckily it was under warranty so Apple gave me a replacement.
The replacement lasted 8 mths, when I brought it back to Apple they said the device was now out of warranty, the hard drive was dead but they could fix it for $290!!! Basically a throw it away and buy a new one attitude. Needless to say I will not be buying a new ipod and feel foolish to have been caught up in the hype that the ipods have generated.
Posted By GC. Boston, MA : 12:20 PM  

I have had 4 IPOD's all have lasted just over the 1 year and then died. I use it almost everyday and one had a LCD issue ...but they are not built for the long term and feel ripped off but I bought 1000.00 worth of music so they have me hostage. Apple is not high in my book.
Posted By Sparky St. Pete ....FL : 12:24 PM  

I believe the failure rate is much higher than the 5% stated by Ms. Kerris. Almost everyone I know who owns an ipod has had hard-drive related problems. I purchased an ipod for my wife and have experienced multiple failures with the unit. I have sworn off ipods in favor of the competition.
Posted By Frank, Staten Island, New York : 12:24 PM  

When you pay $399 for and IPOD it should last at least 10 years.....
Posted By Les, Overland Park, KS. : 12:24 PM  

Any electronic device is doomed to fail. Do cell phones last past four years? iPods use a rechargeable battery much like the cell phone and depending on use, it does wear down. And depending on the a person's care with their ipod, the ipod will last accordingly.

My cell phones have rarely lasted past three years and a major windows based computer company is trying to make my three year old laptop come back to life, fortunately I bought the extended warranty.

My advice to people who buy ipods....Use them, enjoy them, take care of them and buy the extended warranty. If something does go wrong, call the warranty department and the issue will get resolved. By the way, unlike many other company's tech support departments, you will be speaking to someone in America, not someone from India playing 'tag.'
Posted By Olga Aguilar, Miami Florida : 12:26 PM  

My Ipod nano failed after 9 months. I think Apple should seriously consider some actions about the lifespan. 5% seems a small number but compare to the number of ipods that have been sold so far, 5% can be quite a big number.
Posted By john, anaheim, ca : 12:30 PM  

No. I've had mine for 3 years no problem. Problem people have is they DON'T READ THE MANUAL, or check the apple batteries page. IF YOU DO WHAT THE MANUFACTURER suggests you're going to be fine. If you just unplug it, throw it in your purse/bad and drop it all the time, you're going have problems.
Posted By Bryan, Portland oregon : 12:32 PM  

I have two Ipod's, one is a paper weight sitting on my desk with HD failure and the other is a nano. The nano I have had no problems with.
Posted By Brendan, Hillsboro, OR : 12:35 PM  

In truth, four years for a portable product is just about par for the course. Many a portable CD player, Walkman, or cassette didn't make it that long. But you hit the reason the record companies now want in so bad. Digital audio files (MP3s, etc.) are back to disposable music again, not like CDs. If your iPod dies and it is not backed up, where's all those tunes coming from all over again...? (Or worse, you decide to get something else and not pay the Apple tax, format change time.) Kinda like Pop Music in the 1970s, where the 45 wore out before the fizz of the song did. Ka-ching!
Posted By Jeff, Indianapolis IN : 12:40 PM  

Yea, in just two years I'm on my third IPod having had two of them fail (both hard drive issues) and that combined with it's proprietary ITunes format (not allowing you to use "paid for downloaded music" on non-IPod devices), are black marks against the devise/service.

Cheers Microsoft Zune!!!
Posted By Steve, Dana Point CA : 12:44 PM  

In the past two years I've bought two iPod shuffles for my kids. One failed within 4 months, its replacement failed within 30 days. The other shuffle failed at day one. So far, the replacements for those are working. I don't have a lot a faith in the durability of the ipods and I'm very hesitant to upgrade to the more expensive iPods.
Posted By Chester Frazier, Baltimore, MD : 12:47 PM  

I agree that 15% is high but I have seena greater % with PDA such as the IPAQ or the Dell Axim.

I disagree about this helping Zune though. I think Microsoft has not had much success building reliable products, expecially hardware.
Posted By Aravind, Everett, WA : 12:48 PM  

It is not a suprise that iPods have a higher fail rate. How long would your computer harddrive last if you strap it on your arm and take it jogging, or leave it in a car with +100 degrees. An iPod is not a military grade device that can endure extreme conditions, you could not pay for it if it would be military grade.
I looked at the survey from Macintouch. Apparently these guys now something about math but they do not understand statistics. The sampling method is flawed. Users that had a problem will be more likely to respond to such a voluntary survey and the site attracks a certain type of person inthe first place. Both will not give you a representative picture and sample population. In addition the usage conditions are not recorded either, which can influence durability greatly.
I'm not trying to advocate for Apple here. Most likely a device with the same design (harddrive) from another vendor will fail at a similar rate.
Posted By George, Richmond, VA : 12:51 PM  

I completely believe the device failure rate is this high. I know multiple people who have seen problems w/ their Ipod batteries after about 1 year. In fact, Best Buy recommended the 3 year warranty as they practically guaranteed the Ipod mini I bought last year would need to be replaced in that time frame.

I think Apple has taken planned obsolescence to a whole new level with their battery life - most of the people who buy the Ipod are young and think nothing of having to replace a preferred gadget every 1 to 2 years.
Posted By Owen Henderson, Quincy MA. : 12:52 PM  

I have the 5th gen 60GB video and after only 2 months, the battery completely failed. When I went to the Apple store for service, I ran into 3 other people who had the same problem MULTIPLE TIMES! Apple is good about giving a new unit right away but one guy had gotten 2 replacements in 1 month, all which ended up having the same battery issue. I think the numbers are far higher than the reported 5-15%.
Posted By May Ng, New York, NY : 12:58 PM  

My husband's refurbished iPod failed right away and they replaced it. The replacement lasted about three years of rough use, and that's only because we know how to solder connections. The connection from the headphone jack to the board broke at least twice during that time. He did replace it with a newer video iPod that has a standard headphone jack, so hopefully it won't have the same problem.
Posted By Erin, Hockessin, DE : 12:59 PM  

I currently own a 60Gig video iPod and love it. I do have issues with battery life like everyone else. I understand that with any new product line on the market there will be problems. The ipod is the largest selling portable MP3 player ever. Because of this and the technology being in it's infantry (in a portable environment) of course we are going to hear about the bad experiences. Since Apple has a track record of products that are FAR SUPERIOR to Microsoft (and other tech companies).... I'll stick with my ipod.
Posted By Adam, Wichita Kansas : 1:00 PM  

I have had nothing but problems with i-pods in my experience. My first one died on me three months after the expiration for no reason. The cost to fix it would have been the price of a new ipod. Similar stories have happened to my friends, right outside the warranty date of course.
Posted By Andrew Helms, Santa Barbara, CA : 1:10 PM  

this IPOD battery is crazy man i mean i have 2 charge this USB PORt for 8 hrs at a trot for it be fuly charged, is this usual and it vanishes in 30 mns of continous listening
Posted By Vishal G Ruparel : 1:16 PM  

Quality, reliabilty and repairabilty of virtually ALL electronic devices (not just Ipods) is no longer the same as it was just last year due to the process changes required for manufacturers to meet the European Directives for RoHS (Restriction on Hazardous Substances). This initiative has been implemented pretty much accross the board in all countries, and it has mandated elimination of Pb (lead) in solders. This caused the industry to shift to a much higher melting point solder that stresses integrated circuits that are the guts of these devices during the manufacturing process, and the high tin solders are prone to "tin-whisker growth, which effectively renders the electronics useless over time.
Posted By Rick, Newport Beach, Calif : 3:06 PM  

The fail rate has to be well above 5%, and likely above 13%. Even with the "four/for years" issue, four years seems like a LONG time with an iPod. Most people will be replacing theirs before that. It isn't a car - it's a small electronic device. People who are really steamed about this must be steamed about every other electronic device they own - most people buy new PC's or laptops around or before the 4-year mark (I've had 3 laptops in 7 years because of their problems). This isn't like my father's turntable - I never expected it to last forever.

It's bad that the battery life isn't better, and that they aren't easily replaceable, but there are protection plans you can (and are encouraged) to purchase.
Posted By K, Washington, DC : 5:54 PM  

While I had success with the shuffle, the iPOD 30G has given me nothing but trouble.

I purchased the apple 2 yr protection plan only to be told to bring my iPOD back to the store where I bought it from.
Posted By Anonymous : 5:55 PM  

I think it is interesting how many people here and "the people they know" are having problems with their iPods. It is upsetting that they are having problems, but you need to consider also all the millions of iPods sold and the people who are having no problems at all. I can assure you that they by far outweigh the number that have problems. I am pretty certain that the failure rate is indeed at or around the 5% quoted.

I have an iPod and I think it is great. I have had no problem with it and the battery life is excellent. Mind you, I try to take very good care of it. After all, it is a fragile electronic device (as are most consumer electronics).

I think the Macintouch survey needs to be taken with a great deal of skepticism. Anyone who truly knows anything about statistics should know that it is a completely unreliable survey that is set up (most likely unintentionally) to create a built-in bias toward responses that are negative. Most people will gripe about something when they have problems with it, but will say nothing when there are none.

Finally, I noted that some people are excited by the Zune. Microsoft is not know for reliability, friends. Plain and simple. If you think you are going to be getting away from being locked into a forwmat, think again. The Zune is planned on being locked to a song format that will be sold through a Microsoft-branded store and will only work on the Zune Players.
Posted By MDI, Modesto, CA : 6:07 PM  

I replaced my wife IPOD after on 18 months of service when the click wheel stopped working. I was told it was cheaper to buy new vs. fixing. My IPOD is only 14 months old and sometimes the player skips all the songs on my playlists. I would hope for the price to get a product that lasts atleast 3 years.
Posted By Tom, Hope Mills NC : 7:27 AM  

iPod's fail WAY too often. I've had two and the battery needs to be replaced 2-3 times within a two year period. The software constantly freezes up...ripe for competitor entry
Posted By Noah, Boston, MA : 8:29 AM  

My daughter's IPod mini, one of the original minis, failed in 18 months. It failed to hold a charge. Sent it back to Apple within the 1 year warranty, and they claim they reloaded software and works fine. Within 3 months later same problem returned. Very disappointed with Apple service.
Posted By J Pascale, Herndon VA : 10:04 AM  

I purchased a Nano for my daughter for Xmas 19 months ago and have never had any issues. She has used under varied conditions without any problems. I think people need to read the Owner's manual before they invest in a portable entertainment device. Sour grapes versus ripe apples!!
Posted By Richard Willman, Chico CA : 1:42 PM  

I brought my 1.5 yr old iPod into the Mac Store and was told my hard drive crashed. Was told I needed to purchase a new one and that it was out of warranty. The clerk said thats a very common problem. I then said that "iPods are disposable" he disagreed with me. I'm very dissapointed with my iPod. Will look at other brands now.
Posted By Steve.. Los Angeles CA : 3:13 PM  

the ipods I have bought start breaking right around the time apple launches a new model. 2 yrs is more accurate than 4 yrs.. for years is a joke.. plus the apple store folks were as arrogant as Steve Jobs

I'll never buy another ipod.

I bought 2 one for my wife and one for myself, the second waas bought prior to the first implosion.

I'm ready for the apple backlash
Posted By i don't like apple anymore, hometown, USA : 12:37 PM  

I am very frustrated with my IPOD, which became defective after 9 months of use. The problem first began when my IPOD began playing music without a display. Resetting it resolved the problem. However, the problem soon thereafter returned. Eventually my IPOD froze up for good. Since this happened within the one year warranty timeline, I got a replacement. However, within one month, I began having more problems with my new IPOD. Since I have some more time on my warranty, I have the hope that the 3rd time is the charm and I will receive a replacement that will not crap out.
I thought that maybe it was bad luck. However, I have met 12 people, who have had to replace their IPODS (one person I know had to replace his 3 times). If my IPOD breaks down again, I am never going to purchase one of these things again. I mean, the idea is great. However, in practice it does not work. You would think that a company like Apple would be able to produce a reliable product. I do not recommend purchasing an IPOD until Apple can improve upon the failure rate. It is just a waste of money that will cost you your sanity and money. Hopefully, Apple gets their heads out of the clouds and tries to produce a product that they can stand behind. It sure as "heck" is not the IPOD.
Posted By Anonymous : 12:22 PM  

I have a wife and 3 grand daughters that I have purchased IPODS for. So far 3 have failed. Two of them failed a couple of times. The 4th is about 8 months old. I expect it to fail soon. A great idea but the equipment is a piece of crap. Don't buy one if you don't expect to replace it in a year.The best kept secret in the world. I congratulate Apple for being able to hide their fail rate this long.
They all fail by my considerable experience. 75% and counting.
Posted By Greg Pizza, Oak Brook, IL : 2:06 PM  

Jeff Diamond wrote: "I have never had a problem with my iPod that was purchased in Feb 2004. Nor have I had any problems with my iMac that was purchased in March 2002. I still use both on a daily basis. How many Microsoft users have a computer that lasts that over 4 years?

Jeff, that's a bad analogy. I have a microsoft computer at home (pentium 2)that is well over four years and it works fine. However the reason why I only use it for typing are the same why I bought a Pentium 4- impossibility of upgrade. Same goes for both 2000-2002 macintosh and, of course, - Ipods
Posted By Moribund Ante, Ontario : 11:11 AM  

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.