The Curse of Lithium Ion Batteries

By Richard Menta 1/16/06

Recently, I decided to round up a few of the old MP3 players I collected over the years and give them a listen. The idea was to refresh my mind on these older players with regards to how well they functioned in their day. The point was to help me to put today's players in a better evolutionary perspective. What I found is that some evolutions come with new problems.

One of the simple facts that I picked up during this exercise may not have been a surprise, but it was eye opening. Every portable more than three years old that utilized a li-ion battery could no longer hold a charge.

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It didn't matter if it was a player that I had steadily used for a year or two after the review or if it was one that sat in a box unused after the original review was completed. All were dead.

Li-ion batteries replaced the NiMH and NiCd batteries in small electronics, because they offered several significant advantage like no memory effect. Unfortunately, Li-Ion batteries are less durable than the other two, with a tendency to disintegrate over time, even if not used.

I am now staring at the iPod nano, a player that is significantly thinner than a AAA battery. The Li-ion battery inside allows the unit to achieve its svelt shape. Unfortunately, it is not a battery the average consumer can or will replace themselves. Once the battery dies the only recourse is to throw out an otherwise perfectly good digital music portable and buy a new one. Apple will probably replace the battery for a healthy fee, but the cost is rarely worth it.

Electronic devices with consumer-replaceable Li-Ion batteries are the way to go. Remember that the next time you go shopping.

Other MP3 stories:
The Digital Media Winners of 2005
The Digital Media Losers of 2005


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