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iPod at Altitude


bartron
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I was just looking at the specs for the iPod shuffle and noticed they specify a max altitude of 10,000 feet. Has anyone tried it at higher altitudes ? If so, did it play normally ?

The only problem I could see would be trapped air or other gasses in the iPod that would cause damage when it expands at higher altitudes. I've been out of electronics for too long to remember if commercial grade ICs have non-extreme altitude limits, but my gut doubts they do. :)

Any ideas ?

'later...

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I had my 23month old ipod mini at Loveland this year and it died 4th day out - just circled through the songs never stopping and playing them - returning to sea level and charging did not help - then it cleared all the songs out

The awesome news is my husband bought the 24 month replacement warranty when he got it for me so I now have a brand new nicer, better battery etc IPOD nano

Don't know if it was the altitude or not

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I had my 23month old ipod mini at Loveland this year and it died 4th day out - just circled through the songs never stopping and playing them - returning to sea level and charging did not help - then it cleared all the songs out

I'm betting that it wasn't the altitude...my girlfriend's mini is doing the same thing at about 25 months old, and it's never been over 6200'...hmmmm. Possibly a manufacturing defect in a batch of Minis?

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Given the number of Ipods manufactured it doesn't surprise me that there are some with problems. So far between my wife and I, we have four and other than the dead batteries on our 40gb models (covered) no real problems...my next mp3 player will most definatly be the new shuffle, it's the perfect boarding/riding player.

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The 10,000 feet altitude limit is listed in the tech specs for all the iPods that Apple currently lists on their site.

It's strange. I'll send them an e-mail asking what could happen if we bring it to higher altitudes. I don't expect to get a reply, but you never know. :)

'later...

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Ridden with a 30 gig Gen III, 4 gig mini and 4 gig nano. No problems with altitude but for those who haven't experienced this, you need to keep the ipod as warm as possible. The cold air will kill your battery if it's not protected. This goes for cell phones as well

Anyone want to validate this comment?

CJ

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try formatting it, you might have to use a disk utility and with windows who knows what you need windows is not known for dealing hard drives that have corrupted bits well.

if you're a mac user Disk Utility might be needed to access it if there are problems with the drive.

wipe it, maybe even zero it if you're feeling like doing so then start the ipod utility after you're done with disk utility, I have done so with a friends ipod and thats all that was needed for the symptom as described above.

they are hard drive based, I don't really get why people expect the things to work forever without being formatted now and again just like your laptop or desktop.

on to the origional post

I know that I've seen shuffles and gen 1 ipods survive 12000 ft with no issues.

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The cold air will kill your battery if it's not protected. This goes for cell phones as well

That's true for just about every electronic device. The chips used in them do have operating temperature limits. The limits may not seem like a problem, until you consider the wind chill and the speed at which you're riding.

In the case of the iPod, the operating temp range is specified as 0C-35C (32F-95F). Obviously very easy to exceed. Well, at least in the areas of ski resorts. :) I have to say, I was really surprised at that temp range. I expected the lower limit to be something like -10C.

'later...

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Ridden with a 30 gig Gen III, 4 gig mini and 4 gig nano. No problems with altitude but for those who haven't experienced this, you need to keep the ipod as warm as possible. The cold air will kill your battery if it's not protected. This goes for cell phones as well

Anyone want to validate this comment?

CJ

Yep that's valid!! The modern Lithium Ion/polymer batteries are sensitive to low temperatures....

Another thing... If it gets cold... moisture can condensate on the inside of the equipment you're using (IPod, Camera, CellPhone) BAD news... I seal up my camera with a zip lock bag to keep the moisture out...

We're not only talking about melted snow either... Inside pockets are sometimes worse... when you sweat whilst riding, the sweat will get into the equipment and as soon as it gets cold.. it fogs up... Bit like taking your goggles off!!!

About the 10000ft thing... interesting....

Are some electronics hermetically sealed with an inert gas?? Me thinks the lower pressure at 10000ft could interfere with the materials ability to conduct electricity??

But I'm only guessing.... I'm a Mechanical Engineer.. not electronic, but I remember we did some stuff on electronics......

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I figured out the reason for the altitiude limit...I think.

Modern electronics are built so small, and the tolerances within them are so tight that the air trapped in the plastic that the ICs are built on could expand and cause a short. I remember that when I was building O3 sensors for NASA the boards were a higher end plastic that had a very high density so that the gasses in the board wouldn't expand and cause our $2000 toy to be a $2000 piece of crap. Seeing as the new shuffle is as compact as it is, methinks that this may be the case.

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I figured out the reason for the altitiude limit...I think.

Modern electronics are built so small, and the tolerances within them are so tight that the air trapped in the plastic that the ICs are built on could expand and cause a short. I remember that when I was building O3 sensors for NASA the boards were a higher end plastic that had a very high density so that the gasses in the board wouldn't expand and cause our $2000 toy to be a $2000 piece of crap. Seeing as the new shuffle is as compact as it is, methinks that this may be the case.

Hmmm makes sense... Modern electronics have come such a long way in such a short time.....:biggthump

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Guest NEngineer

The altitude limit only exists for non-solid state storage (hard drive) IPods. Solid state IPods like the shuffle shouldn't have a problem at high altitude.

In a hard drive, the head that reads the data, floats just above the rotating disk on a bubble of air created by the rotating disk. At higher altitudes, where the air is thinner, the head can (but doesn't always) make contact with the rotating disk, damaging the disk, the head and/or both. Hence the altitude limit on IPods.

In fact, regular hard drives used in computers also have a operating altitude limit.

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After reading the last few posts, it just occurred to me that it may be because of the air that's trapped in the casing itself. If the casing is air-tight, then as the air inside the case expands, the pressure inside the casing could increase to the point where it damages the components inside.

The harddrive theory wouldn't apply to the shuffle and nano (which both have the same altitude limit), since they don't have drives.

I haven't gotten around to calling Apple yet. I'll try to do so tonight.

'later...

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Guest NEngineer

The harddrive theory wouldn't apply to the shuffle and nano (which both have the same altitude limit), since they don't have drives.

the altitude limit on the nano and shuffle is a mystery. Technologically, it doesn't make sense.

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10K altitude limit seems goofy to me too... must be internal pressure related. Perhaps as the external case expands it drives apart board to board electrical interconnects or affects the way devices connect to boards.

Another factor could be the 'breathing' that takes place in virtually all but hermetically sealed boxes. Pressure change cycles act as a pump, which draws external air (often moisture laden) into the case. This allows corrosion to set in which affects interconnects. Good design practice will make the product tolerate this with no ill effects, but highly cost competitive products will often cut these corners by using thin or poor plating, wrong or incompatible materials, etc. etc. If the failure onset is immediate, corrosion is not the culprit, but most likely moisture shorting circuits is.

I don't think it is heat related.

I do know that as you go up in altitude air density does decrease which affects its ability to carry away heat from electronics. This effect is usually offset by the average decrease in ambient temperature that comes with rising alt. However, this is all pretty insignificant when considering most of the time these players end up in pockets or other places which do not allow good cooling.

just my $0.03

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Barton:

"After reading the last few posts, it just occurred to me that it may be because of the air that's trapped in the casing itself. If the casing is air-tight, then as the air inside the case expands, the pressure inside the casing could increase to the point where it damages the components inside."

Wait...the pressure inside increases? How?

The air doesn't expand...the pressure remains constant. The only thing that changes at altitude if the casing is air-tight is that the pressure on the outside of the case decreases. While this could lead to bad things, such as the case coming apart due to internal pressure, the pressure inside the air-tight case should _not_ change. (Well, maybe it'd get lower due to expansion of the case, but it damn well won't go up.)

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I've got access to labs and stuff and lots of electronics guys...

Send me your i-pods and I'll do some testing. Unfortunately it's likely to be destructive.

My bet is on the floating head on the hard drive and the number being carried over to the other types of ipod beacuse it was there.

Although the sealing on the ICs to prevent moisture inflitration would also be a concern.

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I've learned something today about hard drives... Also a mechanical engineer here and My bet would be on air trapped inside of components. I've never held a nano or nearly any ipod for that matter, but I highly doubt that it is sealed.. IT doesn't claim to be water resistant or anything does it? For the most part I'd say the altitude limit is just a warning. Possibly carried over from other "similar" products. They're just covering their bases. Just remember a factor of safety. Most simple things like that they'd probably have a FS of 2 or so. For stuff that could harm a person/keep a person safe, FS is probably more like 5 or 10... Don't take my word for it, but you're probably safe...

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