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What you should (not) do when your iPod won’t turn on…

A miracle happened today.

People who know me are probably reaching for their phones right now to call an ambulance and send it to my address, suspecting I might have lost it since they know I don’t believe in miracles.

Not usually. But today has to be an exception.

You often hear people talk about how Apple is incredibly good at marketing and design of their products. Well today I’m here to tell you they still have a few things to learn when it comes to design.

I tried to turn on my iPod nano this morning only to find out that it didn’t want to turn on at all. This was quite strange since last night, the battery was 75% full after I was done listening to some music. So I knew it worked fine then. And all I did was pause it after I was done and put it away until this morning.

So at first I thought perhaps it wasn’t paused last night, and it kept playing all night long and the battery was probably totally empty. I connected it to a USB port on my computer and tried to turn it on. Nothing. Then I thought, since the battery might be completely empty perhaps I needed to leave it connected to the USB port for a while to let it charge. There was no indication however that it was charging or that it was detected by Windows on the computer, so I was still a little worried.

After about an hour, I came back and tried turning it on. Nothing.

Now I began to think that it probably, somehow, died. I tried disconnecting it from the computer, pressing the buttons on the iPod randomly, connecting it back to the computer, knocking it on my desk caveman style but it just wouldn’t turn on.

I went to Google and did a search for “ipod nano does not turn on” and found quite a few instances (check it for yourself!) of other people who were most likely having the exact same problem, mentioning that suddenly they could not turn on their iPod nano anymore (some of them thinking it was actually broken). And I couldn’t find an instance where someone had this problem and managed to get it fixed.

I had already decided at this point that I was about 95% convinced that it was broken. And what this usually means is that the device was ready for the final autopsy, performed by yours truly. So I grabbed my MacGyver style Swiss pocket knife and started poking into the gaps next to the hole for the earplugs. At some point I managed to stick the blade of the knife a centimeter into the iPod, and started lifting part of the case up. With some difficulty (okay, a lot) I eventually managed to pry the back part of the case open.

Then I carefully looked at and studied the green circuit board inside like I knew what I was doing. I was about to break open the circuit board to see what was below it when I got this feeling to close it up again and try turning it on one last time before I completely ripped it apart.

So I did, and it wouldn’t turn on. At this point I decided to actually RTFM and see what I could find. I got to the “Using the Controls” section of the manual, and found an entry describing how to reset the iPod nano if it is not responding. As described in the manual, I set the Hold switch to Hold and then back again, and then pressed the Menu and the Center buttons (but not the play/rewind buttons) down at the same time and held them down for about 6 seconds. And in what can only be described as an experience very close to the second coming of Jesus, I could see the Apple logo appear on the iPod nano screen! And to think that just about 2 minutes ago, I was ready to rip it apart completely!

What can we learn from all of this? Apart from the fact that I’m probably not very intelligent, we can also clearly see that the iPod nano has at least some design issues.
As can not only be seen from my experience but from all the other cases found on Google, the problem with the iPod nano not responding and people thinking it’s broken happens, and happens often. Most people might not know that you have to reset it in order for it to work again, since usually, when a device doesn’t turn on it’s most likely broken. For example, when your TV, car, radio, dishwasher, computer etc. don’t turn on when you press the power button, you don’t usually think about resetting it.

In addition, Apple seems to be aware of this problem as well. It appears that when you pause the iPod nano and it turns off automatically after a while, sometimes it might not want to turn back on unless you reset it first. This is just sloppy design and engineering. And I could also add the freezing problem the iPods seem to have to this as well.

Another issue I noticed early on when I got my iPod nano, was that when the battery is completely empty and I connect it to my computer to charge, it turns on automatically and because the battery is low, it only displays the Apple logo, boots to the main menu and then turns off again, only to turn on again immediately in an endless loop. And it keeps doing that until the battery has been charged enough to keep it on. So one starts to wonder, why not simply display a “battery low” message or give the user some indication that the battery is too low for the iPod to work properly and turn off again? The first time this happened, I actually thought my iPod was malfunctioning (at first I didn’t know the battery was too low and I thought that the constant rebooting was a problem). Again, I’ve used a couple of other devices that use batteries, like my cellphone, digital camera etc., and they either don’t turn on at all when the battery is too low and/or clearly display a message that the battery is too low.

So finally, to make sure that for the future, people having these problems with their iPod can find this page (hopefully before they throw it away), I’m going to end with some keywords for search engines: iPod, nano, freeze, does not turn on, fails to turn on, keeps rebooting, does not respond, hot teenage girls, Steve Jobs, bad design.

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