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Apple: Early iPod Nanos can overheat; send in for free replacement

Company says battery issue with some first-generation iPod Nanos poses safety risk and that risk "increases as the battery ages." Apple urges owners of device to stop using it and to return it for a free replacement unit.

Apple's first iPod nano.
Apple's first iPod nano. Apple

Apple has begun a new replacement program for some of its first-generation iPod Nano units, which, the company says, contain batteries that can overheat.

In an e-mail sent yesterday to owners of first-generation Nanos, Apple said the batteries in Nanos sold between September 2005 and December 2006 could "overheat and pose a safety risk."

In its note, Apple said the issue can be tracked back to a particular battery supplier, and that the potential for such overheating behavior "increases as the battery ages."

The new program offers a free replacement unit to customers whose device carries a serial number that indicates the gadget contains one of the suspect batteries. Apple is promising that a replacement unit, which is another first-generation iPod Nano, will be delivered about six weeks after customers send in an affected device.

This particular problem has been known about for several years now, and was the target of an investigation by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry in 2008 after claims were made that sparking units were causing fires and leading to minor burns. Apple later began a replacement program in Japan, and on a case-by-case basis elsewhere.

In 2009, Apple published a since removed knowledge base article that noted the problem could warp the unit and render it nonfunctional. That same document also suggested there had been "very few reports" of the problem occurring, with "less than 0.001 percent" of owners reporting issues.

Despite the sales success of the the first-generation iPod Nano, this is the latest mark against the gadget. The device, which replaced the hard drive-based iPod Mini in 2005, was the target of a lawsuit thatresulted in a $22.5 million settlement in 2009 that claimed the units were prone to scratching. The settlement resulted in Apple doling out $25 each to iPod Nano owners who bought the MP3 player before Apple began including a free pack-in slipcover.

Owners of a first-generation iPod Nano can head here to see if their unit is affected and if they're eligible for a replacement.

Updated at 11:10 a.m. to note that the replacement unit is another first-generation iPod Nano.