Fifth-generation iPod (with video) Special Report: Cell phone interference

Fifth-generation iPod (with video) Special Report: Cell phone interference


Fifth-generation iPods (with video) sometimes suffer from erratic functioning due to interference from cellular phones and potentially other radio-emitting handheld devices.

MacFixIt reader Hai Woo Tan writes:

"I have a 60G iPod and a Treo 650, at work I always place them side by side, with my iPod dock in Altec Lansing's InMotion speakers, I didn't notice this earlier until the night when I read about Engadget's report, then I realized earlier that day I left my iPod charged but unlocked, then a few SMS messages came into my Treo, and simultaneously my iPod's screen lit up and showed the main menu page from the 'charged battery icon' (screen unlit).

"Then that night when I was traveling home, on the bus at least twice my iPod's (in my bag) volume went crazy, from very loud to very soft, like someone suddenly 'jerked' the clickwheel (I left it on 'unlock' so I could change songs easily) My Treo was just beside the iPod, I thought my bag may have shifted to cause this, but my iPod is fit tightly in a new grey iPod sock, and with a transparent shield -- making the clickwheel rather hard to move about.

"I can only attribute this to phone signal interference, taking note that if the iPod is locked, none of this would happen.

Worth Godwin reports interference from a Motorola V620:

"After reading about this on your site last week, I did a little test out of curiosity. I unlocked my iPod (video capable, 60gb) and called my cell (Motorola V620) from my land line. When the phone rang, I held it over the face of the iPod, and the volume went crazy, rapidly changing volume, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, over and over. This only happened if I held the phone over the front panel of the iPod, near the wheel. If I put the phone on either side, the top, the bottom, or the back, nothing happened, even if the phone was touching the iPod. I get the same behavior if I place a phone call and hold the phone over the iPod while I'm connected. So it seems to be linked to any communication between the phone and the tower. If the iPod is locked, it is not affected by the phone.

"I tried the same thing with an older 40gb iPod (version released prior to the photo iPod) with no effect.

Michael Holve reports the same problem with another Motorola phone, the RAZR v3:

"I have a Motorola RAZR v3 and a 60GB iPod with Video... There is definitely interference from the phone heard through the iPod. While I haven't noticed bizarre behavior, I do hear a 'dit-da-dit, dit-da-dit...' while the phone does... Something. Checking for messages/synchronizing time or whatever - it's periodic. Haven't received or initiated a call together yet, however."

MacFixIt reader Brett Wickens reports that his Treo 650 -- the first device implicated in this issue -- causes interference with other devices as well:

"The problem of iPod/Treo interference may have more to do with the Treo 650 than the iPod. In the six months I have had my Treo, it interferes with all sorts of electrical devices. Two very conspicuous examples are an intermittent but loud humming sound that it makes over my car stereo speakers; and exactly the same sound it makes over Polycoms (a type of conference call speakerphone used in some offices). The latter is especially embarrassing if I am in a meeting and my Treo is ten feet away in my briefcase - it will STILL make all sorts of interference sounds on the Polycom. I have attributed this, variously, to incoming SMS or voice mail message alerts, or when switching cells (for instance, when driving the signal gets passed off from one tower to another). I am not surprised that it has the ability to disrupt the iPod. It disrupts just about everything else it comes into contact with."

MacFixIt reader Scott is the first to report such an issue with a Nokia cell phone.

Scott writes:

"I also have the new generation iPod Video and have noticed that the volume jumps about when my Nokia 6230 rings or receives a message. It only happens when the phone is unlocked but is a real pain if you mount the IPOD and phone next to each other in your car. The phone will ring and the IPOD volume jumps to max. first time it happened I almost crashed trying to turn the volume down. I leave it locked now."

As noted by Scott keeping the iPod locked will usually obviate effects of interference.

Meanwhile, MacFixIt reader Andrew Lewis reports that Apple's fifth-generation iPod may not be the only susceptible model.

Andrew writes:

"One of my girlfriends has a Motorola phone, when her phone rings it interferes with my iPod Mini. My phone is an LG and its hangs very close to my iPod - nothing not even crackle."

Speculation holds that these issues are directly or indirectly related to the touch sensitive portion of the fifth-generation iPod, and possibly the iPod nano.

Some readers who are experiencing issues with third-party add-ons resulting from phone interference.

MacFixIt reader Rick Cummins describes an issue where his LG vx7000 phone caused problems with output to a Sony Cassette Adapter.

He writes:

"I also think I may be having cell phone interference issues. I have been having issues with my iPod G5 60 gig locking up at the beginning of a song on a playlist when I go to play in my car using a Sony cassette adapter. At first I thought it may have been something to do with the Sony adapter, even though it was new, something I had bought with the new iPod. Then I feared it was my new iPod, because it would not play, even though I was able to navigate to other playlists, songs, etc. Then, when I read about cell phone interference on MacFixIt, I tried removing the one variable I had not thought of removing - my cell phone. Upon removing my cell phone from my car, both the Sony cassette adapter and, more importantly, my iPod are working perfectly."

It should also be noted that incoming cell phone calls and data transfer can cause inevitable audio interference on certain devices, including the iPod.

One reader writes:

"Similar interference happened ALL the time in my car when the Motorola phone auto-updated the time. It also happens in our church over the sound system when someone has his cellphone near the AV equipment."


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