iPod headphone disconnect automatic pause

Picture of iPod Classic

Picture of iPod Classic

Edit:Many people seem to be ending up on this page when searching for a solution to their iPod pausing randomly. I’ve put some of the common solutions to this problem in the comments below. Hope this helps!

I love my iPod. I’ve owned 3 different ones (5 if you count my 1st and 2nd generation iPhones!). There’s a great feature that you may have not even noticed exists – when listening to a song if you accidentally pull your headphones out, the iPod recognises this and automatically pauses the track!

There isn’t much point continuing playing when you can’t hear anything so it makes sense to pause. This is especially good if you are listening to an audio book as it saves all the messing around rewinding to try and find out where you were up to.

This feature is using a design principle called Forgiveness. Forgiving designs do what they can to prevent mistakes but when they occur they minimise the consequences. Here, the consequences of interrupted playback are minimised by pausing the track until you are ready to resume.

A way you can incorporate forgiveness in to your designs is to think of your product as a finite state machine and then consider what you can do automatically when the state is changed. Here there are two relevant states: “with headphones plugged in” and “without headphones plugged in”. Changing between the two states has been gracefully handled and the most logical action taken.

It’s an unfortunate truth that these kinds of features are often overlooked, but when you do notice them you realise that the team that put the product together has put in a lot of effort. So, try and take the time to think about the different states your product can exist in and then think about how you can make your users lives easier by automating things during the transition between the states.

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6 Comments

  1. Sacc
    Posted September 20, 2008 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    This feature is going to prevent me from buying another ipod, i own a classic model and it pauses every 30 seconds while my headphones are still connected.

    This feature is horrible for people like me, who take their big headphones everywhere and they are perfectly good, except for ipods, which think you are disconnecting them constantly because of the wear and tear the headphones have.

  2. William
    Posted November 9, 2008 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Dito, my 80GB iPod classic pauses all the time virtually destroying it and now it’s completely useless due to over engineering. If the feature like this exists then a method for disabling it must also exist. In products with such a wide customer base, attempting to assume how people will use the item will get you every time.

  3. Ashley Towers
    Posted November 9, 2008 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Hi Saac & William – thanks for the comments. I had never heard of this problem until you mentioned it and from looking around it seems to be fairly common! You are absolutely right that there should be a way to disable it!

    I’m sure you’ve both researched the problem but just in case any one else stumbles across this post here’s a few tips that have worked for others (as always – try the following at your own risk!).

    The problem can be caused by the headphones losing contact with the jack so check:
    1. Your headphones plug isn’t loosely fitting
    2. If you have dirty contacts in the iPod jack socket. Try using some contact cleaner or blowing it with some compressed air

    Other causes for the problem:
    3. Some third party headphones have a metal rim around the base of the plug (seems to be especially common on high end models) this can sometimes short against the metal on the jack – confusing the iPod into thinking it needs to pause.
    Here you need to insulate it – most people have stuck a piece of tape between the two to prevent metal-to-metal contact. Alternatively, others have just bought an iPod remote to act as middle-man.

    Hope this helps!

  4. ToRNOuTLaW
    Posted September 29, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Wow, great tipps, thank you Ashley!
    In my case it appears to’ve been a Problem with my headphones(Ultimate Ears – high end as you said) plug. Isolated the base, problem does no longer occeur!

  5. Tim H
    Posted May 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I found this post after searching for the problem mentioned. The tip to put a bit of tape around the base of the headphones to prevent it shorting has worked great, thank you!

  6. Cale
    Posted January 12, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I would hardly say that Apple handles the headphone unplug pause system gracefully. Its kind of a no-brainier if you ask me (I’m a Computer Engineer). I just bought a new iPod because my old one(Nano 5th gen) was pausing and this one(iPod Touch 4th gen) is pausing even more then the old one! They know about this problem and have not released any sort of work around. Apple should support their software bugs and release a patch. Quite frankly, I’ve been very unimpressed with the performance of their software. I’ve have not used any products in recent years that were anywhere near as buggy and hard to use as iTunes and iOS devices. They hang all of the time and the features a sub-par. Maybe its because I’m a power user and actually notice the lack of features. All I know is my iPod Touch is the best hand held computer I’ve ever used and hands down the worst MP3 player.

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