Within the last month or so, the battery life of my five-year-old, third-generation iPod dropped to almost nothing. It was too old to justify sending it back to Apple for one of its expensive battery-switch jobs, but too functional to toss out. So I sent away to a company that promised to sell me a battery and easy installation instructions for just $33, a price that included shipping. Sounded pretty good to me.

The battery showed up last night. According to the instructions, and to a really nifty online video, all I had to do was wave this blue plastic tool (included) in the general vicinity of my iPod, and the case would magically, and safely, come apart so that I could make the switch without causing any damage to the insides. (I exaggerate only slightly.)

Let me cut to the chase and tell you there was no way on earth that case was coming apart with the magic blue tool. I enlisted the help of Media Nation Jr., who opened it the only way I think it could have been done: with a utility knife and a screwdriver.

The sides ended up slightly worse for the wear, but he was able to make the switch without incident and put things back together the way they were before I had attempted my blue-tool magic. It was pretty easy — no forcing anything, no pushing anything around.

And yet. Now that it’s back together, the headphone jack doesn’t work. If you squish things around, you’ll get some momentary sound, but you can’t sit there and listen to the thing. The other end — the slot used to charge it, transfer music and play through my car stereo — works just fine, which makes me wonder whether there’s some sort of headphone adapter I could get. For now, though, it looks like I’ve got a car-only iPod, which takes care of maybe two-thirds of my needs.

I’m not singling out the battery company because the battery seems fine. I suppose it’s not the company’s fault that it felt it had to lie emphasize the positive about how easy it would be to crack open the iPod. But, as careful as MNJ was, the difficulty he had in opening it up is obviously why the headphone jack got damaged.

All of which means that I’m now iPod-less, more or less. And wondering why Apple had make the thing so difficult to pull apart.