Apple are known globally for their computing and electronic products which put design and usability at the top of the list of priorities, and most people will know them for their iPod products which have gone through various evolutions over the past few years. Whilst the current generation of iPods have large touch sensitive screens and massive on board storage, there is still a strong market for the ultra-portable iPod shuffle, and with the third generation having been released in 2009 things have taken an interesting turn.
Apple iPod Shuffle Technical Specs
Whilst the first generation of iPod Shuffle was available with just 512 MB or 1GB of on board storage space, the latest version has a massive 4GB which is enough for thousands of your favourite tracks. It is available in either black or silver with a cool polished metal effect finish that is similar to the larger iPods as opposed to the brushed metal look of older iPod Shuffles, and it uses flash memory to minimise the size of the unit and improve battery life.
Like previous shuffles there is no screen which improves battery life and keeps costs down. However, this is the first version of the Shuffle to use VoiceOver, Apple’s own text-to-speech technology that will allow you to hear the song name, artist and album name read to you in one of 14 different languages whilst it’s playing so you’ll always know what you’re listening too.
The next change to the iPod Shuffle is that none of the controls for volume, track skipping or anything else are located on the unit itself. Instead the headphones which are supplied with the unit have all of these controls built in to the left ear bud. This means that when you want to change track, find out who wrote the track you’re listening to or turn your iPod Shuffle up you’ll need to press a button in your ear, making you look a bit like a secret service agent listening to instructions. Whilst this is great in practice at the moment there’s no third party headphones that support these functions. Whilst you can still use your old headphones in the new Shuffle, playback of tracks will be automatic and uncontrollable and you won’t be able to adjust the volume. This means that you’ll have to make sure that you don’t loose the headphones that are included with the iPod Shuffle if you want to keep control over it. However, the idea is that you’ll find it a lot easier to control the Shuffle when you’re on the go, whether you’re jogging or walking, as your ear will always be easy to reach. However, some have complained that the buttons themselves are too small to operate easily, though this is more a matter of personal taste. Controlling the playback works on clicking the buttons multiple times for different effects, and this can sometimes be frustrating to use as over-clicking is easy to do.
iPod Shuffle Software Updates
The first improvement over previous iPod Shuffles offered by the latest version is support for more than one playlist. This means that whilst you’re not going to be able to see which track is playing and select it manually you’ll be able to put multiple playlists from iTunes on your Shuffle and define your own listening experience.
iPod Shuffle Design and Looks
Being an Apple product the iPod Shuffle is of course a beautifully designed piece of equipment, with the aforementioned colour options and the reflective belt clip bearing the Apple logo very easy on the eye. It is also a truly tiny little device which may put some off as loosing it or having it stolen are always going to be made riskier by this. To put its size into context, it is smaller than a standard AA battery. Grab the nearest remote and have a look for yourself to get an idea. This size is achieved by outsourcing the controls to the headphones, and for some people the size is just a bit too small.
Whilst the new iPod Shuffle is an interesting experiment in what is possible in the music player market, it really is a matter of personal opinion as to whether it’s ideal for you. The problems are its small size, fiddly controls and lack of 3rd party headphone support, but it does exactly what previous generations of the Shuffle did but better. If you’re looking for an ultra-portable music player and you’ve owned Apple products in the past then the iPod Shuffle is probably for you.