Apple’s third generation iPod Shuffle is arguably the Cupertino company’s greatest engineering feat.
Cramming 4GB of storage, voice functionality and playlists into this smallest of iPods shows just how far the definitive jukebox has come. The original iPod packed the same 1,000 track space, but came in at a massive 20 times the size.
There’s just no ignoring the fact that the new iPod Shuffle is a classic piece of design. As well as being roughly as small as a USB drive, it comes with the ability to stash about 1,000 average quality AACs.
That’s plenty, if not a tad too much, for gym bunnies and fitness freaks to keep moving to. The clip round the back is also now sturdier, so it won’t go snap if you clasp it to your vest or ski jacket and take a tumble.
Hear me, feel me
But, as with any Apple gadget, there has to be something contentious. Jonny Ive and pals have managed to slim down the Shuffle by taking the buttons from the main bod’ and sticking them on the headphone cable.
This is nothing new for Apple of course, having designed similar buds for the iPhone. However, it does cause some issues, largely thanks to the unsurprisingly weak sound of the supplied earphones. Classic Stevie Wonder lost its punch, The Go! Team lacked any edge.
All is not lost if you want to use your own buds with the new Shuffle though. Apple has said third parties will be making cable extensions with controls available, letting you plug in your own better ear pounders.
Good news, but it should be remembered that the Shuffle isn’t exactly aimed at audiophiles and those able or willing to splash out on noise–cancelling monsters.
On the down side, the controls themselves can be fiddly. You click up or down to boost or ease volume, once in the middle to pause, twice to skip forward and thrice to go back.
In reality, this can become a tricky business, suggesting Mr Jobs would rather you just listened to all your tracks in one sitting. That said, those buttons do contain access to the new iPod Shuffle’s greatest trick – telling you what you’re listening to.
Review continues after the break...
Speak to me
The talk function has been a big talking point when it comes to the new Shuffle. Hold the central button down and a rather polite gentleman will tell you what you’re listening to.
PC users will get a different voice, which does sound far more automated than the Apple virtual announcer. It does struggle with certain artists, ‘!!!’ being a particular example.
Access to playlists is also a breeze, thanks to the controls. Hold down and get the name of the tune you’re listening to long enough and you’ll hear a beep, followed by the name of the playlist the track features in. The Shuffle will then play that mix in full.
There’s no denying that some will find the heavy reliance on the notoriously cheap earphones infuriating. But for a first MP3 player, or even as a back up for when your Touch runs out of juice, you just cannot beat the new Shuffle. Awesome design, great storage and novel features make it the leader of the pack.