Apple is making hay again with yet another news announcement; the third big news day in three weeks. Today it’s a new iPod Shuffle. A very very tiny Shuffle with 4GB of storage and a talking interface. It’s available in black and silver for $79.
Right off the bat I see a lot of things I don’t like about the new music player> But analyst Michael Gartenberg, the one person I’ve seen with a hands-on review, has good things to say. Gartenberg in particular praises the new feature that reads your songs and playlists aloud to you: “It’s brilliant, works well and changes the way one interacts with their music player on the go.”
We’ve been through several iPod versions in my household, and I was a big fan of the last Shuffle version, which I own in a pretty bright green. My second-gen Shuffle works well and looks adorable, but even though I used it for several months during workouts, I found I still missed having a screen to control music play, and after a while I moved on to a different player. The new Shuffle holds a much larger library and I simply can’t imagine managing it without a screen, no matter how well the talking feature works.
Speaking of controls, to cut the size of the new Shuffle in half, Apple moved a lot of the controls up on to the earphone wires. It’s a neat add-on in some ways (already used on other iPods), but not my preference. And what’s the point of making the main device smaller if you’re just adding something on to the easily-tangled earbuds?
The smaller form factor has issues of its own too. If the second-gen Shuffle was a visual statement, the latest version is barely visible. Not that you need to make a statement with your music player, but that’s always been one of the selling points of the iPod line. As I mentioned, my Shuffle is adorable. The new one is simplified to the point of looking like a shiny battery cell. And, as Andy Ihnatko tweeted this morning, the small size practically begs you to run the Shuffle through the washing machine, forgotten in a pants pocket.
I always thought the point of an iPod Shuffle was to have a good travel/secondary music player – great for running, for example. But why would I want 4GB worth of music on a device the size of my pinky? Apple makes it extremely difficult to move music around (even music that you own legally without DRM protection), and to keep a large library on a device with minimal controls just makes no sense to me. I’m sure the device will gain plenty of fans, but this music listener isn’t one.