New iPod Shuffle – Shiny but Tiny


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.

13 thoughts on “New iPod Shuffle – Shiny but Tiny”

  1. Wow, the curves are nice, but it’s so nondescript. I agree many folks will lose this thing and others won’t pick it up since it has no personality. The voice features are interesting – will have to track them down. Maybe they can reuse some of that in other places. Like an iPhone GPS app.

    I never “got” the Shuffle line, anyhow. I owned one for awhile to sync and listen to podcasts while walking the stairs for exercise, but didn’t use it much.

  2. I own as my sole portable music player the previous shuffle and really love it. The form factor is perfect for me, and for my typical usage scenario I don’t mind the lack of display. It is already borderline too small however. I have to keep it clipped to something else in my bag or I lose the stupid thing….;)

    One time I consistently use it is during air travel. I ALWAYS use my noise canceling headphones with it. Any idea if the new shuffle can use regular headphones? Are the controls built into the headphones it came with or is it a dongle?


  3. Im with Spark, I dont want any music player that is tied to 1 set of headphones…If this new shuffle only works with the apple headphones, then there is no way im upgrading from my current shuffle.

  4. Now I have a new thought… with a smooth, flat face like that perhaps Apple expects to sell tons as engraved gifts or corporate giveaways/handouts. Hmmm.

  5. i tweeted about this earlier – you are forced into using apple’s headphone to listen to music, engadget got the full details – – where a “dongle” will be sold for 3rd party headphones, and they are working with 3rd parties for compatible headphones too.

    i have been investigating this because i have been looking for headphones to control my 4g nano as the apple ones can with around-the-ear-design, but no luck. So, i am getting some budfits and the “Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic” to get the best of both worlds (hopefully)

  6. oh yeah, i miss my 2nd gen shuffle too, it was awesome until i went for a bike ride and left it in my jersey pocket then didn’t find it until after i washed it… it turns on but keeps like 1 minute of battery life…

  7. ( Said in my best Austin Powers voice ) “Who carries a phone AND a MP3 player? Honestly.”

    …or to be more articulate ( which I cannot ):

    The Kindle Hardware Tax

    There’s a lot of news about Amazon’s new Kindle 2 today – I still don’t want one. I use my iPhone for ebooks all the time now.

    The Kindle asks me to separate out a merged-in app for the benefit of — well, what benefit? The display? It’s nice, but not nice enough to take on the cost and the bother of a separate piece of hardware.

    While the new Kindle upgrade is nice, owning another device is a kind of a tax.

  8. jon, thanks for the pointer. I guess a dongle would work fine for how I use the device. Mine is not broken however, so I probably won’t upgrade. Voice over isn’t compelling enough. I guess if I were buying a new one today, I’d get the new one with a dongle (when available).

    Todd: if you don’t have a usage scenario for specific hardware, then I guess it isn’t for you. My blackberry is a horrible MP3 player. Carrying the shuffle works for me, as it clips onto the headphone case I carry the ear buds in. My Kindle also works for me. Sometimes a “do-anything” device isn’t the answer, but it TOTALLY depends upon your individual usage scenario.

  9. I guess that SNL sketch about Steve Jobs announcing the “iPod flea” was kind of prescient now that we now the direction things are going.

    Next step–voice commands and no buttons at all.

    If they’re going to make it this dull looking they could at least offer it in colors. Or artwork. Or something.

    Why are they making it this small again? Oh right, because they can.

  10. i lost my headphone….. now is it possible to use my New iPod Shuffle – Shiny but Tiny with philips headphone????

    if yes than how could it be????

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