01.Apple iPod Shuffle
Dimensions: 4.5cm x 1.8cm x 0.8cm
Apple’s latest iPod shuffle is the smallest model ever released, and like previous iterations doesn’t have a screen. It’s roughly the length of a house key and packs just under 4GB of data for a possible 1000 songs.
The Apple design tends towards smaller, trendy-looking products, and this shuffle is no exception. Available in silver or black and small to a fault, it easily attaches to your clothing with a handy clip on the rear. The instructions are clear and concise and the device itself is easy to use.
Although iTunes, at a download size of 70MB, needs to be installed to use the shuffle on a Windows operating system, we noticed the only addition specified in iTunes setup is “VoiceOver”. This feature, which we found easy to understand and use, is a digitised voice that you can prompt to call the song and artist’s name.
You can also prompt it to say the names of any saved playlists and go through them one by one until it says the one you want, and start it off again with another click. This feature somewhat makes up for the lack of a display.
Apple has made this shuffle so small by moving many of the controls across to the earbuds. This means you can change volume, pausing and VoiceOver settings with an inline control attached close to the right earbud.
However, this design change also locks the listener into Apple branded headphones and earbuds; you won’t be able to change volume, pause or use VoiceOver with your own headphones. You’ll also have to buy any replacement headphones from Apple at $48 a pair, or one of its third party suppliers.
While CHOICE appreciates good design, we believe locking consumers into any form of technology is unacceptable. Nevertheless, the latest iPod shuffle looks good, is light and intuitive to use, and the VoiceOver feature is a useful compensation for its lack of screen.
Please note: this information was current as of March 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
Video: First Look - iPod shuffle
Apple's new iPod shuffle is a little device with a big problem.