Nathan Strang

Small Talk: the Yes and No's of the new iPod Shuffle

Filed By Nathan Strang | March 14, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Gay Geeks
Tags: Apple, gay geeks, iPod, iPod Shuffle, music, review, Shuffle, technology

The Apple store went offline this last Wednesday, red-flagging Mac fanboys that something was up. After a break barely long enough to proliferate rumors the Apple site was refreshed. What was new? ipodshuffle_image1_20090311.jpgThe 3rd Generation IPod Shuffle: buttonless, half the size of the previous generation and double the capacity (4GB). Price? $79.

I've always been a fan of the Shuffle; the small size and portability with the clip makes this the rough traveler's IPod. I had thought that they perfected the design, but Apple thought it needed to be a bit more chatty with a few less buttons. Did Apple foul with the new design? What is this Voice Over thing? Is it hipster approved?

Check after the jump for reasons and answers.

Size Matters

Somehow Apple thought that the previous Shuffle wasn't small enough and made the new Shuffle thinner, taller, and skinnier than the previous generation. In fact its nearly half the size (1.8x0.7x0.3in compared to 1.07x1.62x0.41in). The new Shuffle weighs just ten paperclips. While it still connects via the headphone jack, there isn't a dock but a stubby USB cord.

The small size means it won't add to your travel weight (a plus for walkers like me) but it also means that you could lose it and never know. However, that's where the clip comes in handy.

The Clip

The Shuffle is the only iPod that doesn't need an accessory: it comes with its own clip making it a fashion element (+2 hipsters points) as well as a convenient portable music player. There is no need to dedicate a pocket to the precious aluminum fob... just clip it on and go. The 3rd Gen Shuffle improves the clip by making it out of stainless steel and the slightly longer length means you can affix it to more things without fear of it wiggling off. overview-sideview.jpgThere was a slight issue with the previous generation where fatties in skinny jeans (-3 hipster points) could bend the aluminum clip if they had it in their front pocket and sat down. This apparently fixes that issue, so breathe easy hipsters (don't know how you can with those tight jeans).

First no Screen...

Buttons? Don't be silly. If Apple says you don't need 'em, you don't need 'em. They've put all the buttons in their new standard earbuds, which look just like the premium in-ear buds, minus the great sound. What this means is that you are forced to use either the stock apple earbuds (with the cord controls) or the $79 in ear jobbies. I've been using the in ear buds for a while and am really impressed with the new rubber and silicone materials, but I still turn my nose up at the standard buds. An adapter IS on its way for those who refuse to use the Apple earbuds, but expect to pay ~$15-$25 for it. And Klipsch, Monster, Scoshe, and Etymotics have compatible gear on the way (via Giz).

Controls on the cord are easy and intuitive, and the new Voice Over feature gets you in touch with all your playlists and track info at the touch of a button. Caveat: you have to listen to a robot talk to you. The way this works is that iTunes gathers all your song information and then processes speech for all your tracks and playlists and places them in a section of the iPod (taking extra space). When you hold the middle button on the cord (a quick press is play/pause) your Shuffle will announce the song you are listening to, or scroll through playlists for you to choose with another click. One thing to note about all this is if you have a Mac, the voice will sound slightly human with nuanced speech inflections. If you are on a PC, the voice will sound like a dirty monotone robot.

Yes, or No?

Maybe. The Shuffle is the perfect music player for someone on the go who wants their music without the hassle of a larger screened iPod. Its called a Shuffle for a reason, so if you like your music this way go for it. If you want a lot of choice, opt for a Nano. The Voice Over feature looks to be annoying and I doubt I'd use it. Inflections or not, I don't want or need a robotic music announcer.

The 3rd gen Shuffle ships in 3-5 days and comes in silver or black with free engraving. Once again that price is $79 for 4GB of tiny-clipable-robotic-voice-crappy-stock-earbuds-you-have-to-use-portable shiny. Buy now from the Apple Store

You can still purchase the 1GB 2nd Gen Shuffle for $49, in a variety of colors.


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I still have a first-generation Shuffle. The one that's as big as my friend's new cell phone. That only holds half a gig of music. I'm kind of proud of it.

i will NOT be forced to use their earbuds or forced to buy an adapter to use their more expensive earphones. i use Shure headphones and LOVE them. Sometimes Apple really pisses me off. Just another corporate entity making stupid decisions. i liked the old shuffle even though i did not own one. What a waste of time and money just like those stupid square nanos that did not last long.

I totally agree! I use my Sony headphones, have bought two iPods that the headphone jack has gone out right after applecare ran out, hmmm....

glad I just bought a shuffle before this crap came out.

At this time, Shure hasn't said a word about making compatible earphones.

It should be noted that the earbuds with corded controls can be used on the 4th gen Nano, the iPhone, and the Touch. It's still kinda lame for the Shuffle, but at least the headphones will work with a few more Apple products.

I would have bought a new Shuffle, but I bought one just a week earlier. Thanks for the heads up Apple! Waaaa.

Shure are some of THE BEST earphones out there and i think Apple's earbuds that come with their products and their 'higher quality' ones suck. WHY make a product with no controls on it and require one to be forced to use their freaking product?! Apple is ASININE & RIDICULOUS at times even though i love most of their products.

Apple does the thinking for you. "Think Different" means "Think We know what you want."

BUT... its a $79 Music Playing stick with a hairclip on the back. for a Bennie more, you can have a screen. the boyfriend brought up the idea of using one to keep dock to his xbox360. I'll have to see if that works or not.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | March 15, 2009 7:57 AM

My cell phone costs nine dollars a month. Keep the best tech for yourselves.

Robert! But you live in Thailand! That's a whole different market! ... If I could find a working cell phone in the US for only $9/month, I'd be overjoyed!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | March 16, 2009 6:37 AM

Giggle! and I am using a Nokia. :)

Nate,
Great review. I intend to remain the only person in North America walking about with nothing more than wax in my ears.

Remove the clip, wrap it inside a condom, and re-name it the iPod Suppository. Thread the earplug line up thru your undies and it will still work perfectly.

My point is, really, I have absolutely no use for this thing.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | March 16, 2009 6:39 AM

I'll bet you would if it had a strong vibration ring!

Fatties in Skinny Jeans is the new name for my fantasy punk band. If I ever learn to play something, you totes get royalties.

Seems like a good gym solution - I don't take my 5th gen video ipod to the gym because I feel like carrying it around, and then sticking it in my locker while I shower, is too much of an invitation to burglary. Somehow I think the tiny shuffle looks less exciting to steal.