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? The 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.
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 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. There 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.