Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/30/review_media_player_apple_ipod_shuffle_3g/

Apple iPod Shuffle 3G

The outspoken music player

By Stephen Dean

Posted in Hardware, 30th September 2009 12:02 GMT

Review Apple’s decision not to add a camera to the latest version of the iPod Touch disappointed a lot of people, but at least the 32GB and 64GB models received a new processor that gives the device more potential as a games machine. The iPod Shuffle didn’t even get that. However, Apple did announce some minor changes to the Shuffle product line, so we’ve decided to give the latest version a quick look in time for the Christmas buying frenzy.

Apple iPod Shuffle 3G

Talking point: Apple’s iPod Shuffle

The original third-generation iPod Shuffle, with its ultra-compact, slimline design remains unchanged – as does its price, at £59 with 4GB of storage. Until recently, if you were looking for something that came in under the £50 mark there was the fatter, rectangular second generation Shuffle with the control button on the body of the player itself. With just 2GB of memory, it was still on sale until earlier this month for £45.

That 2G iPod Shuffle has now been phased out and replaced with a 3G model with the same price and 2GB capacity. Both 3G models are available in silver, black, pink, green and blue, and there’s also a Special Edition version in stainless steel that costs £75 with 4GB storage. Battery life is unchanged at around 10 hours, a figure that was confirmed when we left it playing on a shelf all day.

The iPod Shuffle is one of those products that reveals both Apple’s strengths and weaknesses. The most obvious strength, of course, is the sheer quality of the design. When you stand it upright on a desk the Shuffle is a gleaming oblong capsule that measures less than 45.2mm high, just 17.5mm wide and 7.8mm thick – and that includes the clip for fastening it to your clothing. And with a weight of just 10.7g, it really is ideal for wearing when you’re out jogging, working out at the gym, or hurtling around on a skateboard.

The lack of a screen is a limitation when trying to navigate through your music collection, but today’s youth appear to have embraced the concept of the random ‘shuffle’ quite readily, while gym-goers can easily compile playlists of their favourite workout music on iTunes prior to synchonising with their computer. Indeed, the Shuffle can a handle variety of audio formats including AAC, MP3, AIFF and WAV.

Apple iPod Shuffle 3G

No screen, but VoiceOver reads playlists and tracks to you

To simplify the selection of playlists, the iPod Shuffle 3G includes a feature called VoiceOver that speaks aloud the names of tracks and playlists when you hold down the Play button. It’s a slightly robotic, American male voice that most Mac users will have heard at some point. The system actually works quite well, but it also exposes Apple’s utterly infuriating habit of limiting consumer choice by frequently creating products that are incompatible with many third-party accessories.

The Play button and volume controls for the iPod Shuffle 3G are located on the headphone cable, rather than on the player itself. The at-best-average audio quality of Apple’s headphones has long been considered one of the iPod’s main shortcomings.

Apple iPod Shuffle 3G

Controls on the cable limit headphone options

However, the fact that the Shuffle’s controls are on the headphone cable means that you can’t simply substitute an alternate set of headphones that you already own as they won’t be able to control the iPod.

In order to use your own headphones you’ll have to buy a special adaptor such as Belkin’s Headphone Adaptor for £15 or just bite the bullet and purchase an entirely new set of headphones from companies such as Sony, Klipsch or Scosche who are releasing Apple-approved headphones with the appropriate built-in controls. Still, at least Apple supplies a USB cable for charging and sync’ing.

Verdict

The limited choice of headphones is a nuisance, but the main aim of the iPod Shuffle is to provide an affordable and ultra-lightweight music player – and on that score it still succeeds admirably. The iPod nano is the mainstream model for Christmas, but the Shuffle should still sell well as a stocking filler for younger children or adults who want something really lightweight to wear when they’re working off their Christmas dinner down at the gym. ®

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