A couple of weeks ago we brought you the newest Apple versions of the iMac and Mac Mini, so it is no surprise that they have no revealed the newest version of the iPod range. However, for a change, it isn’t the constantly renewing Nano, iPod Touch or the bog standard iPod. It is the lesser spotted iPod Shuffle.
We haven’t seen a new version of the relatively successful shuffle since September 2006, which if you are an Apple fan is a long time. But there is a good reason for this: there is only so much you can do with a MP3 player with a set design, tiny form factor and no GUI.
So some genius in Apple decided (for a change) instead of putting some stuff on, they could just take some things off. So they did: the shuffle now purely consists of one audio jack and one switch. Very sleek, very minimalist and very silver. Especially when you consider that the switch only has three options: Off, Play in order and Shuffle.
I’m sure you have noticed the obvious flaw in this setup: there is no way to play, pause, stop or skip tracks but this is where Apple have been very sly. The physical controls for volume, play options and the new VoiceOver feature are all on the wired headset.
This does have its advantages: they can now be accessed easily and quickly and it does make the actual player look very nice. But the real genius comes when you break or loose these headphones, or when you decide that you think the headphones supplied are poor quality.
Because of the uniqueness of the Shuffle there is a very small chance (at least in the near future) of there being and 3rd party options when it comes to headphones. This means that you are stuck with the expensive, iconic and attention grabbing Apple headphones for better or for worse, which is very clever on Apple’s part.
The other major new change is the addition of the VoiceOver feature which although is nothing jaw dropping is still a nice little feature that will make using this that little bit easier. At the press of a button (on the afore-mentioned earphones) you will hear an audio announcement of the artist and title of the song playing.
Another new feature that has been added is the ability to use playlists, and they can also be announced over the VoiceOver feature. We are yet to see how annoying and mechanical the voice is, but I can’t imagine it will be bad enough to dissuade you from using it. It also comes in a range of languages (including English, Mandarin Chinese and Turkish) which will offer you entertainment if you are really bored!
The final new addition of note is the form factor, which is now slightly more cubic (i.e. fatter) due to the fact that it now offers up to 4 GB storage. Overall, the Apple iPod Shuffle looks like a good successor to the 1st generation Shuffle and despite the fact that the Apple only earphones could be annoying I’m sure it will still do well.