Sport & Auto
- About Future
- Digital Future
- Cookies Policy
- Terms & Conditions
- Investor Relations
- Contact Future
The new shuffle is smaller than a pack of gum.
If you’re a control freak, you’re going to hate the new shuffle. Skip this review and go read about something else. And for those of you addicted to your killer third-party headphones, you’ll also want to skip this one. But if you’re just looking for a music player that’s simple, affordable, and portable to the point that you’ll forget it’s in your pocket, well then, read on.
Apple’s latest shuffle takes the company’s minimalist design aesthetic to the extreme. It’s basically a small lump of aluminum, so tiny that one Mac|Life editor said “if I wore a tie, I’d wear that as a tie clip.” Ties are strictly optional here--some might say discouraged, thankfully--but yeah, it’s really that small. Sold in a single 4GB configuration, the new shuffle will hold about 1,000 songs. A switch turns the unit on and sets it to play tracks in order or on shuffle. A headphone jack also supplies power when charging, and there’s a teeny-tiny LED that provides status while charging and serves as a battery indicator when you’re using the device.
Since there aren’t any controls on the shuffle itself, the buttons have been moved to the earbud cable. iPhone users or owners of the new Apple In-Ear Headphones will be familiar with the click combos to skip to the next or previous tracks, and like the In-Ear Headphones, the earbuds feature volume controls too. For the first time, the shuffle allows you to sync multiple playlists, made much easier with the new VoiceOver feature. While the iPod is playing, a longish click of the center button will announce the Title and Artist of the current track. If you continue to hold down the button, the shuffle beeps and then speaks the names of your playlists in succession; a click then switches to your desired list. It’s a neat trick that makes the shuffle a lot more usable than before. Fans of audiobooks--or users of activity-oriented playlists, such as a collection of up-tempo workout tracks--will appreciate this new feature. But if you frequently jump between tracks or playlists, the controls can seem ridiculously slow and cumbersome compared to those of other iPods.
The sound quality was fine, and in our tests, the VoiceOver features worked well for announcing tracks and changing playlists. Mac users are lucky in that the digital voice is slightly more coherent than the voice Windows users hear. Switching playlists always starts you at the beginning of that list, which means that a larger number of shorter playlists makes for easier navigation than a few longer lists. We wish there was a way to go from a track to other tracks from that same album or artist, although making separate lists for your favorite albums is an easy workaround. And unfortunately the new smaller size also means a smaller battery. The new shuffle can get about 10 hours of playback on a charge, while the older version could keep you rocking for 12 hours.
While the new button scheme requires you to memorize a couple of sequences to use all the functions, the controls are reasonably intuitive. The biggest caveat is for users who already have a favorite pair of ’phones. Without earbuds from Apple or one of the forthcoming third-party adapters, plugging in other headphones will leave you stuck on the last playlist you listened to--without any way of navigating tracks or adjusting the volume. It would have been nice if the shuffle could detect “foreign” headphones and at least drop you into the All Songs playlist.
The shuffle isn’t the iPod for everyone, but multiple playlists and VoiceOver add new functionality to the tiniest iPod yet. We just wonder if Apple’s obsession with form might have gotten in the way of function this time.