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One of the big reasons we didn’t have a gadget-crush on the third-gen iPod shuffle (3 out of 5 stars, Jun/09) is its reliance on Apple’s earbuds to control the device. Without any buttons on the shuffle’s chassis, the inline remote on the included ’buds is the only way to navigate tracks, play, pause, or make volume adjustments. But now Scosche’s tapSTICK aims to improve your shuffle experience by adding back the third-gen shuffle’s missing buttons.
Rather than make a headphone adapter, Scosche built a hard plastic case that integrates rubberized control buttons. While we’re not sure the aluminum shuffle really needed any more protection, integrating the controls into a case makes a lot of sense and eliminates the overly long headphone cables that you end up with using an add-on inline remote dongle. At two-tenths of an ounce, the tapSTICK doesn’t fundamentally alter the shuffle’s ultraportable profile much, making it about 1/8 inch wider and adding about 5/8 of an inch to the shuffle’s length.
We like being able to bring our own headphones to the iPod shuffle. We just wish the tapSTICK wasn't so spendy and that it didn't limit access to the shuffle's switch and LED.
The tapSTICK brings buttons back to your iPod shuffle.
After docking your shuffle into the tapSTICK, the three buttons on the case replicate the functions of Apple’s inline remote. Tapping the center button plays or pauses and kicks in navigation and VoiceOver the same way it does with the standard Apple controls. The real win, though, is that now you can plug in your favorite headphones to tapSTICK’s headphone jack and still have full control over your shuffle. The tapSTICK also sports Volume Up and Down buttons, and the back of the case is open to allow use of the shuffle’s metal clip. The buttons themselves are decently sized, and the raised markings make them easy to find while the shuffle is stashed in a pocket. Unfortunately, raising or lowering the volume more than one increment requires you to tap the appropriate button repeatedly--holding the button down registers as only a single click.
The tapSTICK obscures both the status LED and the Off/Shuffle switch on the iPod. The shuffle’s single LED also serves as the battery gauge, so you can’t see how much juice you have left without removing the shuffle from the tapSTICK. You’ll need to do the same in order to switch the shuffle on or off or change the play mode. And due to the way that Apple built the shuffle, to use the same pin on the headphone jack for charging and remote control signals, you’ll have to remove the shuffle from the tapSTICK in order to charge the battery. Extremely fashion-conscious users should note that the tapSTICK comes in black or white, neither of which match the shuffle’s available hues.