With a capacity of just 2GB, and one of those rare Apple products that will require you to press buttons, the 4th generation iPod Shuffle is about as entry level a digital music player as it gets. It is, however, far more useful than its third generation counterpart, and we are grateful that Apple ditched the flash drive appearance of it for the shorter, 2nd generation model. The size of it, 29×31.6×8.7 mm, is by far the smallest of the iPods, as well as the least weighty.
Although the Shuffle got smaller, the control panel got bigger, and is used for volume control and switching through songs. Buttons are all up north, with VoiceOver now having its own dedicated button. All in all the design is simple and effective.
Genius, Apple’s proprietary software which allows you to choose a song and have the iPod play songs similar to it, is a great edition to the iPod Shuffle. By allowing you to play only your most depressing songs, Genius makes every break up a whole lot easier. You can probably use it for other things also, but with only 2GB of space, you can’t fit too many genres into it, limiting the reason for having Genius in the first place. Still, it is quite a useful little tool.
Another edition is VoiceOver, accessed via the little speech bubble icon on the top, which allows playlists to be read out as well as titles of songs. Finally, Apple has continued to let us organize our music with playlists, and we have access to our audio books and podcasts as well. A slight disappointment: no FM radio support. You’ll have to buy the iPod Nano for that.
The selling point of the iPod Shuffle is the price, which is quite competitive at under 50 USD. There are very few digital music players that come close to this. Some people appreciate its size as well; besides the five choices of color (pretty extravagant for Apple) it is very discreet and can be taken anywhere.
Charge time is very fast, finished in just a few hours. The actual battery can play up to fifteen hours of continual audio before shutting down, and while this is the shortest duration of music playback in the iPod family, it does the trick, lasting the whole day if you needed it to. If you’re flying from Los Angeles to Sydney you’ll run out of juice just before you get there, but at that point you’ll probably have heard everything in your library.
In consideration of the other iPods available, the choice will depend on how you use it. No, the iPod Shuffle won’t cut it for some of the media crazed junkies out there, but if all you need it for is to play a few of your favorite songs while you work out, or take a long road trip, this is just as good as any other, and way cheaper.
An iPod with a screen will up the price over 100 USD, and you gain little more than something to look at. The Shuffle continues to remain popular for anyone looking for a cheap but quality player, and Apple has not let its market base down in this regard.
Something I love about the Shuffle is that I can control it using the factory ear buds that they come along with it. Yes, the buds themselves don’t offer the real quality of music some people are looking for, but for me they do the trick just fine.
For what it does, the iPod Shuffle works great. It is simple and cost effective. It does everything I need it to do and nothing more. That said, if your music library consists of more than just the Beetles and the Monkeys, you may want to buy an iPod Classic.