Apparently, Apple dropped a surprise gift in our laps this morning: new stainless steel Shuffles, complete with robot voices! And the world (probably) resounds with a collective yawn.
Ok, so I’m probably being a bit hard on Apple, but the shuffle has consistently seen the least love of Apple iPod line. People definitely need a small, flash-based iPod for heavy impact activities where you don’t want the shocks and stress to damage the moving parts of the hard drive of your iPhone, but without a screen, the iPod Shuffle has never been a good buy. There have always been equivalently priced mp3 players available that actually show you which song is playing. Or you could just buy a Nano.
Apple’s new Shuffle has “VoiceOver,” which will read the name of your song or your current playlist to you-in fourteen languages over dimmed volume. While I admit that this is nifty, and I’m glad the shuffle finally supports multiple playlists, I’m already afraid robots that robots will take over the world as it is, so I don’t need my iPod to talk to me, thank you very much. And while this likely will work like a charm on a neatly manicured iTunes library from Apple’s marketing department, I think it will prove less successful on tween libraries that are full of songs like “britnay speers 03 HiT mEEE BaBy 1 MoRe TimEE,” all squeezed into the metaspace tag for album.
The controls for the new Shuffles have been moved from the device itself to the earbuds. They’re the same earbuds that come with the new iPods as well, so you can skip tracks, change the volume, and active VoiceOver without actually fiddling with the device. Useful for those on the go. Less useful for those that think the white earbuds sound like crap. Or for those who have a tendency to get the cords caught on things and break them frequently. Or for those who lose them.
Functionality aside, the new Shuffle looks impossibly small at less than the size of a key, and is certainly very svelte. It comes in a stainless gray or black for $79. While VoiceOver won’t replace the screen on a Nano, the new shuffles will probably sell well with those who already purchased a Shuffle in the past and already decided that a screen is discretionary. (Confession: that person is me.)