New Apple iPod shuffle (2010) £39
16th Sep 2010 | 09:10
The shuffle's old form factor returns, but is it a step backwards or a return to form?
New iPod shuffle 2010: Overview
Apple's third-generation iPod shuffle boasted a radical new design. Instead of locating its controls on the body of the audio player itself, it mounted them on the earbud cable instead.
You navigated through your tracks and playlists through multiple presses of a single button, with track titles, artists and playlist names announced using its innovative new VoiceOver function.
This design was not particularly well received. While VoiceOver was an excellent way of giving song information on a unit without a screen, the button combinations needed to navigate your tracks were less than instinctive.
This new iPod shuffle fourth-generation seeks to remedy this by returning the navigation controls to a control wheel on the iPod, while retaining the VoiceOver feature for information.
The combination of a control wheel and VoiceOver works very well. A single tap on the VoiceOver button atop the device has the feature's robotic voice read out the track name and artist.
Press and hold it to hear the playlist menu, and press twice to be given the battery status (a full charge lasts an agreeable 15 hours). The control wheel, which is 18% bigger than on previous shuffles, handles volume control, play/pause and moving forward and back through your songs and playlists.
The only other control is a switch that can be set to shuffle your tracks, play them in order or turn the iPod off.
As you'd expect from an iDevice, the supplied earbuds are pretty mediocre.
With the shuffle's controls back on the iPod itself you're no longer restricted to replacing them with third-party units offering inline controls. Yet if your favourite set offers this feature, your on-cable controls can still be used for volume, VoiceOver and navigation.
The new iPod shuffle's main body section is crafted from a single piece of aluminium, and features a sturdy clip for attaching to your clothes.
If you buy from the Apple Online Store, you can have it engraved with a personal message. Five colours are available, but bizarrely, only one capacity. For some reason best known to itself, Apple has dropped the 4GB model, leaving this 2GB release as the sole iPod shuffle.
New iPod shuffle 2010: Verdict
Although the new iPod shuffle more closely resembles the second-generation release than its immediate predecessor, it's far from a step backwards.
Instead, it combines the best features offered by the last two models.
The combination of VoiceOver for information and a control wheel for navigation makes the new iPod shuffle much easier to use than any previous version.
It looks great too, with a beautifully polished surface and an aluminium unibody design.
The earbuds are down to their usual standard, and what on earth made Apple drop the 4GB version? Were people complaining about having too much storage space?
Not surprisingly, the price is also a bit of a stumbling block. At £39 for 2GB of storage, the new iPod shuffle does not offer much value for money. You can get an 8GB Sansa Clip - which has a screen - for around the same price.
With information served by the VoiceOver button and navigation slaved to the control wheel, the new shuffle is more instinctive than its predecessor and more versatile than the second-gen release.
Apple has taken the best features from two, radically-different models and combined them in the best iPod shuffle to date. However, we had to dock it a star for the insane, ridiculous dropping of the 4GB version and the expensive price tag.