Apple’s iPod shuffle was already among the smallest MP3 players on the market, but the company has just released a largely re-invented shuffle that’s even more compact and comes with two times as much storage.
The shuffle now has a capacity of 4GB, which Apple says is enough for a thousand music tracks. It’s also a different shape–no-longer a postage stamp-like curved box, the new shuffle is more like a disposable cigarette lighter measuring 1.8 x 0.7 x 0.3 inches (a volume of just 0.378 cubic inches), a little like the first generation version. But the device has gone even more minimal than the previous design, eschewing even the basic iPod-like controls of the second generation shuffle. The device’s case itself merely has a clip to attach it to your clothing, an earphone socket and a basic lock/shuffle/linear play selector switch–the music controls are relocated to the headphone cable, meaning the shuffle’s ripe to be slipped into an inner pocket without needing you to fish it out to switch tracks.
Critics of the original shuffle pointed to its lack of display as a severe limitation–the shuffle was orignally designed not so much to let you play selected music as to enjoy tracks randomly. But Apple’s got around that problem–undoubtedly more serious on a 1,000 track-capable machine–by including VoiceOver. It’s a synthetic voice feedback system that tells you what song is playing, who the artist is, and it’ll even read out your playlist. Apple’s calling it “the first music player that talks to you.” Sounds pretty revolutionary–but I’m holding out for generation four of the device which may be able (should its development trend continue in the same vein) to accept voice-control too, negating the need for fiddling with a headphone cable control unit.
It’s out now for $79, though you can still get the second generation 1GB version for the time being for $49.