iPod Shuffle Scuffle

I caved. My current iPod, a 1st gen purchased April 2002 has served me very faithfully for these 3 years. I've actually had to reboot it, but about 4 times in that time (~ 1.333 reboots/year) and the battery is showing its wear by not holding a charge for all that long (though I do abuse it by leaving out in the Michigan winter in my car for extended periods of time. I'm a bad parent like that)

However, it's large, and being a 1st gen, has the physical disk wheel that has an annoying inertia that will tend to cause the volume to either a) fall to inaudible levels or b) blow my ears out, when jogging with it.

For these reasons, and the good 'nuff reason of I *needed* it, I purchased an iPod Shuffle. After a brief internal dialog, I opted for the larger 1GB, 256MB of which will be dedicated to holding data. Also, if you ask at any Apple store, there is a 3-4 week waiting list for the Shuffle, and even the online store says a shipping date of March 1. Thank goodness for resellers have better distribution channels. I walked into my local MicroCenter and picked one up off the shelf.

Like every other Apple product I have beheld, the iPod Shuffle *feels* great. I mean, I am doubtless a huge gadget geek, but when a device just likes to be "held", and admired, that's something truly enjoyable. Like a sportscar that not only goes from 0-60mph in 6.3s, but also is fun to sit and look at.

I've heard many criticisms of the design of the Shuffle. One that comes to mind is that Apple took the shortcoming of cheap music player, no display and random playing of songs, and made it a feature. However, after only playing the shuffle for an hour I agree that this is an ingenious feature.

With my iPod, and any music player with a display, I tend to spend too much time checking out the artist, song title, album, what other albums I want to listen to, etc. In the end, I choose tried & true albums, and tend not to venture. Too much thought. However, when the display and choice of song is removed, and I just have music, I do just that, listen to music. It makes the act of listening to music simpler, elegant, and in the end, more enjoyable.

It also sounds really great. I mean, clear, crisp, and nice. Odd to feel like I'm listening to theater sound out of a stick of gum.

The Shuffle is not without its shortcomings, some of which are true nitpicks, and others just observations. The included headphones have a very long cable. This is very noticeable on the Shuffle commercials, with the flapping and swaying of the headphone cables, but it's also a little inconvenient. When worn around the neck, the cable gets tangled in everything and looks a little 'disheveled'. Of course, I've become particularly aware of this now that I have a bluetooth headset for my phone and don't like dealing with "wires". However, the headphone cable is long enough for the Shuffle to sit in my pocket, so I understand that 'design decision'.

The switch on the back is poorly placed too. First off, there is no detent or anything for it. So it requires the user to press their finger to the smooth plastic and hope that mu_static * F_normal > F_resisting (translated, the switch slides before your thumb does). Secondly, with this slider being directly behind the play/pause/volume buttons, when I grasp the Shuffle and slide the switch, my index finger presses the control buttons. This takes some concious effort (at the moment) to effect a shuffle to play change without completly changing, pausing, volumizing (word?) the song currently playing.

Lastly, an observation. Devices are becoming so small, and the design so clean, they are running out of space to put required printing on the device. For instance, when you remove the cap, you see the FCC and CE labels squeezed around the USB plug. This requires the

Designed by Apple in California
Made in China Serial No.: 5CKG93909GJKLD

to mar the backside of the shuffle. Just an observation.

I like it. I think everyone should get one in the mail.

About this article

written on
posted in AppleGadgets Back to Top

About the Author

Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.