The iPod Shuffle Gets Even Smaller

By  |  Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 8:24 am

Apple usually announces new stuff on Tuesdays, but just to keep us on our toes, it’s making an, ahem, small announcement today. There’s a new iPod Shuffle that’s almost 50 percent smaller than its predecessor, and smaller than an AA battery, yet which is still the first Shuffle capable of putting the iPod’s traditional 1,000 songs in your pocket (or on your person–the new Shuffle retains the built-in clip):

iPod Shuffle

The company achieved the further shrinkage by moving the controls off the player onto a tiny remote that’s embedded in the headphones (making this, I guess, the first iPod that can’t be used with third-party headphones, unless someone comes up with some sort of adapter):

Shuffle Controls

[UPDATE: Apple says you'll be able to buy an adapter for third-party headphones. Better than nothing--especially if you're the type of person who associates Apple headphone with a stinging feeling in one's ears, or with them just falling out--but adding an adapter certainly eliminates some of the appeal of the Shuffle's tininess.]

The new Shuffle also introduces a new feature called VoiceOver that reads menus, song titles, and the like out loud in a robotic voice; it can also read playlist names, allowing this to be the first Shuffle that supports playlists. Apple’s demo video shows how it works. Apple’s promotion for this new player says it’s the first talking MP3 player. Not so. It may have the most sophisticated text-to-speech interface, but the current iPod Nano also has a speech option.

(Side note: The video demonstrator, who says she’s an Apple Store employee, talks about how the remote control lets you use the Shuffle while on a “ride.” If she lives in Apple’s headquarters state of California, that better not be a bicycle ride–covering both your ears with headphones while biking is illegal here.)

At this point, Apple is presumably shrinking the Shuffle because, well, it can, and because some folks will buy a new one simply because it’s smaller. But it’s hard to imagine that anyone found the previous one uncomfortably bulky.

(Second side note: I wonder whether Apple will release a software update for the old Shuffles that gives them VoiceOver?)

The new Shuffle is made of aluminum, comes in silver and black (you gotta think that Apple will restore the old Shuffle’s rainbow of colors eventually),  and is available in one storage capacity: 4GB for $79. It’s shipping today.

Just to refresh everyone’s memory, here’s what the previous-generation Shuffle (which dates from September 2006) looked like. It was, arguably, a cooler piece of industrial design, or at least a less Spartan one:

2nd Generation Shuffle

And here’s the original Juicyfruit-sized  iPod Shuffle, announced at Macworld Expo in January 2005, and strikingly small at the time:

First-Generation Shuffle

And here’s a hasty artist’s conception of what next next-gen Shuffle could look like:

Tiny iPod Shuffle

 
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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Ian Says:

    Pretty soon the headphones will be the largest part. Maybe the headphone Jack itself can be the player in future versions. All we need now is some way to change songs with thought, then we could get rid of that bulky controller. :)

  2. Paulo Sargaço Says:

    I’m betting the next step will be an implantable chip. People will interact with it through eye blinks and snorting. Earphones will be replaced by direct connection to the inner ear nerves. Now that would be cool!

  3. Lunar Says:

    If someone else came out with this, it wouldn’t sell at all.

    Engadget is reporting that a dongle will be required to use third party headphones. I just don’t get it. I think apple should have just had the guts to make the headphones non-removable. The thing is so small and seamless the headphone jack looks kind of dumb on it. If it was just a wire coming out I think it would look a lot better.

  4. Marc Says:

    If it doesn’t let you change the headphones then I can’t see it selling very well. This thing is mainly used by people who are jogging and in the gym. They will want headphones that are a tight fit, and in my case, when at the gym, headphones that block noise.

  5. iPod Shuffle Manual Says:

    my ipod shuffle becomes unresponsive, I cant turn it off! I Can

    only somehow control my ipod with the remote on my headphones… is

    there a soulution ?

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