The past few years have seen Apple constantly grabbing headlines with each product launch and it was certainly no exception when the successor to the outgoing iPod shuffle was unveiled. Equally turbulent, the reception to the new 2nd generation iPod shuffle was all the more intense given it is even more compact and inconspicuous than its predecessor.
Measuring 41 x 27 x 10.5mm and weighing a mere 15.6 grams, the new iPod shuffle is all but pintsize. Small and simple as it may be, build quality of the player was apparently not overlooked. Shielding the delicate circuitry and 1GB solid-state memory modules within is a plastic housing encased by anodized aluminum. At the back of the unit is a belt-clip and this equips the new shuffle with the ability to move together with you, having to purchase 3rd party attachments to achieve the same purpose.
Similar to the old shuffle, the latest incarnation of the baby iPod is not equipped with a display for track navigation. Instead, Apple has opted to fine-tune the shuffle’s control buttons: in the middle of the player is the play/pause button, whereas the Volume up/down and Jump forward/back keys surround the sides. The bottom of the player has two switches: one toggles the power while the other toggles between the repeat and shuffle modes. A standard 3.5mm audio jack provides quick connection to your earphones/headphones, which also functions as an USB syncing port.
Charging the shuffle requires the use of the bundled mini USB dock. According to Apple, a standard 4-hour charge should yield about 12 hours of music time.
The specification is conservative to say the least because we managed about 14 hours on the average after spending a week with the delightfully discreet player.
To transfer music to the shuffle, users must have Apple iTunes 7.0.2 installed, after which, all you need to do is to plug the USB end of the dock to any free USB port and iTunes will automatically recognize the player. As with the old, you may drag and drop songs/albums in one swift motion or let iTunes work its charm by randomly selecting songs from your music library. A useful feature we liked about iTunes is its ability to convert higher bit rate songs to 128-Kbps AAC format before copying them to the shuffle. This process allows users to cram in more tracks into the limited storage space of the shuffle.
Typical of Apple players, the sound quality of the 2nd generation iPod shuffle is very good, certainly good enough for it to remain a tough act for competitors to follow. Now though, it is possible to skip through playlists simply by pressing the play/pause button three consecutive times. The seamless playback function however, seems to be missing in the new shuffle; there is now a one-second pause in between tracks.
With its small form factor, vibrant sound output, intuitive music playback, the iPod shuffle is a perfect choice for anyone who needs a fairly rugged and compact music player. What really puts the icing on the cake however is its USD$82 price tag, which is a small price to pay for an iconic player that not only looks the part but sound the part as well.