The new iPod shuffle was a big surprise at this month’s Apple music and media unveiling. It’s quite apparent that Apple would like to do away with as many buttons as it possibly can on its gadgets, and yet after stripping them off its smallest music player last year, it’s now yielded to popular demand and stuck them back on. Is it the right move? Find out in our full new iPod shuffle review.
With the new iPod shuffle, it really feels like Apple’s pandering to the crowd, miffed at the loss of physical buttons on the 2009 models (in place of headphone controls), but we’re viewing this as an ideal compromise rather than a concession. Apple’s added controls and options to please everyone, in a shell almost identical in size, so everybody wins. If there’s a problem, it’s that it comes perilously close to making the significantly more expensive new iPod nano obsolete.
Physically, the new iPod shuffle seems to share a lot in common with the older, button backed shuffle clips. But a side by side comparison shows the similarities end at the tactile controls: from the chrome finish to the incredibly slender shell, instead it’s the perfect update to last year’s shuffle. Although slightly more squat, it’s just as thin, with a clip that’s possibly easier to use, and the same sliding switch for power, continuous play and shuffle modes, and a 3.5mm audio headphone socket which also acts as a way to sync the new iPod shuffle.
Read our new iPod touch review now
The physical track controls on the front of the new iPod shuffle work just as you’d expect and just as they’re labelled, and none of them are hard to press. What is new on last year’s model is the small VoiceOver button on the new iPod shuffle itself. It’s just next to the LED indicator light, and a quick nudge will have it read out the track details for you.
We’ve never been that fussed about this option on the shuffle: we don’t know about you, but when there’s only 2GB of space onboard, we recognise all the songs anyway. But more usefully, holding the button down also reads out the playlists for you (Which can include Genius mixes with iTunes 10), which gives some element of control without a screen. Double tapping also gives the battery status, which is easier than switching the shuffle off and on again, as you had to before.
The real revelation with the new iPod shuffle however is simply choice. While Apple’s remote controls are incredibly convenient, particularly for sport and gym addicts – and they work just as before – if you weren’t willing to put up with Apple’s pathetic headphones, there was just no way to control the shuffle, short of buying an accessory or dedicated third party headphones. Now, you have the option for either. And it’s glorious, even if sound quality is expectedly flat, and Apple hasn’t changed anything with format support or capacity.
There’s just one thing to note. The new iPod shuffle works a treat with Apple’s headphones with track controls on the cable. It just doesn’t come with them – so if you’re a jogger who actually likes the remote controls Apple included last year (like us), we hope you’ve got an iPod touch, iPhone or iPod shuffle lying around with them, because otherwise you’ll be stuck with the buttons, which isn’t so convenient for runners who value convenience over sound quality when pounding the concrete.
Still, the new iPod shuffle is a fantastic clip on music player, both for exercise and more serious audio consumption on the go. It’s true that there are other clip on MP3 players for even less floating around now, but believe us, the Apple mark up is well worth it here.
The new iPod shuffle 4G has made our Top 5 Best iPod and Top 5 Best MP3 player shortlists, which is why we’ve given it our Recommended rosette. Check out more Top 5s here and find out more about how they work with our Top 5 guarantee.