Friday, July 3, 2009

The Little 'Pod That Could

I picked up the new iPod Shuffle a couple days back and I must say: Apple sure can make some good hardware. Always sleek, always sexy, and, 60% of the time, always expensive.

I've been playing around with this little machine for a few days now and here's my thoughts on it thus far.

The new iPod Shuffle is awesome in many ways. The small form-factor makes for a discreet package that can be clipped anywhere. With no controls actually on the device, you'll never have to pull it out. I bought the Silver model because it goes with more of my clothing than the black (yes, I based my decision off of fashionability).

The VoiceOver functionality is sweet when you have no screen to look at and forgot the name of song you're listening to. Having no visual aid was always a setback for the Shuffle to me; but with this new addition, I instantly found it appealing. The ability to use playlists is a big plus, along with 'podcasts' and audiobook entries. This gives the Shuffle a little more 'order' than its random-oriented predecessors.

But is it too small? For a guy like me (who's washed and dried his electronics many a time), this can be a problem, although with an $80 price point I'm a bit more careful.

Another thing is that I've always had a strong disliking of Apple headphones from the very beginning. Now, my hands are kind of tied with the proprietary ones provided. Don't get me wrong, though: I love the way the controls are built into the headphones; just not the headphones themselves.

Although the whole VoiceOver idea is great, execution is a little hit or miss. For one thing, the voices are a little muffled, making for quite a few "huh?" moments where I'm forced to decipher what I just heard.

The song/artist language detection is a little spotty as well. I use this iPod for mostly Japanese music, with song and artist names either in Japanese or English or a mixture of both. The thing is, if the song name is predominantly Japanese, it'll read the artist in Japanese, making for some weird names if the band uses an American-oriented title. Same with English. If I could offer a way to make the VoiceOver feature better, I would say they need to make it so that the iPod reads the song and artist names independently of each other and then append the appropriate language to each.

Although it has a few drawbacks, the new iPod Shuffle is a good buy in my opinion, offering a sleek design, cool features, and a pretty good amount of space (4GB) for someone looking for something discreet/non-flashy. The stainless steel clip brings it up to 'iPod Classic/Touch' status for me. This device gets the job done, and then some. In my opinion, the price is a bit high, but hey, you're paying for the brand...

And the little Apple stickers that come with all their products.


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