iPod Shuffle (3G) First Look review
Apple iPod Shuffle (3G)
The Apple iPod Shuffle (3G) has now been replaced by the Apple iPod Shuffle 4th generation but is still available through many online retailers. Read on to see what we made of it in our initial hands-on first look test.
Apple’s iPod Shuffle 3G (third generation) doesn’t have features such as an FM radio or voice recorder, and it doesn’t have a screen, so viewing photos or video is out of the question. But Apple is banking on the fact that the iPod Shuffle’s small size and unique features will appeal to an audience of music-loving fitness fans who will find its diminutive frame an ideal exercise companion.
You can read our full lab ratings and the total test score for the latest version of the Shuffle in our Apple iPod Shuffle (4th generation) full review.
The iPod Shuffle is tiny – it measures just 45.2mm tall and 7.8mm deep – yet its anodised aluminium case is home to 4GB of storage, enough for around 1,000 songs, and a rechargeable battery that’s good for 10 hours of playback. Its top edge houses a simple slider switch for turning on the player, and toggling between linear and shuffle playback of songs. A robust stainless-steel clip dominates one side, offering a good grip onto clothing - so the Shuffle shouldn’t go flying during a workout.
The minimalist design does see a trade-off. The audio controls – volume, play, pause, stop and forward/back – have been bumped off the body and onto the headphone cord. One on hand, this makes sense, giving simple access to basic controls without the need to fish the iPod Shuffle 3G from deep in a pocket.
However, it means you’re restricted to using Apple’s white iPod Shuffle headphones – if you plug in another set, you lose the ability to control playback and volume, though the iPod Shuffle 3G will still play audio. Apple should be releasing an adaptor, so you can plug in your favourite set of headphones. We found Apple’s headphones slipped easily from the ear, making them less attractive to wear during exercise.
New iPod Shuffle VoiceOver
The Shuffle 3G includes Apple’s new VoiceOver technology. Making up for the lack of a screen, a button press will fade a song while a voice announces the track and artist name. It can read out your playlist names, too - you can use the volume control on the headphones to cycle through playlists as they are read out so you can pick the right one. VoiceOver will also tell you when the battery is getting low, and can accurately pronounce names in 14 different languages, including French and German.
In our first look test, we found that VoiceOver is rather good – handling a range of names and phonetically challenging playlist names with ease. However, wrestling with a combination of button presses on the headphone cord, coupled with aural navigation, means navigating the iPod Shuffle 3G, while better than previous versions, is still a challenge.
The Shuffle 3G also includes a connector that plugs into the iPod Shuffle’s 3.5mm headphone jack and a USB connector on a PC, enabling you to transfer songs and playlists from your computer. Annoyingly, we had to download the VoiceOver functionality when we first plugged in the iPod, so you’ll need to be connected to the internet.
It supports a limited range of audio formats – Apple’s AAC and protected AAC for playing songs downloaded from the iTunes store, as well as MP3, Audible for audio books, Apple Lossless, WAV and AIFF. Microsoft’s WMA doesn’t get a look in.
iPod Shuffle Podcasts
We found that audio books and podcasts are handled better by the 3G than previous versions. It now understands that audio book chapters are part of a book, and plays them sequentially rather than have them pop up in the middle of songs if you’re in shuffle mode. Podcasts and audio books are bookmarked when listening, so you can turn off the iPod Shuffle 3G and pick up your place in an audio book when you next turn it on.
Apple is also trumpeting the iPod Shuffle’s environmental credentials. It is brominated flame retardant and PVC free, and Apple reckons the iPod Shuffle’s aluminium enclosure is highly recyclable. Top marks for the packaging, which is tiny - Apple claims it is 40% smaller and a third lighter than that of the previous iPod Shuffle.
Pros: Small, durable, VoiceOver handles a range of names easily, better audio book and podcast support
Cons: Controls on the headphones a misfire, navigation can prove awkward, light on features
For reviews of over 100 other MP3 players, read our extensive MP3 player report.
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