My iPod Shuffle 3G Experience

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I’ve had my new iPod shuffle for two days and thought I’d post my thoughts on it. We’ve already covered the out-of-the-box and setup experience elsewhere, so I won’t repeat them here.

Playlist Support

I experimented with a few different setups, but finally settled on using three playlists:

  • One contains all my “recent” music (basically, everything added in the last few months).
  • Another contains all the “recent” music that’s been rated one star and up. (This is just a subset of the above list, so it requires no extra space on the device.)
  • The third one grabs songs at random — rated three stars or higher — from my entire collection, provided they’re not “recent.”

The first playlist takes about a third of the shuffle’s storage (though obviously it fluctuates), and the latter is specifically limited to the remaining two-thirds.

The interface to switch between playlists is pretty simple, and works great. Click and hold the center button, it first names the current song/artist and then beeps. Let go at the beep and it will name the current playlist, then “All Songs,” and then each playlist in alphabetical order. When it names the one you want, click the center button.

With up to six playlists, this works great. For 7-12 playlists I’d suggest using the + and – buttons to speed up the voice listing. Going past a dozen playlists I found it a bit too much, but it really all depends on your own patience level.

For my purposes, it’s a great convenience to have playlist functionality, and a very welcome improvement in the shuffle.

Song Titles

This is a wonderful addition. Since a lot of the music on my shuffle is new, I’d sometimes hear a song and not be sure who it was, or what song it was. I’d have to make a mental note to remember that when I got back to my Mac I’d want to find it and see if it was rated. Now I just click and hold to get the artist and title.

Sound

I haven’t used my 2G shuffle in a while, but I remember it being a little more “noisy” than this one. This one just seems quieter.

I think the sound is fine, but then again I use it walking or riding a bike and that’s hardly the best time for the brain to be especially picky about high fidelity.

Gripes

The USB charger cable is three inches long. If my main Mac were a MacBook I’d probably prefer this; how much cable do you need for that anyway? But my iTunes library is on my iMac. I have to plug it in the back (kind of a pain) and then it just hangs there since it doesn’t even reach the desktop. My iPhone dock is always plugged in; I just dock it when I need it. My old shuffle was the same way. But this device really can’t work that way since I have to fumble around in the back regardless.

The headphone cable is shorter than Apple has supplied before. My plan was not to even clip the thing, but rather just drop it in my pocket. When I did that, I found the headphone cord uncomfortably short, yet the iPhone never had this problem. I compared it to the iPhone headphones and it’s roughly eight inches shorter. Really, Apple, are you getting rich from all the cord you saved with this device?

Conclusion

I like this device quite a bit more than the 2G shuffle. I’ve been using headphone controls for a while with my iPhone and find them preferable to fumbling with the unit. I think they make even more sense on the shuffle. I also like the playlist and song title support, and of course holding 4GB of tunes is a big plus.

If you’re very happy with your 2G unit, I wouldn’t rush out and get a 3G. And if the Apple headphones are a deal breaker, you’ll need to wait until third party’s gear up. But if you’d like even a couple of these features: a lot more memory, headphone controls, more convenient size, playlist support, and ability to know what song is playing, then it’s an excellent upgrade.

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