iPod shuffle 4GB
The latest version of the iPod shuffle is notable for two things: it now comes in five colours - silver, black, pink, blue and green - and the headphone remote is now available in earphones from third-party manufacturers, which means that you no longer have to put up with Apple's included earbuds.
There's also a special edition stainless steel shuffle, which costs £75 for 4GB.
It also now comes in two versions, a 2GB and a 4GB model. Other than that, the shuffle is unchanged from the player that debuted in March. And that's no bad thing. The design is sparse, almost utilitarian but for the rounded edges and metallic, coloured aluminium shell. The removal of control buttons from the main surfaces has allowed Apple to shrink the shuffle, so that it's now barely bigger than the spring-loaded clip that's fixed to its rear surface. Indeed, the only control button on the device itself is the on/loop/shuffle slider next to the 3.5mm headphone jack.
That headphone jack is used to connect to a USB adaptor to allow you to connect the shuffle to your Mac to charge and sync it, as well as to attach headphones. It's the headphones that proved controversial when this version of the shuffle was first launched: they incorporate the volume and track controls, including VoiceOver, which uses an automated voice to inform you of the track and artist currently playing, and until recently meant shuffle owners were restricted to using only those headphones with their device. Now that Sony, Klipsch and others have announced compatible headphones, and Belkin and Scosche are making adaptors for other third-party headphones, that's no longer as much of an issue.
We enjoyed using the shuffle. The control system is intuitive enough that learning it is the work of but a few minutes, and while we don't envisage making great use of VoiceOver, we can see that some people might find it handy. Despite the reasonably generous 4GB capacity, the option to re-encode music as it is synced in order to reduce the size of the files is welcome.