Last year, I gave Apple's original second-generation (2G) iPod shuffle a 5-star rating, calling it "a wonder of size, weight, and usability, and the perfect companion for music lovers who don't want their portable audio player to get in the way." Since the October 31, 20006 release of that version of the shuffle, which was originally available only in anodized aluminum (silver), Apple later augmented the product with four new colors, pink, green, blue, and orange. I didn't update the review at the time because the iPod shuffle didn't change in any functional way, though certainly the different colors were a welcome addition.
Flash forward to September 2007 and Apple has just unveiled the latest update to the iPod shuffle 2G. That's right, it's not a new shuffle at all, but rather a subtle refresh to the device Apple first shipped a year ago. Once again, the only thing that's changed is the available colors: Now, instead of the bright colors the company introduced in January 2007, Apple instead offers a duller, more pastel-based palette. "Original silver" is carried over intact, but the other four colors are new: turquoise blue, light green, light purple, and red, the only bright color, thanks to its (PRODUCT) RED affiliation. Whether these colors are "nicer" than those offered last year is, of course, a matter of taste. I happen to find the brighter colors to be more attractive. Your mileage may vary.
Beyond the "remixed" colors, nothing else has changed: Apple's late 2007 iPod shuffles are otherwise identical to the 2006 lineup: Same 1 GB of storage. Same screenless form factor. Same built-in clip. Same on/off and shuffle switches, battery indicator, and headphone jack. Same weird little special dock and a complete lack of integrated USB connectivity. In fact, even the price, $79, is the same.
That's going to make for the shortest review I've ever written for the SuperSite. But in a year where Apple dramatically updated the iPod nano (which I'll review soon) and released an eagerly awaited new iPhone touch device, the iPod shuffle stands out as the lowlight of the new lineup. The iPod shuffle's 1 GB of storage was fine a year ago, but now that the nano has gone video, Apple has relegated the shuffle as the only pure music iPod left in the bunch, and an upgrade to at least 2 GB of storage would have been hugely preferable.
Furthermore, the silly iPod shuffle dock is just another thing owners of the device will have to carry with them when they travel, somewhat undermining the tiny size of the shuffle itself. An integrated fold-out USB port in a similar form factor would be so much nicer and in keeping with Apple's ever-amazing ability to fit more into smaller packages.
In short, the iPod shuffle is still cute, fun, and functional, it's just getting a little long in the tooth.
Recommended--hey, it's still an iPod--but with some reservations about capacity and connectivity.
September 10, 2007