[nextpage title=”Introduction”]O.k., we know that iPod shuffle isn’t exactly something new – after all it was released 16 months ago. But with the release of the 2 GB model last month the price of the 1 GB dropped dramatically, being easily found for $50 at Apple, BestBuy, Circuit City and Amazon.com. In this review we will explore Apple’s cheapest iPod to date.

iPod shuffle isn’t only the cheapest MP3 player from Apple, but also the smallest and lightest, measuring only 1.07” (2.73 cm) x 1.62” (4.12 cm) x 0.41” (1.05 cm) (H x W x D) and weighting only half ounce (15.6 grams), making it the most discreet iPod, which is a very desirable feature if you want to use it for jogging, biking or working out, if you don’t want something bulky inside your pocket or if you simply just don’t like the idea of flashing your iPod around whenever you want to select a song (this model don’t allow you to select any specific song, as it doesn’t have an LCD display), what can be dangerous for people walking on an unsafe neighborhood.

According to Apple with 1 GB you can store up to 240 songs with 128 Kbps quality in AAC format, of course you can store more or less depending on the quality of the files you have. The 2 GB model holds up to 500 songs. We think this is more than enough for the average user, but if you want even more then you will need to buy a different iPod model, like iPod nano (4 GB or 8 GB), iPod touch (8 GB, 16 GB or 32 GB) or iPod classic (80 GB or 160 GB) or buy a MP3 player from a different brand – if you can find one at the same size of Shuffle’s.

We all know that Apple’s strongest features today are their design, branding and marketing. For some gadget enthusiasts having an Apple product is like owning a Ferrari. Apple’s meticulous care with design can be seen in every aspect of iPod shuffle, starting with the minimalist design of the box.

iPod ShuffleFigure 1: IPod shuffle’s box.

iPod ShuffleFigure 2: IPod shuffle’s box.

Another very careful marketing detail is the use of the phrase “Designed in California” (as opposed to “Designed in the USA”) in all places where the famous “Made in China” is printed and also inside the box, to make it clear that you don’t have a lousy “Made in China” product or an MP3 player that is similar to any other you’ve seen around.

iPod ShuffleFigure 3: “Designed in California,” great marketing strategy.

iPod shuffle also comes with two stickers from Apple’s logo in white.[nextpage title=”The iPod Shuffle”]

iPod shuffle comes in four colors: blue, grey, green, purple and red (this last color only on Apple stores). It doesn’t have an LCD display, which helped shrinking its size, weight and price.

iPod ShuffleFigure 4: iPod shuffle.

As you can see, it doesn’t have a lot of buttons, making it probably the easiest MP3 player to use. It only has volume control, play/pause, jump to previous/next song and that’s it. At the bottom of the unit you can also find the mode switch – where you can choose between playing the songs on the same order they are saved inside the player or to shuffle them up.

iPod ShuffleFigure 5: iPod shuffle, bottom view.

Besides the on/off switch there is a tiny LED that indicates battery life (green: good charge; orange: low charge; red: very low charge) or status, when the iPod shuffle is connected to the PC (green: charged; orange: charging; blinking orange: transferring files).

On the top of the unit there is just one 3.5-mm jack, which is used for installing both the headphones and the docking station.

iPod ShuffleFigure 6: iPod shuffle, top view.

In Figure 7 we took a picture of iPod shuffle besides a ruler for you to see how small it really is.

iPod ShuffleFigure 7: iPod shuffle is really small, measuring only 1.62” (4.12 cm)!

[nextpage title=”Connecting iPod Shuffle to the PC”]

One of the greatest features of iPod shuffle is that is uses a rechargeable battery. Everyone who had an MP3 player that uses AAA batteries know how fast they run out and if you used it a lot you had two options, buy rechargeable batteries or help Duracell to increase their earnings. In both cases you needed to physically replace batteries, a hassle you don’t need to go through with iPod. So connecting your iPod to the PC has two functions: transferring files and recharging its battery.

Shuffle comes with a small docking station, allowing you to connect your iPod to any empty USB port. Several MP3 players are connected directly to a USB port without a cable, but for this the player needs to have an embedded USB connector, which takes a lot of room, making the player bigger.

iPod ShuffleFigure 8: iPod shuffle docking station.

On the back side of this docking station there is a grey rubber with Apple’s logo, which allows the docking station to stay still on top of your desk or computer case without slipping.

iPod ShuffleFigure 9: Rubber that prevents the docking station from slipping.

After buying your iPod shuffle the first thing you need to do is to charge it. For doing this simply install your iPod on its docking station (keep the on/off switch on “off” position) and connect it to any empty USB port (the port must be USB 2.0 for a faster file transfer). If you have iTunes software already installed, it will detect your new iPod and start copying your songs from your computer to it, at the same time that your computer will be charging your iPod.

iPod ShuffleFigure 10: iPod shuffle installed on its docking station.

The little LED present on iPod shuffle will be green if your iPod is fully charged, orange if it is charging and blinking orange if it is transferring files. Do not remove your iPod from its docking station if its LED is blinking. Wait until all files are transferred or stop the transferring process (on iTunes this is done by clicking on the eject button).

You can use your iPod with or without iTunes software (which is free and can be downloaded here). If you choose not to use it, your iPod shuffle will be recognized as a new drive on your system and all you need to do is copy your audio files to it, like you would copy files to a folder on your hard drive.

iTunes software provides several advantages, because with it you can manage all your songs from a central location. With so many press releases about iTunes success many people think that iTunes is used only for buying digital music online, which isn’t the case: shopping is just one of the options provided by this program. This program also allows you converting your CD collection into compressed audio files for playing on your iPod – what you will probably be doing a lot, especially if you don’t have MP3 files in your hard drive yet – and also works as a regular MP3 player.

After you install iTunes, however, your iPod won’t be listed as a removable drive in My Computer or Computer anymore. To make it to be showed again there you will need to change a configuration on iTunes, selecting your iPod on the left hand side pane, clicking on the Settings tab, scrolling down, checking the option “Enable disk use” and then clicking on “Apply.” Notice that after doing this you will need to use the “Safely Remove Hardware” wizard that appears next to Windows’ clock before removing your iPod from its docking station (an easier way to accomplish this is to right click your iPod on My Computer and select Eject), otherwise you may end up with corrupted files in your iPod.

[nextpage title=”Using iPod Shuffle”]

Like all MP3 players iPod shuffle comes with a pair of headphones, shown in Figure 11. Its quality is better than most headphones that come bundled with MP3 players, but depending on how picky you are about headphone quality or depending on the shape of your ears maybe you will want to buy a better set.

iPod ShuffleFigure 11: Headphones that come with iPod shuffle.

As you have already notice by now iPod shuffle comes with a clip attached to it, which is a really convenient feature, especially if you are doing some kind of exercise while using it.

iPod ShuffleFigure 12: iPod shuffle’s clip.

Using iPod shuffle is really easy since it doesn’t have many buttons. Just turn it on, press play and that’s it! If you turn it off it will resume the song that was playing at the same exact point when you turn in back on.

Audio quality is great, but it depends more on the quality of your audio files than on the player itself. We were particularly impressed by the response of the bass sounds; we thought that since this unit doesn’t have a user-selectable equalizer it would have bad response on this frequency range, which wasn’t the case.

Maximum volume level is more than satisfactory and should please the guys that are in line to become deaf, but audio gets a little bit distorted when iPod shuffle is playing music at its maximum output level.

The only problem we had was if we left iPod shuffle connected to its dock station while we turned on our computer, the system would freeze during memory testing. We don’t know if this is a specific problem with the motherboard we were using (Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R), a bad configuration on the motherboard setup that we couldn’t locate or a problem with iPod shuffle. So if you face a similar problem just remove your iPod from its docking station before turning on your computer.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

iPod shuffle main features are:

  • Capacity: 1 GB or 2 GB
  • Available colors: blue, grey, green, purple and red (only at Apple store).
  • Dimensions: 1.07” x 1.62” x 0.41” (2.73 cm x 4.12 cm x 1.05 cm) (H x W x D)
  • Weight: ½ ounce (15.6 grams)
  • More information: https://www.apple.com
  • Average price in the US*: USD 49.00 (1 GB) or USD 69.00 (2 GB)

* Researched at Shopping.com on the day we published this review.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

With just seven buttons iPod shuffle is definitely the easiest-to-use MP3 player available on the market today. Finally an MP3 player that you don’t need to be a tech wiz to master! Just transfer your songs, turn it on, press play and that’s it! This is the kind of device that even your grandma can learn how to use in less than one minute – provided that she knows how to use a regular CD player, of course (but if your grandma is like mine, she will ask you to come over to her place from time to time to add/remove songs for her, so think a lot before giving her one – well, at least payment for the favor is done in chocolate cake, LOL).

It is not only about its ease to use that iPod shuffle is great: it comes with a rechargeable battery, it is very small, discreet and very light, making the perfect choice for people that want to listen to music while exercise or need a player discreet enough to not draw undesirable attention.

And the best of all: it comes with a beautiful price tag.