Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My New iPod Shuffle Purple (4th Generation): Twice The Capacity, Exponentially More Annoyance!

The Good: Fair capacity, Brand name
The Bad: Lousy interface, Not thrilling capacity, EXPENSIVE, Not wild about the color.
The Basics: A disappointing iPod Shuffle, the 2 GB Purple looks mediocre and annoyingly takes a huge amount of time to find the song one wants to hear.

It seems that when lousy electronic rain down upon the Swarts household, they really come to roost. It also appears that many of my friends and family do not actually read my many reviews. I mention this because when I told many of my family members that I was going to spend some time getting in shape this winter, some of them pooled together and presented me with a purple iPod Shuffle. This came to the house on the heels of my mother getting an orange iPod Shuffle (reviewed here!) which I was so thoroughly unimpressed with that I panned it pretty righteously. My partner, as it turns out, has a very simple MP3 player that I've been happily able to use since I started working out more. It is a very basic MP3 player, not an iPod brand MP3 player, and it works fine when I am jogging along, walking the dog and even doing my situps.

I mention this at the outset of my review of my purple 2 GB iPod Shuffle because the iPod Shuffle is designed for portability and not for style or any sense of convenience. It is designed for active lifestyles, but ones where the playing of music is peripheral to the activity being done, as opposed to using the MP3 player as an entertainment device. As such, this does not have a screen, track indicator or have any sort of applications it can perform. This is a very pure, overpriced MP3 player and it is identical in every way to my mother's orange 1GB iPod Shuffle, save that mine is purple and has twice the capacity.

Actually, I discovered quickly that the only thing more annoying than having an iPod Shuffle, which essentially requires the listener to memorize their entire playlist or randomly work through songs from the first few notes until they get the song they actually wanted to play, is having one with more capacity. The bigger capacity - 2GB - makes the playlist twice as long and exceptionally difficult to find the songs. This was a real annoyance to me as my iPod Shuffle's playlist is significantly different from the material I have on my much easier-to-use iPod Touch. All iPod products require the use of iTunes to move music from a personal computer to the iPod Shuffle and that can be a real hassle for those who do not know how to use it. I learned how to connect my new iPod Shuffle to my iTunes so I could choose from the same reservoir of music that I have on my primary iPod and my wife's MP3 player.

The iPod Shuffle is designed for portability, it is an MP3 player designed for runners and those who want a small MP3 player in the car to take music with them as opposed to c.d.s. As such, it is very small, measuring 1" wide x 1 1/2" long x 3/8" thick. That thickness includes the clip on the back, which may be used to attach this iPod to a sun visor in the car, a lapel on a jacket, or even to a runner's gloves so they do not have to hold this in their hand. This is a very expensive MP3 player for its physical size and for the fact that it only has a 2 gigabytes capacity to it. In this way, this is identical - save the capacity - to every other iPod Shuffle in existence. The purple metal casing is pearlescent and looks more lilac than royal purple. I was not wild about the color, as I tend to prefer dark colors or neutrals to something this pastel. All of the buttons on it are made of hard plastic and the inscrutable little device has a port for both the recharger and headphones.

Getting music onto and off of the iPod Shuffle also requires users to use the same port, but the iPod Shuffle comes with the cord necessary to both recharge the iPod Shuffle through a USB port on one's computer and exchange information with the Shuffle the exact same way. I found that playing music constantly for about thirteen hours drained the battery to the point that I needed to recharge it, which was a distinct difference to the older, used, iPod Shuffle my mother has. Apparently after two year's use, one may expect the battery to fade significantly. As my purple one is new, the fresh battery seems to have a better charge.

The iPod Shuffle has no external speakers, so one must plug headphones into it in order to hear the music on the MP3 player. It comes with the standard white Apple earbud-style headphones and they plug into the same port hole that the other cord fits into. As a result, one may either be playing music or recharging the iPod Shuffle.

Use of the iPod Shuffle is where this becomes so problematic as to not be worth purchasing. First, one must use iTunes to put music onto the Shuffle and remove it. With 2 GB capacity, it is supposed to hold about five hundred songs. I managed to get an annoying 503 songs onto my iPod Shuffle. I write "annoying" because I picked and chose songs and because there is no way to see what song is playing, what is next, etc., I can go through a full 502 songs before I find the one I wanted! This is a terrible waste of time and more often than not, I find myself listening to music I am less engaged to while working out. The interface which illustrates what is on the iPod Shuffle is only available on one's personal computer. To use the iPod Shuffle, one generally has to have a personal computer running iTunes and that can be a hassle for those looking to quickly and cheaply condense a small collection of c.d.s onto the Shuffle.

But the Shuffle operates on simple controls: there is an on/off button which slides to turn on. The front of the orange Shuffle has the five controls this device actually possesses: play/pause, track forward, track back, volume up and volume down. There is no control panel which indicates what one is listening to, what track number or even album one is playing. As a result, the playlist one uploads into the iPod Shuffle becomes a mystery after one disconnects it from their computer. Tracks become a hit or miss and one needs to listen to the beginning of each song in order to determine where they are on the overall playlist and they only know where they are relative to where they want to be if they recall the source material or have otherwise memorized the playlist. I found the lack of an interface irritating, more so with the greater capacity.

The buttons basically work and this iPod Shuffle appears to have been part of a clearance (iPod Shuffles are up to a third generation). Even offered less expensively as part of a clearance, there are vastly better MP3 players that offer users more for less money. Avoid this and either save with something less "trendy" or use the same amount of money to get something which actually offers greater playability.

For other i-products, please check out my reviews of:
iPod Touch
iPod Nano (5th Generation)


For other electronics reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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