My New Favorite Gadget: The iPod shuffle

by Chuck Toporek

When all the rumors started circulating earlier this year about the possibility of Apple coming out with a flash-based iPod, my usual response was "Well, of course they will; Steve said so." Of course, that led many people to think I had a direct line to Cupertino, and I can assure you I don't. My response was based on what Steve Jobs said last year during his keynote presentation at Macworld SF 2004.

In his keynote last year, Steve Jobs went to great length to describe the market for MP3 players. He spent a lot of time talking about the smaller drive- and flash-based MP3 players, and then introduced the iPod mini. Steve Jobs said that Apple was going to focus on the drive-based MP3 market, and that they'd go after the other side of the market later in the year. Steve told us all to keep our eyes open in the year ahead, because Apple had lots of plans on the horizon.

So, was I surprised this morning when Steve announced the iPod shuffle? Nope, not at all; I knew it was coming, and I've been waiting for a freakin' year for it. And when Steve Jobs said they were available today, and that the Apple Store down the street has them in stock, a bunch of us made a bee-line down 4th Street to Market where we waited in line with hundreds of other Macworld attendees to be one of the first with an iPod shuffle.

Not only did I buy an iPod shuffle (all they had was the 512 MB model; $99 US), I bought three of them. One for me to use while biking. One for my wife to take to the gym. And one for an unnamed person who'll be pleasantly surprised by the package I'm about to send off in the mail.

You see, I've been dying for the iPod shuffle (or whatever I thought it would be called). I have a Gen2 iPod (10 GB) that contains a good chunk of my music collection (and also backups of the books I edit), but I hated taking it along for bike rides. I always worried that I'd get into an accident and end up thrashing my iPod against a tree, or that it would spill out of my pack while on some muddy single-track. But I reluctantly took it along on my rides, and hoped that my accident-prone self wouldn't break it.

Sure, I thought about buying an iPod mini numerous times over the last year, but always balked at the price-point ($249). I already had an iPod, and the mini wasn't what I was looking for. Sure, they're cute and all, but I just couldn't bring myself to spend $250 on another iPod.

The iPod shuffle is small, lightweight, has a 12-hour battery life, and holds up to 120 songs (at least with the 512 MB model; the 1 GB model holds twice as much music, obviously), which is plenty for the type of riding I do. What's more, I can buy an armband and strap the iPod shuffle to my arm, and that sports case to protect it against breaking should I crash, which is always a strong possibility.

While I didn't have much of an opportunity to listen to the iPod shuffle during the day at Macworld, I've been listening to it now for the last four hours as I work and write blog entries. It's a great little iPod, and I'm totally smitten. It's all I hoped and dreamed for, and more.

What's your opinion of the iPod shuffle? Have you purchased one? If so, what was it that motivated you to spend the cash, and what, if any, add-ons will you buy?


2005-01-12 13:04:24
can one play multiple albums or playlists?
I understand the random/play-in-order buttons, but can one restrict play-in-order to one album only. In other words, what if i just want to hear doors but not the beatles? And I have both in my collection. What about restriction by what if i want to hear random podcasts, but only podcasts?
2005-01-17 04:15:16
can one play multiple albums or playlists?
There's only two options with the Shuffle: play all songs in random order, or play them all in upload order. The only available navigation is one song forward or one song backward. That's it.

I figure Apple decided that the device is way too small for a usable display, and that there's no way to offer non-trivial navigation without a display, and so it won't have non-trivial navigation.