Okay, so let me start by saying that I might be biased because I do not like the company policy of Apple. I owned an iBook some time ago and was always interested what they are up to, and after using it for a while I came to the conclusion that Apple gets Innovation and Design really well, but that the Hardware is overall inferior, overpriced and that it’s a gigantic Vendor Lock-In, much much worse than Microsoft, who at least give you the Freedom of choosing your Hardware freely.
But there are two Apple Products that I always adored and still truly love: iTunes and the iPod. I did get the original 5 GB iPod when it was introduced and I was always satisfied with it (Yes, the wheel had it’s issues, but not to the point of being unusable – and at least they fixed that in newer iPods). Nowadays, I own a second Generation iPod Shuffle (2 GB, in Blue) and I also love it. For me, this is the ultimate iPod from a usability perspective: The way the controls are on the side mean that I can grab my iPod when it’s in my pocket and I know where the buttons are: Next track is on the short side, Previous Track is on the long side, Volume controls in between and the Play/Pause button in the center. There is really nothing bad that I could say about the 2nd Gen iPod Shuffle, maybe only that more space would be nice.
So, Apple now recently introduced the Third Generation Shuffle. They addressed my only mini-concern by increasing it’s capacity to 4 GB. But sadly, they completely broke it in most other ways. Let’s get one thing out first: Their advertising is wrong. It’s advertised as “The first iPod that talks to you”. *beep* Wrong. The 4th Generation iPod Nano came before (although with a Trick). That is just one indicator that the new Shuffle seems like it was build be people who don’t care about the iPod product line.
The main issue with the 3rd Generation Shuffle is that they moved the Buttons from the device into the headphones, which means that blind control is near impossible. How are you supposed to control the iPod if you do NOT want a bulky, unnecessary extra box somewhere in the cable? What If I do not want the controls outside? I usually keep my Shuffle in the inner pocket of my jacket, so I always know where the controls are – with an extra box on the cable, it’s a constant searching for it. The iPod Shuffle is a solid piece of Metal, so it does not bend or move.
But even worse: I can no longer use proper Headphones. The ones included with the iPod may be better than most bundled ones, but ultimately they are still crap. But now, it’s not even possible to use any Third Party ones because they need to have the Remote Control built in. And as you can guess, Third Party ones will be really expensive because a) the manufacturers can advertise them as an iPod product and b) the manufacturers need to buy a special chip from Apple.
I paid 20 Euros for my last pair of Earphones, some Philips in-Ear with an Earclip. They are a million times better than the bundled ones, but even more important: They are just earphones, with no extra Apple Tax attached to them. Now that consumers will have to pay Apple Tax twice on Earphones (one time for the chip and a second time for the iPod brand), I doubt that proper headphones for a proper price will be available. And yes, I know that you can still use headphones without remote control, to get playback without prev/next Track and volume controls – it’s really hard to keep a straight face when hearing this though, that’s a typical marketing bullshit excuse.
In Short: Calling the Third Generation iPod Shuffle a piece of shit would be an insult – to shit, because shit can at least be used to fertilize our fields. It has “fail” written all over it, and I really wonder if Apple will kill other iPods by introducing this crap as well, or if the 3rd Gen Shuffle is just a test balloon for shit.