Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Three weeks with iPod shuffle

Despite the nature of my traditional blog articles and the name of this entry, this will be a short review of my newest Apple gadget, iPod shuffle (1GB model), which I waited 3 weeks since ordered it right after Macworld Expo, and had been using as my primary portable music player since I got it (with occassionally switching back to my 1st gen iPod mini). So here we go:

  • First off, a little surprise on a box ...

    notice that, while the official website for the iPod still say Mac+PC for every model, the iPod shuffle box clearly says PC+Mac (same as the boxes for 2nd gen iPod mini. I have no idea about the revised iPod photo). This change maybe subtle, but nevertheless an important one. With PC users outnumbering Mac users anywhere in the world, having the word emphasizing that it would work with the PC will ensuring much higher number of potential customers, that the shinny iPod will work with their computers. A surprise nonetheless.

  • Talking about size, this iPod shuffle is amazingly small. I hardly notice it at all when I put it either in my trousers or shirt pocket. It is even smaller than my old USB memory stick. I would very much like to have the aluminum version, though ... (even though I don't think Apple will eventually make one).

  • Shuffle only. This is the feature many people who never actually try it are complaining the most. After all, we are accustomed to being able to choose songs/playlists we want to listen. However, I found out after trying out the shuffle mode in my iTunes and iPod mini, that shuffling is actually a good way to listen to music.

    I autofilled my iPod shuffle from my top rating songs, 5 stars only (or now, 4-5 stars), and not classical musics (which are usually too long and not suitable for listening on the road). Then, no matter what is coming up, I'm sure I will have no problem listening to it. Also, with the skip and repeat button (forward and backward), I can skip things I don't feel like listening anyway.

    Now, why is this a good thing? Well, when given less choice (i.e., I can no long choose the song myself), I became less and less selective about the song. This mean, I can focus more on what I'm doing, like coding (programming), writing articles, making class handouts, cycling, etc. Also, I have less feeling of the routine in my life. After all, I cannot predict 2-3 songs in advanced any more (and guessing what is coming up next had been a game I play with myself for fun).

  • It doesn't work with my Bose speakers. I just tried plugging it in, and it doesn't seem to have enough power to drive my Bose speaker. Not a surprise, and this does not give this iPod shuffle any minus point. After all, iPod shuffle is a device for listening to music on the go, not in the room. For that, I use my old 3rd gen iPod or iPod mini, or directly from iTunes.

  • A real minus point here: while it can be put into sequential playing mode or shuffle mode, it does *not* have the repeat one song mode. Sometime, it shuffled up the song I really like, and I really in the mood for listening to that song 3-4 times. All I could do is keep pressing the backward button. A minus here for me.

  • Interface. Whille it is still symmetric like the iPod remote control, which had confused many people (and, one of the worst design out of Cupertino in my opinion), it is less symmetric (the placement of the entire interface) and therefore giving less confusion. The status-indicating LED took me a while to get used to, and now I have no problem reading it.

  • Talking about LED, well ... the battery indicator could have more work. After all, I want to be able to distinguish between 51% charged and 88% charged. Now the LED only change the color after the batter is down below 50% (maybe?). Battery life is pretty good though.

  • Haven't tested it with the car adapter yet. (I love using iPod while driving ... but I have no car in Japan, will test it when I go back to Thailand, soon).

So, that was my review. Longer than I initially thought ;-)

Conclusion: iPod shuffle is clearly a winner, if you want some music in your ears on the go, and help you focus on your works without worrying at all about the music.