Friday, October 9, 2009

Why You Threw Your iPod Shuffle in the River

I know why you threw your new iPod Shuffle into the nearest river. Before I explain, I want to note that I was content to let the existence of this new product go unnoticed on this precious, precious blog until Apple insulted me, my family, my cats, TV Dinners, all national flags, all flavors of pie, and, most egregiously of all, every music-loving runner in the universe with this:

The person in the photograph is obviously a runner decked out in her new iPod Shuffle, running shirt, running shoes, and running knickers. In this image and beyond, the Apple site explicitly acknowledges running and connects it with this gadget, and I wish it hadn't. The trouble?

To create the world’s smallest music player, we moved the controls from iPod shuffle to the earphone cord. This makes iPod shuffle smaller than ever, and the controls are right where you can reach them. So when you want to play, pause, or skip to the next tune, you don’t have to fumble for your iPod shuffle — just follow the cord and press a button.
Catch that? Before it entered its underwater grave, you didn't have to fumble for your iPod Shuffle -- after all, who can keep track of where the hell they clipped the expensive music player? Apple spared us that laborious task in favor of following the cord to the little control thingy attached to the headphone unit itself.

That control thingy was indeed as easy to locate as Apple claims. In fact, it was extremely conspicuous as it bounced along with your running motion and tugged the earpiece out of your right ear shortly before the other one fell out of your left ear. This is the kind of thing that's difficult not to notice.

That is when you chucked the damn thing into the nearest river, lake, pond, well, ocean, puddle, trash bin, toilet, or other dark receptacle that was most handy when you reached your limit. Maybe you didn't toss it after the first few times it happened, but sooner or later, you realized that the newly-designed iPod Shuffle was really intended for the sort of music listeners who never, ever move as they listen to it.

In fairness, before you discarded the device, there were consolations in the form of worthless features:
you can navigate your music — and activate the VoiceOver feature — without taking your eyes off your run, your ride, or whatever you’re doing.
Hearing a robot's voice tell you the names of songs and playlists was super while it lasted.

Again in fairness, you had options:
iPod shuffle includes these easy-access controls, but you can also use headphones with similar controls from manufacturers like Scosche, Klipsch, V-MODA, and Belkin.
You had options -- upwards of four options, each adding considerably more expense to your initial purchase without negating the idiotic dead-weight-attached-to-one-earpiece / very-few-compatible-headphones design.

Belkin makes a game effort at negating the flaw with a standalone control thingy that sits between the iPod and the headphones you want to use (shown right), but of course, this adds two more fault-prone connection points between you and the music source, and moreover cancels out the horseshit above about "not having to fumble for your iPod." No, with the Belkin thingy, you have to fish for the Belkin thingy. Thanks for trying, Belkin, but you can't polish a turd.

If you will sometimes chance to move as you listen to your MP3 player, and yet want a lightweight and unobtrusive music-playing machine, the Sansa Clip is a far better choice. It generously allows you to use any standard headphones you like, doesn't get in your way, and so long as you remember where you clipped it, requires minimal fumbling.


Brad said...

I have a previous generation iPod shuffle (silver) that I no longer use if you want it. It has the buttons on the body of the player. You can use whichever 1/4-inch headphones with it that you choose. Let me know if you're interested.

Also comes with a freebie USB thingy because the original dock for this iPod was a pain to use.

Dale said...

Brad, thanks for that. I realize I probably gave the impression that I had a third generation Shuffle that I got angry at, but no, I have never had one. I wasn't even quite aware of them until a friend showed me the one he got as a door prize.

I had a first generation followed by a second generation Shuffle, and I was basically happy with each. The 1G is still alive and kicking -- I had to replace it b/c the thingy I had to attach it to my running knickers died and I couldn't find a suitable replacement. Also, it was only 512MB -- a pittance. The 2G had a good life, and we had our time in the sun, but it died. It's now buried somewhere near my cat at the side of the house.

After the 2G's death I got a Sansa Clip and I'm very happy with it. I wish it worked with iTunes software, since I do like that, but MediaMonkey is almost as good. I even got the super-charged Best Buy warranty with the Sansa, so when it dies, I intend to jump through their hoops and get it replaced free o' charge. I just know that's going to be a hoot!

Dale said...

... btw, the cat was dead before I buried her at the side of the house. RIP Thelma.

Deanna Moffitt said...

Hey Dale,

A new product called yurbuds is being introduced soon. They sound like what a cushy gel seat does for a bike, only for your earbuds.

iPod Shuffle Comparisons said...

Thanks for this well-written article. It was an interesting read. My 2 cents: with the release of the new ipod nano 5th gen, i think it would be better to make that needed upgrade. :-)