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Gadget of the Week - The new iPod Shuffle

By Barry Myers

The latest version of Apple’s iconic iPod Shuffle arrived last week to great fanfare. Billed by Apple as “the first music player that talks to you”, the new Shuffle is half the size of the previous version but capable of holding up to 4x the number of songs!
It’s been described as being the size of a tie clip or a slightly elongated stick of Trident gum. Apple claims it’s the smallest music player in the world and I am in no position to argue!

In fact, it’s so small that Apple didn’t have any room for controls! Instead, they’ve built a tiny remote control on the chord of the earbud. It has three clickable spots: a + and - to control the volume, and a center button for play/pause.

But Apple, apparently unsatisfied by just making the new Shuffle even smaller than its predecessors, has added a brand new feature called VoiceOver. When you hold down the center clicker, a male voice in your earbuds will identify the song and the performer that you are listening to. If you continue to hold down the clicker until you hear a beep, the voice will rattle off the names of your playlists ("workout tunes…romance...purchased"). You click again when you get to the one you want, or use the + and - buttons to scroll forward or back.

You can also flip the power switch off and on again to hear the voice tell you how much battery you have left. Apple says that a single charge plays for 10 hours. (Interestingly, if you’re using a Mac, the voice you hear is clear, accent-free American. If you’re using a Windows PC, however, you hear a more synthesized-sounding, vaguely Scandinavian voice!)

Instead of the built-in USB connector of the original, or the tiny plastic dock of the second-generation Shuffle, you charge and load your music and podcasts with a tiny, three-inch white USB cord.

The new Shuffle has 4 gigabytes of memory – that’s about 1,000 songs to you and me – is available in black or silver, sounds fantastic, and costs $80.  There's just enough room on the back for a mirror-finish spring clip for fastening to your clothes. Oh, and if you order direct from the online Apple store, you can get a custom message laser-etched onto the clip.

The only drawback with the new Shuffle is that the design locks you into using the included earbuds, because no other headphones have the clicker on the cord. Apple says that it has been working with headset makers to help them design Shuffle-compatible headphones and that we can expect announcements soon. For now, though, potential buyers should be aware that it's the included earbuds or nothing.

But if you’re OK with that and don’t mind the absence of a screen for photos and videos, then this is one powerful little player you’ll want to check out!

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