Apple’s new iPod Shuffle

2009-03-13

in Geek stuff, Music, Rants

While I approved of the first major remake of Apple iPod Shuffle – replacing the white stick with a clip-on aluminum square – the latest update seems like a big step backwards. The new unit is a featureless piece of aluminum with no controls. Those are provided on the proprietary headphones. That means it cannot be used with conventional headphones, which is lamentable, since Apple’s are of such poor quality. It also means the new players cannot be plugged into a stereo using a miniplug cable: a feature that Emily and I found quite valuable over the summer.

It seems that minimalism and a tendency towards proprietary engineering can both be taken too far.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan March 14, 2009 at 9:03 am

Apple has failed to make ground in design in many of their new products since 2001, but this is the largest step backwards.

BuddyRich March 14, 2009 at 10:43 am

What they should have done is a small patch cable with the controls that terminated in a regular RCA jack to accept regular headphones.

Same idea as this (though this gives the play control and mic for an iphone, it too suffered from a proprietary headphone/mic combo):

http://www.monstercable.com/productdisplay.asp?pin=4571

Give it time. 3rd parties will come to the rescue, though Apple already received flack about similar issues with the iPhone, they should have know better.

Milan March 14, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Apple is releasing an add-on dongle that lets you plug in stereos and third party headphones. Even so, this system strikes me as profoundly inelegant.

I am considering buying one of the 2nd generation, square-clip Shuffles, while they are still in stores.

. March 14, 2009 at 1:34 pm

iPod Shuffle Finds Its Voice

Reader Mike points out some disturbing news that the new Shuffle contains DRM which, according to a review at iLounge, prevents it from fully working with any headphones that don’t have an Apple “authentication chip.”

Milan March 14, 2009 at 1:55 pm

The proprietary headphone chip is unnerving. They may be testing it out here, for possible introduction across the whole iPod line.

That seems reason enough to hope the new Shuffle is unpopular.

Matt March 14, 2009 at 3:40 pm

I also wonder what’s happened to the battery life, as the battery isn’t a component that you can easily miniaturize, and the power to drive the headphones remains the same.

I don’t see how having two small components, the dongle and the player is better than having one larger player.

. March 15, 2009 at 12:53 am

Semi-related:

This demo — from Pattie Maes’ lab at MIT, spearheaded by Pranav Mistry — was the buzz of TED. It’s a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment. Imagine “Minority Report” and then some.

. March 15, 2009 at 12:58 am
Milan March 15, 2009 at 4:50 pm

DRM-type restrictions are the ugliest thing Apple does – especially when they change things without warning.

I hate how Apple’s DVD player won’t let you skip ads on DVDs you own. As a result, I choose to use the superior VLC media player instead.

. March 16, 2009 at 11:08 pm

iPod headphones aren´t DRMed, just controlled by a proprietary chip that you have to license

Remember the story about the new iPods having DRM on the headphone interface, which would make it impossible to plug in third-party headphones unless they took a DRM license from Apple? Well, I was wrong.

No, the new iPods have a proprietary chip on the headphone interface that makes it illegal to manufacture third-party headphones unless you have a trademark license from Apple in order to claim “Made for iPod Certification”. However, you can make your own iPod cans, provided you don’t list them as “Made for iPod.”

Mike Kushnir May 7, 2009 at 8:09 pm

This topic is being discussed immediately to my left in Seattle. Let me say that these two gentlemen are much more vicious in their language about the new iPod.

Milan May 7, 2009 at 8:17 pm

I decided the first version is actually the best. It plugs into a USB port, so you can charge it anywhere – even in a random library or internet cafe.

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