My Life in Words

Apple iPod Shuffle 512MB

March 16, 2005

I bought the iPod Shuffle on a whim.

I won't waste your time by going on and on about how much work stinks (I started typing this article on my lunch, on Office 97, on Windows 95), but suffice it to say that I was looking for a way to make my requisite eight and a half hours a day pass a little more smoothly - preferably a way that didn't cost much.

It used to be that I could go to an Apple Store to get my technology fix whenever I needed it. For me this had the added bonus of being a place where I didn't feel like I was surrounded by people - and software - hostile to me (and, more specifically, my platform preferences). Now that I've moved, that isn't quite so easy. Central Pennsylvania is devoid of Apple Stores, even here in the state capital.

I was able to get along for a while without fiddling with anything, but after a month I needed a fix. This past weekend I found myself walking around Best Buy. Don't get me wrong, Best Buy is a great store, I just don't usually go there for anything but car audio or the occasional piece of home audio equipment.

After about a half hour of walking around telling myself that I couldn't afford any of the things I was picking up, I found myself in the PDA section - also where they display the MP3 players. I knew Best Buy sold iPods, but I thought they were limited to PC product support and the higher-end models. Thus, I was surprised to see the Shuffle on display. The sudden appearance of a sales associate tempted my addiction to instant gratification just a bit too much and I told her I wanted one. While she was unlocking the cabinet I had a vision of me eating rice for the next week or so and it occurred to me to mention that she should get out the smaller, 512 MB version.

She also suggested that I get their battery replacement and product support coverage. Normally I would have turned her down immediately, but $10 for full battery service piqued my interest. I looked down at the tiny Shuffle and wondered how long a battery like that could really last. It didn't take long to decide I wasn't that poor, and that it would be worth it for me in the long run.

When I got home I installed the iPod software and plugged it in.

It is worth noting here that I am using Jaguar (10.2.8), the minimum software that will support the iPod Shuffle. I have found that my Powerbook runs with fewer quirks in Jaguar and I just haven't gotten around to putting Panther on my other drive partition. I would like to include my impression of use with both, but that's just not possible right now.

That said, after some fiddling (more on that later) the iPod came right up and I was prompted to format and name it. It also asks whether you want it to automatically fill (autofill) from your Library or if you want to make your own playlist. Given that I don't actually listen to - or, ironically, even care for - some of the music on my computer, I chose the second option. I decided to leave the Shuffle plugged in over night to make sure the battery was fully charged, so I picked my playlist, set my screen to turn off after 5 minutes, and went to bed.

When I got up in the morning, the Shuffle was ready to go. I removed it, took it to work, plugged it into my speakers there, and proceeded to enjoy an uninterrupted soundtrack for my day at work.

Battery life seems to be exactly what Apple claims and sound quality is excellent. Surprisingly, I don't really miss having a screen either. While it would be nice to know what track I am on, or how many I have left, I don't consider those to be sacrifices at all. Track numbers become pointless once you turn on the shuffle feature anyway, plus I'm not sure I would be willing to give up battery life or the minimal weight to gain a display.

Speaking of the size, I have been continually impressed by it. The Shuffle fits in just about any pocket I need it to and it weighs almost nothing, so I can take it anywhere and it never weighs me down. Personally, I think the lanyard provided by Apple is kind of silly, but that's just my personal opinion; others may find it useful.

There are a couple of things that I don't like. While impressive, the size can be a hindrance too. Since there is only a headphone jack, expansion options are very limited. One of the things I've always found neat about the elder iPods is the plethora of things you can do to customize them through their various ports. I'm sure things will be developed to fit the USB plug on the Shuffle, but somehow I can't picture it being done without ruining the original form.

The interface has not worked seamlessly for me either. Although it is certainly easy, it is not as intuitive as it could be, and required some learning on my part. In the beginning, I also had trouble getting the computer to properly recognize the iPod. It kept coming up with an error and prompting me to reset it using the supplied utility. This is probably because of my operating system, but if the instructions say it is supposed to work, then in my mind, it should.

Overall though, my impression has been very favorable. The iPod Shuffle provides crisp sound over a long period of time, and does so in an attractive, light, and easy-to-carry package. After a couple days of use I am ready to say that I probably would have done better with the 1 GB model, but for the price, I am very happy with what I have. I would not hesitate to recommend the iPod Shuffle to anyone.


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