Instinctive to use
VoiceOver is retained
15-hour battery life
Excellent build quality
No 4GB version
No 8GB version
Earbuds are typically bad
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Apple's third-generation iPod shuffle boasted a radical new design. Instead of locating its controls on the body of the audio player itself, it mounted them on the earbud cable instead.
You navigated through your tracks and playlists through multiple presses of a single button, with track titles, artists and playlist names announced using its innovative new VoiceOver function.
This design was not particularly well received. While VoiceOver was an excellent way of giving song information on a unit without a screen, the button combinations needed to navigate your tracks were less than instinctive.
This new iPod shuffle fourth-generation seeks to remedy this by returning the navigation controls to a control wheel on the iPod, while retaining the VoiceOver feature for information.
The combination of a control wheel and VoiceOver works very well. A single tap on the VoiceOver button atop the device has the feature's robotic voice read out the track name and artist.
Press and hold it to hear the playlist menu, and press twice to be given the battery status (a full charge lasts an agreeable 15 hours). The control wheel, which is 18% bigger than on previous shuffles, handles volume control, play/pause and moving forward and back through your songs and playlists.
The only other control is a switch that can be set to shuffle your tracks, play them in order or turn the iPod off.
As you'd expect from an iDevice, the supplied earbuds are pretty mediocre.
With the shuffle's controls back on the iPod itself you're no longer restricted to replacing them with third-party units offering inline controls. Yet if your favourite set offers this feature, your on-cable controls can still be used for volume, VoiceOver and navigation.
The new iPod shuffle's main body section is crafted from a single piece of aluminium, and features a sturdy clip for attaching to your clothes.
If you buy from the Apple Online Store, you can have it engraved with a personal message. Five colours are available, but bizarrely, only one capacity. For some reason best known to itself, Apple has dropped the 4GB model, leaving this 2GB release as the sole iPod shuffle.
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