Apple's iPod department has been pretty quiet for the last couple months. There were new laptops, but no new iPods at MacWorld. And early this month, new desktop Macs were announced, but still new iPods.
Now Apple is finally showing users some iPod love, announcing a new 4GB iPod Shuffle which seems a logical choice in the current economic climate -- after all the iPod Shuffle is Apple's cheapest product.
The new shuffle is smaller measuring a mere 1.8" tall x 0.7" wide x 0.3" thin. It is shaped rather like a USB stick and weighs a mere 10.7 grams -- roughly the weight of three pennies. It comes in brushed anodized aluminum case, available in black or silver. The clip is stainless steel. Apple describes it as a "fashion tech-cessory."
The new Shuffle moves its controls to ear bud cord, tying users closer to Apple, perhaps (no third party headphone replacements are available yet). The key new technology in the Shuffle is Apple's Voice Over technology. As the Shuffle has no display, users have long troubled over how to tell what song they're playing. With voice over a quick button press quickly states the title of the song.
Voice Over also now helps users navigate through play lists. The Shuffle now supports multiple playlists. Voice Over works in 14 different languages, for foreign music fans. The new 4GB storage space should provide room for 1,000 songs, according to Apple.
The last change is the introduction of a new tri-state switch to the top of the shuffle. The first position is the titular "shuffle" setting which plays random songs. The second is a looping play through of all songs on a playlist. And the last setting -- "stop" -- allows the iPod to be easily turned off.
Battery life is approximately 10 hours, according to Apple. The player takes two hours to charge 80 percent and three hours to charge fully. The player supports AAC (16 to 320 Kbps), Protected AAC (from the iTunes Store), MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, and 4), Apple Lossless, WAV, and AIFF audio formats.
The unit is available at the Apple store at this time for $79.