Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Milky Music

Apple had ignited the MP3 category with their iPod; now they needed a cheaper, simpler model to round out the line. The iPod Shuffle was launched to fulfill that role, its reduced cost evident by its limited storage capacity and lack of any kind of display. They also skimped on materials and design. Maybe they made it intentionally dull and monotonous looking to avoid stealing sales away from their more profitable models, but I still think the design is humdrum and unexciting. It's not offensive — its clean and white, with clear, minimalist controls marked in subtle grey — but it doesn't inspire either. There's an attempt at creating some visual interest by having sharply defined edges in one dimension that contrast with the rounded corners in an other, but that doesn't make up for its general blandness. It's very light, so it serves its purpose as a featherweight jogging accessory, but that also makes it feel cheap. There's a sliding switch on the back that selects shuffle modes, but it's tricky to grip and position accurately.

In one way it's superior to its more expensive brethren: it has its USB plug built right in — no need to look for that iPod connector cord. But as an avid Podcast listener that needs to find a particular show and then hear the episodes in an orderly sequence, I can't adapt to the random shuffling lifestyle.

It's interesting to note that the Apple Remote, included with all their computers for media viewing, has some similarity in form and control layout — although even it has a more pleasing aesthetic than the lowly Shuffle.