Jarring us fully awake as we took our first sip of coffee this morning, Apple announced a new version of the iPod Shuffle. The Shuffle, already the smallest of the iPod family, got even smaller, now pretty much the size of an elongated Chiclet. Its slimming secret: Doing away with the control wheel, instead moving the buttons to an in-line control in the earphone cord.
Even as it shrinks, the Shuffle gets stuffed with more features. First, the capacity gets a boost to 4GB, room for 1,000 songs at typical compression rates. Apple also added a feature called VoiceOver, which will verbally tell you the name of the current song, artist information and even battery life at the touch of a button, which sort of makes up for the lack of a screen.
I'll reserve full judgment until I use the device myself, but I hate the idea of putting the controls in the headphone cord. One, it means I can't use different earphones instead of the sucky default ones that come with the iPod. And two, when I'm working out (typically the only time I use the Shuffle), I don't want to be fumbling with a cord — I want the controls right on the player.
The new, lame Shuffle will be available in the next few days (in black or silver) for $79, which is a price increase of $10 from the 2GB version, surprisingly.
UPDATE: According to Apple's own guided tour of the new Shuffle, it's apparent that the headphones are proprietary, and have no adapter to plug in a different pair. And VoiceOver sounds worse than the Kindle 2's text to speech, if that's even possible. Headline changed accordingly.