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First Look: fourth-generation iPod shuffle

updated 02:15 am EDT, Wed September 8, 2010

Design reverts to second-generation form

Although Apple has focused recent iPod marketing on the new Touch, the entry-level offering has not been forgotten. The company has yet to settle on a form factor for the Shuffle, as the design seems to bounce between a vertical stick and a squarish shape. The fourth-generation model brings back the click wheel of the previous three editions, while reverting to a shape similar to the second generation.

The third-generation Shuffle brought VoiceOver, a text-to-speech system that allows users to hear track names, playlist names, or battery status information that would otherwise remain unknown without a display. This was a great addition, although many users were still frustrated with the lack of a click wheel on the iPod itself.

We were happy to see that the click wheel was not omitted from the latest design. While the remote control was not difficult to use, many users likely prefer the traditional iPod wheel. Dropping the remote also enables any headphones to be used without a shoddy adapter. A dedicated switch quickly jumps to shuffle playback when needed, rather than requiring menu navigation or an unintuitive combination of button presses.

While most iPods tend to gain capacity through successive generations, the new Shuffle is only available with 2GB of onboard storage. We would have liked if the latest model retained the 4GB capacity option of its predecessor.

Aside from the hardware features, the new Shuffle also supports Genius mixes. The new option, along with support for multiple playlists, will be welcomed by any users who already take advantage of the playlist features in iTunes.

Overall, the new Shuffle combines most of the best features from the previous three generations. The entry-level device lacks the bells and whistles of the Nano, Touch and Classic, but it better fits the niche for a $50 iPod that can be tossed in a pocket or clipped to a shirt.

by MacNN Staff



  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Apple is being pretty slick by designing

    these miniscule players. They must save so much money on materials and can use smaller retail packaging. I was looking at competing players and they're almost huge in comparison.

  1. lamewing

    Joined: Dec 1969



    "The fourth-generation model brings back the click wheel of the previous three editions"

    The previous three editions? Did the author of this article not realize that the 3rd edition shuffle had no click-wheel? Does anyone proofread here at

    IMO Apple should have simply increased the size of the 3rd gen (metal) shuffle a bit and added control buttons on the side or face. I really liked the shaped, just not the lack of physical controls.

    In the end it doesn't matter because this shuffle, like the 2nd and 3rd generation models does not sound nearly as good as the 1st generation iPod shuffle. That device was the best sounding Apple player, hands down (excluding the Red Wine mod, but that is a different beast altogether).

  1. Onceler

    Joined: Dec 1969


    3rd generation was awful for exercising

    One thing this article, and almost all other articles, failed to mention was how awful the design of the 3rd generation was for people who exercised with it. The standard ear buds tended to fall out if the person wearing them moved around a lot. So exercisers would buy other headsets. But since the other headsets would not have controls on them, they had to buy a special adapter which added to the cost and was not as convenient to use.

    A bigger problem was the fact that the standard ear buds with the control on the wire kept shorting out. What Apple's design team apparently never considered was the fact that many people use the shuffle while exercising and people tend to sweat when exercising. The sweat would work its way down the wire and into the controller. Eventually the controller would short out. Some people had to keep replacing their headsets every month or so and deal with an Apple that wouldn't admit that there was a design flaw and was reluctant to replace the headsets under warranty.

    Although Apple never admitted that they screwed up with the design of the 3rd generation, it's nice to see that they were willing to admit defeat and revert back to the 2nd generation design which works well.

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