Apple iPod Shuffle (3rd generation)

The Apple iPod Shuffle (3rd generation) is not bad as a budget player, but it has too many limitations for us to recommend it.

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Ty is a journalist with 15 years experience in writing for IT and entertainment publications. He is in charge of the home theatre category for CNET Australia and is also a PC enthusiast. He likes indie music and plays several instruments. Twitter: @tpendlebury

Looking at this thing, it's hard to see how this is an Apple product. Of course, if you look at the clip side the large logo is a giveaway, but on its back all you see is a gun-metal oblong, which looks suspiciously like a USB key. Build quality of the main unit is good, but all you'll find apart from the metal clip is a three-way switch, activity light and a 3.5mm input.

As you'd expect for a device with only one input, the Shuffle comes with a USB-to-3.5mm adapter that allows you to charge and update your iPod. Like everything else in this package — don't lose it!

The headphones themselves are now the brains of the unit and actually contain a chip that the Shuffle checks first, and if it's not present the unit doesn't work. One of the first things we tell people who buy a new iPod is to throw away the bundled earphones and get a new one. Only here you can't. Industrious webizens have determined that the headphones contain an authorisation chip that the player needs in place to play anything. And certainly we found that the player would simply stop when we removed the headphones and tried to plug something else in — whether it was a third-party pair or a 3.5mm cable to play on a stereo system. If you're buying this with a view to play in a dock of some sort, DON'T. It won't work. We think this is extremely short-sighted of Apple. While we expect compliant third-party headphones to be made, we wonder if anyone will bother buying them.

Apple's big selling point for the new Shuffle, apart from its enforced minimalism, is the new VoiceOver feature. Once enabled — via a small free download — you get artist and track names "read" to you, and if you hold the button down a little longer you also get the playlist name.

This aside, there's no other new features to talk about — if you're familiar with the Shuffle you'll know what it does. It's designed to "mix-up" your music collection and does so in a small, minimalist package. Of course, the new headphone remote is now the focal point.

While Apple hasn't included power adapters with its products for several years, we must say we were disappointed to find there was also no manual in the box — only a "Quick User Guide" with a link to the website. And this is a product that sorely needs documentation.

If you're buying an AU$130 iPod we'll be betting that sound quality isn't the highest priority on your list, and you're more interested in something cheap that can be used while exercising, and for this it does relatively well. It's only in comparison to other players that its shortcomings become clear.

So how does the Shuffle sound? In isolation, not too bad. There is some treble "fizz" in the sound, which brings some of the excitement, but none of the fidelity of better players. The headphones aren't as twinkly as previous headphones from the company, but still: not great. There is a definite emphasis on vocals — with a mid-rangey bent — but there is a swathe of low-end fug standing in for true bass response. Inevitably, the Shuffle combo lacks the immediacy of players like the Zen X-Fi, and is infinitely less usable.

While you have to learn the navigation method from the manual, it does become easy to navigate around the iPod. Though as with other generation Shuffles, if you're a control freak you'll miss being able to easily find and listen to whole albums at once. The VoiceOver system did work surprisingly well, and is a welcome addition. It even pronounced most things correctly — only having issues with problematic names like "Suff-Tjan" Stevens.

In one respect we like everything being available from the remote, as it means you don't have to rummage through your bag. Yet, while this is handy for a device the size of the iPod Classic, the Shuffle is so minute that you don't have to keep it locked away — you just clip it anywhere.

We're currently fantasising about Apple "coming to their senses" and apologising for what could be considered the dumbest iPod yet. And while this probably won't be forthcoming, we do see the company reverting to a less closed system next time. This device is the hardware equivalent of Digital Rights Management software, and that turned out real swell for Apple right?

We hate to pronounce the iPod Shuffle the worst product Apple has released — because remember the Newton? —and it's not actually that bad. However, if we only had AU$130 to spend, we'd rather spend it on five CDs than buy this. CDs — remember them?

We would have hoped that Apple learnt by now that "closed" systems don't work, but it hasn't. If you're looking for something to spend your money on, the iPod Nano may be more expensive at AU$199, but it has twice the capacity and ... a SCREEN!

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RugbyDude98 posted a review   

The Good:survive hiking and battery life

The Bad:size in cable and unit

u can get a connector now that has the controls and chip on a cable that goes into the ipod then u can plug in any headphones u want


J posted a review   

The Good:compact, clip for running, no-skip flash memory

The Bad:itunes, itunes, itunes and headphones

Utter trash. It's size and weight are fantastic for running, as well as the clip that most compact mp3 producers aren't bright enough to add. Unfortunatley however the good points are outstripped by the bad. The headphones die quickly and are expensive to replace. My biggest complaint however is apples insistance on making the player itunes exclusive. I'm an itunes hater and this thing can't be used with any other software. Particularly for a little sports mp3 like this one, a drag and drop system would be great. Screw you Apple


Alex posted a review   

The Good:Slim , very thiny , good quality

The Bad:you cant use your headphones , no "control panel" , etc

sorry but i like more 2nd gen than 3rd gen hope make it better 5th gen please


Fly posted a review   

The Good:No

The Bad:open to interpretation

I have all three shuffles 1, 2, and 3. 1 and 2 I still enjoy using with all the cool gadgets I dock them with, including the car sound system.
However 3 is a stand alone model, break the stem control as I did and you find out instant you own a dead shuffle. Why is Apple must of had a blood clot moment when they released the model, knowing full well it will never share the popularity, 1 and 2 have when it comes to inovation and resale value.
If your wondering what I'm getting at... check used sales on eBay, Gen 1 much the same money as 3, 2 is way in front the leader for value.


gracdp posted a comment   

The Good:lightweight

The Bad:Faulty headset destroys product

If you are looking for a light mp3 for jogging don't buy these. I've had to return one iPod and three headsets and have given up on them as a badly designed ripoff. If you are a regular jogger the controls in the headphones will last 2-3 weeks max requiring you to buy another proprietary headset at $$$. Complete waste of money due to terrible headphone design.


Gatorman1025 posted a comment   

The Good:It sucks

The Bad:It sucks even worse when you can's use your $40 headphones

Apple has lost the core market for this device. Runners and gym rats. We don't like ear buds. And we don't like to be ripped off. Shoes cost enough.


Mandy posted a review   

The Good:Very Handy and ultimate sound quality.

The Bad:Tried to manage with only one button. Could have more than one control on cable.

Sound quality is amazing, but design makes us handicap.
It is really painful to go to the song you need if you have 100's of songs/podcasts.For listening 5 mins song you need to exercise for 1-3 mins. You can not use your other senses other than ears to reach to the song you need on your ipod. Neither you can see it nor you can select quickly.


LukeM1 posted a comment   

The Good:flash based so it shouldn't skip when you walk

The Bad:voice over crap, no buttons, gotta use their earphones

You have to use their earphones in order to use this thing. That should be enough to let you know it sucks. They need to bring back the 2nd gen Shuffle. Give us a "Shuffle classic" someday. I'd take the white cigarette lighter over this, but the 2nd gen design was the best.


KC posted a comment   

The Good:Small and Looks great

The Bad:Doesn't work for long

Most people use this unit for workouts or other ‘active’ pursuits, but it is becoming clear that the headphones are not suitable for this purpose and are failing. The remote unit on mine has failed after 2 months of use and I am currently seeking a FOC replacement from Apple. What I had not realised at the time I bought this, is that this is a very common complaint as is the failure of the ipod itself. Apparently sweat / moisture will kill this quick smart…..

If you buy it, buy it from a big retailer that is an authorised service agent. It will make life easier when you need to go back and get replacements every few months.


apete42 posted a review   

The Good:size, colours, its an ipod!

The Bad:earphones, switch on top could be bigger

I bought this about two days ago and I am glad I did.

I didn't like the provided earphones too much so I went and purchased belkins adapter for $20 (even though it should have been included) and that improved the whole expereience.

I bought it as I am a high school student and my ipod touch is a bit too large an expensive to be taking to school. I would recommend that anyone who wants a second simple mp3 player should take a good look at this offerning.


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User Reviews / Comments  Apple iPod Shuffle (3rd generation)

  • RugbyDude98



    "u can get a connector now that has the controls and chip on a cable that goes into the ipod then u can plug in any headphones u want"

  • J



    "Utter trash. It's size and weight are fantastic for running, as well as the clip that most compact mp3 producers aren't bright enough to add. Unfortunatley however the good points are outstripped b..."

  • Alex



    "sorry but i like more 2nd gen than 3rd gen hope make it better 5th gen please"

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