Thats right, Apple threw us a curve ball today and released the brand new iPod Shuffle.
The Shuffle still features the fantastic clip introduced with the previous generation iPod Shuffle. But, this new iteration has a new feature called “Voice Over” which will not only name the song and artist of the current song but it also will name playlists to you so you can switch between them without the need of a display. To activate the Voice Over function just press and hold the earbud button and your Shuffle will tell you the current track name and artist. To hear the name of your playlists hold the button until you hear small beep, your Shuffle will name your current playlist and then all of your playlists, to choose one click the button as it is being said.
The new Shuffle has the familiar volume up, volume down, play/pause, next, and previous functions on the earbud remote as many of you have gotten used to with your new iPod Nano, iPod Touch, iPod Classic (or iPhone, minus the volume control). With the Shuffle now supporting the earbud remote Apple was able to completely remove any buttons from the device itself, now the only controls that exist on the device are a switch that lets you choose between shuffle your songs, playing them in order, or turning the device off.
The Shuffle now comes in just black or silver anodized aluminum. It seems a little odd that Apple would yet again move away from the colored iPods, especially since they were talking up their iPod Nanos colors just a few months ago.
The only odd thing (which is only odd if you don’t understand how the Shuffle gets its voice over functionality from) is that the voice used in the Voice Over feature is different depending on what computer you are using. The actually text to speech is happening in iTunes and the audio files are transfered to your iPod Shuffle for you to use as you need them, this way your computer can do all the heavy lifting for the Shuffle (which I’m sure wouldn’t be able to actually do the voice synthesizing on its own). When using a computer running OS X Leopard you hear the new “Alex” voice, but with any other computer (it appears) that you will hear the old voice from OS X Tiger.
The new iPod Shuffle comes in (as I said above) black and silver, it has 4GB of storage, and offers 10 hours of battery life. The brand new iPod Shuffle will cost you $79.
What baffles me about this announcement is the fact that it is happening now, which breaks Apples previous trend of releasing all new iPods in the Fall. Those of you who subscribe to many of the outrageous rumors that Apple seems to be the subject of might theorize that Apple has something big to announce this Fall and wants to get some of their iPod releases out of the way, but then again it is also possible that Apple wanted to release this last Fall but it wasn’t ready yet and instead just announced new color options for the previous Shuffle. I personally think that this is just one of the first examples of Apple releaseing a product when it is ready, not when Apple is ready to have a press event.