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The Future of the iPod shuffle


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The Future of the iPod shuffle
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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2005-10-21, 15:25

Apple has a problem.

That problem is the iPod shuffle. In their conference call, Apple hinted that the third quarter was the last with the current iPod line. We saw the iPod nano. We saw the 5G iPod. But we haven't seen any improvements to the iPod shuffle - the iPod shuffle has remained virtually unchanged since it was introduced in January, with only a $20 price drop on the 1GB model mid-year.

So we're going to see a new iPod shuffle...but what could it be? The easy answer would be that we'd see a simple capacity bump to 1 and 2GB. But than the iPod shuffle would have the same capacity as the base-level iPod nano. Would Apple want to have two different iPods with the same capacity? (The closest they've come was a brief stint with a 40GB iPod and a 40GB iPod photo.) Would we want to navigate 480 songs without a screen anyway? The entire concept of the iPod shuffle works best with only a few songs. I doubt we will see a 4GB - maybe even a 2GB - iPod shuffle without a screen. You can't just keep increasing the capacity, like with the larger iPod.

Let's say the iPod shuffle is stuck at 1GB because of the iPod nano. Apple says they're upgrading it, but it can't get any larger - not that we'd want to carry around that many songs without a screen anyway.

What if Apple added a screen to the iPod shuffle? It could be a simple three-digit screen above the control circle - Apple could take a page from Sony's book and put an OLED under the clear plastic, so that it looks less like a screen, and more like numbers appearing on the surface. It'd be the 2G iPod shuffle - they could call it the "iPod shuffle (with screen)." Same capacities, same prices. Such a simple display wouldn't take any sales away from the iPod nano.

That said, I'm not sure if this is a very Apple thing to do. Whether we like it or not, the concept of the iPod shuffle is to require no input. (I'm in the "like it" camp - I like how neither the iPod shuffle nor its box have any words or letters on the front.) While the iPod shuffle would still have a shuffle mode, adding a screen goes against that philosophy. Oh, and Apple admitting their "mistakes" is definitely not an "Apple thing to do."

The iPod shuffle has another problem: the iPod shuffle itself is hardly as impressive as it used to be - the iPod nano isn't much larger (it's actually thinner). Perhaps the iPod shuffle is headed for a form-factor change?

How about if Apple made the iPod shuffle disappear? It's entirely possible to build an iPod-shuffle-style music player into a pair of headphones. Nobody would even care that it didn't have a screen! The control circle would simply go on one of the headphones, with the off/random/order switch on the other. "iPod" could be written on the behind-the-head band connecting the two (I only see this coming in white, by the way). Again, same capacities, same prices, and again, it wouldn't steal sales from the iPod nano. I just don't know what Apple would call it. My vote's for "The Vanishing iPod."

Your thoughts?
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L'Angelo Misterioso
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Join Date: Oct 2005
 
2005-10-21, 15:30

I think they will just cut the prices. 512MB and 1GB is more than enough for the type of device it is. The 1GB is already a bit too large a capacity for no screen.

The lower the prices, the more accessible it is and the more exposure Apple gets. That's basically the purpose of the shuffle anyway.
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
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2005-10-21, 15:39

That's also a possibility I neglected to mention. Yeah, price cuts (and maybe a black color option) are probably the most likely scenario.
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Dorian Gray
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2005-10-21, 15:49

The iPod shuffle is perfect as it is. I have the 512 MB version, which is large enough to put all the music I need for my day's bus journeys. I have the thing in my jacket pocket, so why would I need a screen? I'd never see it anyway. The battery life is very long, and it's very simple to use and quick to update. It doubles as a flash drive and is extremely small and light. Perfect.

So I reckon a price cut is the only option. And a black version, not that I'd want it (I'm stunned by the popularity of the black nano).
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BlueRabbit
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2005-10-21, 17:18

There'll probably be a price cut and a slight redesign to make it smaller. Right now it's a tiny bit bigger than most other flash drives, and if you use it on a Powerbook or something where the USB ports are close together, then it might block the adjacent port.

As for the price, I'm already seeing cheap 1 GB shuffles, usually around $130 or so. As flash prices fall, the price of the shuffle will fall also.
  quote
JayReding
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2005-10-21, 18:12

Honestly, I wouldn't mess with the Shuffle (except to make one in black). It does exactly what it needs to do. It's the ultimate minimalist device - it plays music and nothing else. I bought mine the first day of release and ended up using it more than my regular iPod - for commuting music that's all the storage that I need, and if it gets lost/stolen/broken it's less of a deal than were it a full-sized iPod.

It has its niche, and it fits in that niche very, very well. I don't see any real way Apple could improve upon it without compromising its innate simplicity.

(Well, again, except to make it black...)
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L'Angelo Misterioso
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2005-10-21, 18:16

FYI,

Long's Drugs has the shuffle and all apple shuffle accessories for 25% off this week
  quote
Meltedbutter421
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2005-10-21, 19:10

i want the shuffle just for when i snowboard... thats the only time i would use one... it would be great for my cause if they made like a 256mb for like 25 bucks
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pscates2.0
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2005-10-21, 19:30

Yeah, as long as it remains a product without a display, I really don't see it HAVING to climb over 1GB. As someone said upthread, this isn't something you can just increase capacity on to make it "new and cool". That actually goes against this particular model, IMO.

The three things that really make any sort of sense:

1. If it can be made smaller or slimmer, in any way
2. If the prices can be lowered...$79 and $109? Wow...great gift-giving potential!
3. And yes, by all means...make a black one!

The black nano has proven to be quite the hit. And I'm sure the new black full-size iPod is right there too. Why not round the line out nicely and give the shuffle a nice black version too.

Three models, two color/appearance choices in each. That would have to satisfy most anyone!
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Matsu
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2005-10-21, 19:45

Capacities are fine, no display is fine, perhaps a 2 line display is possible with an absolutely pared down interface, but not essential.

I can see this getting cheaper, essentially becoming a stocking stuffer at something like 49.99 and 99.99.

Something they can give away as an incentive with machine purchases, something you may own more than one of -- to use as thumb drives, or even as less conspicious music devices for those trips where a nano or iPod might attract the wrong sort of attention...

I wonder, are they solid performers as thumb drives? You know, not fussy about what and how they're connected. I know music s neccessarily hidden, but just for use as an on-the-go transfer device, between mac and PC, multiple units, etc etc... Can be a useful thing to have in your coat pocket.

.........................................
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pscates2.0
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2005-10-21, 20:23

Quick and dirty (but I wanted to see what it would look like). I think it would sell just fine:

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Mac+
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2005-10-21, 21:12

I'm intrigued by the shuffle's similarity to the Apple remote in form factor. Is convergence even a remote () possibility?
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
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2005-10-21, 21:21

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mac+
I'm intrigued by the shuffle's similarity to the Apple remote in form factor. Is convergence even a remote () possibility?
I mentioned that when the Apple Remote was first revealed. I think it would be cool, but it doesn't sound very...Apple.
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Sir_Giggles
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Join Date: Jan 2005
 
2005-10-21, 22:27

I'd like to see the shuffle get a 512MB bump, perhaps along with the new AACplus codec @ 64Kbps and 20-30 hours of battery life. Maybe a tiny-ish quartz LCD screen to display the name of the song as an upgrade feature.
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Mac+
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2005-10-21, 22:33

Yeah, I made the same comment when it was announced too. I could easily see iPods evolving further and offering remote control possibility in the future. With video out, they'd make excellent slideshow clickers obviously.

But back to the shuffle, (in addition to remote control capabilities) I'd like to see it get a tiny display like the Sony stuff - not sure if it will happen, as it sort of negates the whole "shuffle" concept.
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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2005-10-21, 23:18

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mac+
Yeah, I made the same comment when it was announced too. I could easily see iPods evolving further and offering remote control possibility in the future. With video out, they'd make excellent slideshow clickers obviously.
If it was a Bluetooth remote, then I could see it. Then there'd be a way to get data into the remote (albeit not a fast one - but it is an iPod shuffle, after all).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mac+
But back to the shuffle, (in addition to remote control capabilities) I'd like to see it get a tiny display like the Sony stuff - not sure if it will happen, as it sort of negates the whole "shuffle" concept.
I mentioned the Sony-style "invisible" display - and the fact that it would negate the "shuffle" concept - in my first post. Great minds think alike

don't call me the contender
  quote
hobbit.2
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2005-10-22, 04:53

There is plenty of room for a shuffle upgrade once the nano gets bumped up.

With the regular iPod starting at 30GB and the highest capacity nano at 4GB there's clearly a wide gap waiting to be filled. It could very well be that the next nano revision, probably in spring/summer next year, could see it bumped up to 4GB and 8GB capacities.
And once that's done the shuffle can be upgraded to 1 and 2GB.

Personally I'd love a 2GB shuffle as this would allow for 1GB of music + 1GB of computer files. Perfect.
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Koodari
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2005-10-22, 06:19

My vision with three Shuffle models.

1GB Shuffle at old 512MB pricepoint. Black & white units.

New unit (iPod ???) at old 1GB pricepoint. 1GB, unique color case, Record added to the on/off/shuffle switch in back, integral microphone.

This fits in the original Shuffle design:
- you still don't have to look at the interface
- the player will pick up sound best if worn out in the open - something Shuffle does better than any other player due to form factor

Apple's angle:
- they have hyped the hell out of podcasts, but never offered a single device for making them

It's possible they go with a display or 2GB, but display would be breaking with the Shuffle's original design idea of an interface that does not need to be looked at, and 2GB is a bit much for music. I understand people use it for data, but I think it's a marginal use and Apple is happy leaving Nano and higher for data. If there's a 2GB model I expect it to have a display.
  quote
revolution
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2005-10-22, 06:53

I'm thinking of buying a new flash memory stick/drive hadn't thought of buying a 1GB shuffle. How effectively do they work as a pen drive?? and do they work from PC to Mac as a pen drive??
  quote
hobbit.2
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2005-10-22, 08:11

They do work well as flash drives. All shuffles are 'Windows formatted' (even if used on the Mac) and hence can easily transfer files between Windows and Macs.

The only issue I don't like is that you must manually allot the memory for music and files. This is not a dynamic setting. Once a 'partitions' is full you cannot store any more music/data on it, even if the other 'partition' is completely empty. You need to reformat the shuffle (delete all data) to change that setting.

And also of course you pay for the music playing ability. A plain flash drive will be almost half the price for the same capacity. But it is worth noting that the shuffle has the best audio quality of all iPods, it uses a different chip which in tests demonstrated superior quality.
  quote
Dorian Gray
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2005-10-22, 09:27

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matsu
I wonder, are they solid performers as thumb drives? You know, not fussy about what and how they're connected.
Quote:
Originally Posted by revolution
How effectively do they work as a pen drive?? and do they work from PC to Mac as a pen drive??
The shuffle works flawlessly as a flash drive. I ordered mine the day it became available on the UK online Apple store in January, and have used it almost daily since. It's been plugged into USB 1.1 and 2.0 ports, into USB hubs and keyboards of various descriptions, into Windows 98 (with the appropriate driver), 2000 and XP systems, into public library, internet café and university computers, and into my own iBook. Not once has it failed to mount.

Data transfer rates for my 512 MB shuffle are ~2.5 MB/s write and ~3.5 MB/s read over USB 2.0, so slower than the fastest dedicated flash drives but for practical purposes, fast enough that it makes no difference. Incidentally, I've yet to come across a computer that doesn't physically allow the shuffle to fit at least one USB port, although I know such computers exist. But it's not a common problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hobbit.2
Once a 'partitions' is full you cannot store any more music/data on it, even if the other 'partition' is completely empty.
This is incorrect. It is true that you must choose the music/data balance, but this is only used to limit the amount of music sent to your shuffle in iTunes (either manually or with Autofill). So if you choose to use half your shuffle for music and half for data, your shuffle will not allow more than half its memory to be used for music when you transfer tracks to it in iTunes. But the reverse is not true! If you select, say, 128 MB for data and 384 MB for music, but you only put 100 MB of music on it, you will be able to fill the rest of the memory with data. You can fill the entire free space with data no matter what proportion you have allocated for music. (If this sounds complicated it's because I am explaining it badly, not because it's a difficult concept to understand when you use the shuffle!) This is very useful when you have an unexpectedly large amount of data to store when you're away from your own computer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hobbit.2
You need to reformat the shuffle (delete all data) to change that setting.
This is also incorrect. You can adjust the allocation in iTunes any time you want even while there is music and/or data on the shuffle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hobbit.2
But it is worth noting that the shuffle has the best audio quality of all iPods, it uses a different chip which in tests demonstrated superior quality.
The sound quality of the shuffle is simply fantastic. I had been using a very good Sony CD Walkman before I got my shuffle, and its output sounds dead compared to the brilliant sparkle of the shuffle. I was extremely surprised. I really cannot recommend the iPod shuffle enough. It's as close to perfect as any product I've ever used.
  quote
revolution
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2005-10-22, 09:51

Cheers for the info guys, may have to take my flash drive buying on hold til I can afford a shuffle.
  quote
hobbit.2
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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2005-10-22, 10:17

Thanks for the clarifications Dorian. Wasn't aware of this. Good to know.
I don't own a shuffle only tested them at the Apple Store (and it sounded way better than my 60GB iPod - which was a bit disappointing). In my personal tests I found that the shuffle's audio quality is really very good.

Here's another question for you:
If at another computer, which does not have iTunes installed, and you want to copy data files over but there isn't enough room anymore, is there a way to delete the music files directly from the shuffle to make room for more data? As the music files are in iTunes it wouldn't be a problem to delete all music if more space for data is required for a one-off transfer.
But can this be done without using iTunes?
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
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2005-10-22, 13:41

Now I want an iPod shuffle...
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Wrao
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Join Date: May 2004
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2005-10-22, 13:44

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roboman
What if Apple added a screen to the iPod shuffle?

They did. It's called the iPod nano. Just apple's queer way of doing things.
  quote
Koodari
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2005-10-22, 14:56

Quote:
Originally Posted by hobbit.2
If at another computer, which does not have iTunes installed, and you want to copy data files over but there isn't enough room anymore, is there a way to delete the music files directly from the shuffle to make room for more data? As the music files are in iTunes it wouldn't be a problem to delete all music if more space for data is required for a one-off transfer.
But can this be done without using iTunes?
They are in a hidden folder. Download Tinkertool, it'll let you force Finder to show hidden files. Restart Finder, plug in iPod and you are good to go. All the songs are right there under iPod_Control/Music/.
Of if you have to do this in Windows, just go to Explorer settings and tell it to show hidden files, no download necessary.
  quote
Mac+
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2005-10-22, 22:03

Quote:
Originally Posted by Koodari
They are in a hidden folder. Download Tinkertool, it'll let you force Finder to show hidden files. Restart Finder, plug in iPod and you are good to go. All the songs are right there under iPod_Control/Music/.
Of if you have to do this in Windows, just go to Explorer settings and tell it to show hidden files, no download necessary.
I'm not sure about this - but if you know the address of the hidden files ("iPod_Control/Music/" for instance) can't you just use the Finder's "Go to Folder ..." menu command - without the need for Tinker Tool? I know I use that command to pull streams of wmv files onto my HD when I want to keep them.
  quote
Mac+
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2005-10-22, 22:12

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roboman
I mentioned the Sony-style "invisible" display - and the fact that it would negate the "shuffle" concept - in my first post. Great minds think alike
Ah - you did too. Sorry about that. I'd like to think that I have a great mind, but now that you pointed that out, I can't rule out that maybe when I read your first post it slipped into my subconscious and made its reappearance when I was typing my reply.

Anyway, even though it does not fit with the "shuffle" concept, I'd still like to see a display on it. However, if no display, then that recording idea proposed by Koodari seems a winner.
  quote
oldmacfan
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2005-10-22, 22:30

I would like to see Apple go after the flash drive market with the Shuffle. I say make one model 1 GB and later 2GB ( after Nano goes 4-8GB) in black or white and keep them super simple. Price them razor thin and sell them everywhere. Kids are getting flash drives, and if they can get a Shuffle to fill the role even better. The big but is that Apple needs to cut the price hard. If they can contract more flash like they did for the Nano this could be possible. Hell, make them buy the Head phones for additional money.

Sorry, I've been hittin the Crack pipe again...

Mile 1
  quote
Brad
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2005-10-22, 22:30

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mac+
but if you know the address of the hidden files ("iPod_Control/Music/" for instance) can't you just use the Finder's "Go to Folder ..." menu command - without the need for Tinker Tool?
Correct.
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