The basic format and design of Apple's revolutionary iPod has remained unchanged over the years and despite many pretenders to the throne, its popularity has never waned. It's a design classic and Apple has wisely declined to mess with it.
With the rest of the iPod range, Steve Jobs and co have had slightly less overwhelming success. The first Nano was gorgeous, but beset by problems with its screen. And the first generation Shuffle was innovative, but dowdy in comparison to a lot of the competition – hardly the stuff of techno-lust, and in the time since it first appeared on the scene it's become even less so.
In fact, that stick design has gone from almost-desirable to dated. Which is why, instead of the softly, softly approach it has taken with its flagship product over the years, Apple decided to give the Shuffle a complete overhaul.
And boy has it done a good job. This second generation Shuffle is more Grand Designs than Changing Rooms and meets every expectation you'd have of a new Apple product. Instead of the polished white plastic that adorns almost every other iPod-related product, Apple has plumped for the clean, colourful lines of an anodised aluminium finish – available in a rainbow of different colours, naturally. I was sent one in a rather natty green and this finish wraps sleekly around the body of the player with flashes of that classic white plastic along the top and bottom edges.
On the subject of radical design decisions, Apple has also chosen to eschew the tried and tested round-the-neck method of toting tiny MP3 players such as this. Instead, it has built a sprung clip – constructed from the same beautifully finished anodised aluminium – onto the rear of the player.
It sounds a touch gimmicky, but I'd say this is a bit of a eureka moment in portable MP3 player terms. It lets you attach the Shuffle pretty much anywhere about your person – on your shirt front, jeans pocket, bag strap, tie – and it's so light at 15.6g you'll forget it's there. For exercise fanatics who like a soundtrack to go with their exercise routine it's a dream.
The new Shuffle is absolutely tiny, too, much smaller than the previous model. It measures 41 x 27 x 10mm, or just a touch smaller than the screen on my Sony Ericsson K800i. That's enough room for the familiar circular Shuffle control – play/pause button in the middle, with volume and skip track controls around the outside – on the front fascia and not much more.