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The edges of the Shuffle are also very minimalist. One edge sports a small on/off switch, a single status LED and a switch for changing between random shuffle and looping through tracks in the order they appear on the player. On the other edge all you get is the 3.5mm headphone jack.
You'll notice I haven't mentioned the iPod connector here. That's because there isn't one. In fact in this Shuffle all syncing is carried out through the supplied docking cradle that marries elegantly with the headphone socket. A neat design, but don’t forget the cradle before setting off on your extended travels. The battery life, incidentally, is claimed to be around 12 hours, and I can see no reason to doubt that.
There other smart touches as well. Though there is no dedicated hold switch, the player pauses automatically when you pull the headphones out of the socket, saving valuable battery life. And the teeny docking cradle has a heavily rubberised base making what would otherwise be light and flyweight stay put on your desk surprisingly securely.
All good foundations, but what about the substance? How does this little beauty work and sound? Well, with no screen and identical controls it’s no surprise to discover that the premise behind the new shuffle is the same as with the original. It's designed to be as simple as possible. Plug it into your computer and iTunes fires up; click a button and iTunes uploads a random selection of songs for you. You can tweak it to be biased towards highly rated songs, or manually select the tracks to upload although this kind of defeats the object.
Whether you like this approach depends largely on the sort of person you are. It's ideal if you don't want to faff about uploading albums and tracks by hand, and I must admit it's nice to just plug and go occasionally. But it isn't great if you're the sort of person who likes concept albums or a lot of classical (like me), where listening to albums from start to finish is important.
Either way, there's no denying that it works well and is probably the easiest digital audio player on the market to use. It would be perfect for introducing Granny into the world of digital music – if that's what you wanted it for.
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