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Apple iPod shuffle (Third Gen) - Apple iPod shuffle (Third Gen)

By Stuart Andrews



Our Score:


I've heard Massive Attack's Safe from Harm sound warmer and more powerful at the bottom end, but again that crisp sound helps bring it to life. The Shuffle feels at home with quieter acoustic tracks like Prayers from Scott Matthews' excellent debut album, Passing Stranger, though the slightly thin mid-range doesn't suit Mastodon's epically heavy Divinations quite so well. The frustrating thing is that I think it could do great things with another set of headphones, but at the moment there's no way of telling. You can plug in another set, but with no easy way of altering something as fundamental as the volume, using them is impractical.

I suspect there's also one other trade-off for the small size: battery capacity. Ten hours is adequate, but 50 per cent less than you'd get from the Sansa Clip, Sony's NWZ-B133 or Samsung's YP-U4, and about half of what you'd get from the Creative Zen Stone.

Above all else, there's no doubt that you're paying - literally - a high price for the new shuffle's stripped-back styling. £60 for 4GB is no longer great value in a market where less than £50 will buy you an 8GB Sansa Clip, while a 4GB Samsung YP-U4 can be had for less than £45. Factor in the fact that, should you buy a Clip or U4, a pair of decent budget headphones could be had for £30 to £40, while Apple's In Ear Headphones will cost you an additional £50, and things look even worse.

Despite all this, it's almost impossible not to throw some love the Shuffle's way. It's gorgeous to look at, easy to take everywhere, reasonable to listen to with the more expensive ‘phones, and - bar one detail - the most usable Shuffle yet. It's just a shame that that this one detail - the fact that you can't use it with most third-party ‘phones - has so much negative impact on its value. If you want a stylish micro MP3 player and you can live with the bundled buds, buy away. Otherwise, the previous generation shuffle is still very attractive and widely available. If sound and value for money matter more, however, then the good old Clip just makes more sense.


Tiny size, good sound and sumptuous style come at a high cost, both in terms of value and in terms of having to live with some restrictions. If the shuffle's caché isn't all-important, there are better choices out there.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Value 6
  • Usability 7
  • Sound Quality 7


June 7, 2009, 6:39 am

Looks like the perfect player for my motorsickle, aside from teh fact I cant use my sennheiser's with it :(

I had the V2 shuffle for this specific use too and it was great, no need for a screen when you cant look at it anyway.

All apple had to do was make a 2 part cable like the sennheisers come with, and put the controls on the short part! I guess they wouldnt sell as many pairs of phones then though.


June 7, 2009, 12:09 pm

Trouble is, I would loose this critter in the fluff in my pocket LOL


June 7, 2009, 9:05 pm

One of the few concessions apple allowed users with its previous mp3 players was the ability to change the abysmal supplied earphones with a pair of their own. Users could then at least make them tolerable to listen to.

Colin 3

June 7, 2009, 9:13 pm

The great thing about the first 2 generations of shuffle was that they were designed for sport. While out running a screen is totally unneeded and the minimal weight and simplicity of design is ideal. In my view this was a design classic with Apple looking at the uses the device would be put too and breaking with convention by taking out the screen as this wasn't needed. The shuffle would always be a poor "primary" ipod.

The third gen seems to have totally forgotten what people will be using this ipod for. The extra weight on the headphone will make it useless for sport and the inability to plug in sport specific headphones a total disaster for this purpose.

Oh dear! Have apple lost their way?


June 7, 2009, 9:42 pm

My issue is simple. Did anyone really see the 2nd generation shuffle and think: I just wish it was SMALLER?!

Making what is in essense a metallic memory key isn't exactly awe inspiring and the choice of proprietary inline controls is scandalous (I understand they will be incorporated into the rest of the iPod/iPhone lines before too long).

Simple answer is buy a Sansa Clip. Problem is not enough people even know it exists...


June 7, 2009, 9:52 pm

I agree Gordon, they really had no reason to make the previous shuffle smaller or remove the controls. The new control scheme is anti-competitive (by locking you into proprietary headphones) and simply counter intuitive. If you need a sheet to tell you how to use the basic functions of your player you are doing something wrong. The Sansa clip is easier to use, higher quality, cheaper and comes with the added convenience of a screen. I find it sad that people will buy this without knowing what else is out there...


June 7, 2009, 10:35 pm

I hate the way 'iPod' has become a generic term for all portable music players, they're most certainly not worthy of it...

Such a shame people just don't know what else there is

On a separate note, any chance of an X series Walkman review?


June 7, 2009, 10:59 pm

Well said Gordon. Why on earth would you need it to be this small? Is it so we can swallow it in case the police start searching people for illegal MP3s?

Personally I only need it to fit comfortably in a pocket. What I also need is some proper controls. I'd be happy to use Apple's own earphones except for one thing - I actually like music, and therefore want to be able to hear it properly. That means I want to use Sennheiser, Shure, Sony - anything except Apple 'phones.

The funniest part of the issue of earphone controls and authentication, is going back and reading the responses from Apple fans on here and other forums. At first it was simply a false rumour spread by Apple-haters. Then it was possibly true, but not a problem for consumers (sure, why would we want any choice in how we use the devices we've paid for?). Diehard fanboys will still insist that the design is part of Apple's ongoing quest to make our lives better and happier, and has nothing to with restricting usage or making Apple more money... Well those fans may criticise TR and other sites for sensationalism but personally I wish they'd kick up even more of a fuss. This kind of restriction (whether it be Apple's earphone controls or Sony's proprietary fittings) can only be bad for the consumer.

You can probably guess I won't be buying one...

Alexander Ford

June 8, 2009, 1:08 am

Nice player but the default earphones and the very expensive apple ear buds have a major, major design flaw that anybody who use this at the gym will know about if they are working hard and perspiring - the moisture gets into the cable remote control and sends the device mad! Reported to apple and its all over their forums but no word from apple yet as to when they are going to sort this issue that makes the player useless for gym/exercise useless. if you have the same problem please report it to Apple to help get some action - at the moment very frustrated with this.


June 8, 2009, 1:42 am

@MrGodfrey - Apple's biggest concern needs to be that is doesn't 'do-a-Sony' and eventually topple itself with all this proprietary technology. After all, Apple's standing is now what Sony's was in the 80s...


June 8, 2009, 3:54 am

More useless and non-functional product from Apple. And in this day and age.

Let's put it this way: all the way back in 2003 I owned a Sony NW-MS70D solid state digital walkman that was far more interesting and managed to still pack in hand control system AND a functional simple LCD screen. Those who are too young or dont remember should google the model number. The only thing wrong with that product was that it was locked down, playing only ATRAC3+. Otherwise, it was near perfect in its time. And that was SIX years ago, more than half a decade.

Apple should be ashamed if THIS is the best they have to offer in this day and age. They need to come to the table with something better.


June 8, 2009, 2:45 pm

@MrGodfrey: Diehard fanboys will still insist

I think that term on here really gets thrown about too much, in one way it's becoming very tiresome. Not a single Apple user has jumped on saying that it's perfect etc, it appears people believe if you like Apple products that your some brainwashed idiot, and if Steve Jobs let of a smelly, we'd all give our hard earned cash to have a smell.

@Kanu. More useless and non-functional product from Apple.

Then go and buy something else, or is Steve at your house with a gun to your head or something. If your so happy with your Sony etc, then why be upset about this product, be happy that everyone else is buying this inferior product.

By the way, to clear things up before the Anti-Apple crowd get all excited, I personally think the design is flawed with it's proprietary headphone connection, lets hope Apple learn from this. Nothing wrong with having the controls on the cable, but would it have been too hard for Apple to make it so that a standard 3.5mm socket was included on the controler?.


June 8, 2009, 3:43 pm

I think the proprietary headphones/remote control is THE major issue with this one. I'm actually very happy with the styling. While I have to agree with Gordon that there's nothing particularly awe-inspiring about making what is - in effect - a small, metallic memory key, the execution of the idea is fantastic. In terms of usability, it's also a lot better than I'd imagined it would be. I've been using it all weekend (albeit with the Apple In-Ear headphones and, weirdly, the X-Mini II micro speaker), and I still sort-of love it. The headphone/control thing is just a disaster, though, and were I spending my own money I'd still, as Gordon suggests, buy a Clip every time.

At the end of the day it is just an iPod Shuffle. I suspect it's success or failure won't end civilization as we know it, or prevent those of us with more sense than money from buying a product without the Shuffle's flaws that offers better value for money.


June 8, 2009, 3:57 pm

"Simple answer is buy a Sansa Clip. Problem is not enough people even know it exists..."

Actually, I've been lusting after a suitable replacement for my very old M3 for ages (perfect design with the in-line remote attached to the larger player, file/folder navigation, and awesome sound quality) and the 'wearability' of the Clip has made me salivate at the mouth.

But two things stop me :

1 - 8GB just isn't enough for me, so I'm holding out for a bigger version or one with a card slot, and if anyone can fit those in it's Samsung;

2 - I HATE ID3 tags, even although it's the standard of choice now, but hopefully Rockbox will create a release for the Clip soon and WITH file/folder support.

Those may seem like long shots, but I don't regularly buy new products. Being picky and stingy, I tend to buy rarely and hold out for the desired spec.


June 8, 2009, 4:39 pm


Your attitude to this demonstrates the problem. Apple are limiting headphones that can use their player to their own brand, or in the future those that are 'OK' to be used. Manufacturers will incur extra costs, both in components, and likely a license fee to apple. These will inevitably need to be passed on to consumers. The dominant position of apple in the marketplace means that all manufacturers will need to fall in line to sell any phones at all. This is exactly what has already happened with the prop charging system on ipod sound docks.

I don't have an ipod because my Sony sounds better. I also own a nice pair of Klipsch earphones because these sound better than the (really pretty good) headphones that came with the Sony. I strongly object to being forced to pay more in future for headphones that will work with an ipod I don't even own!

Apple have rolled this out to a low sales minor player first, to test the water, but it is inevitable that they will add the 'feature' to later models if no one objects. People are right to make a fuss, and right to call apple as bang out of line on this one because they are.

Oh - and why should Kanu be pleased that everyone else has inferior mp3 players? What an odd way to measure your satisfaction with a product.


June 8, 2009, 6:08 pm

@purephase: Apple have rolled this out to a low sales minor player first, to test the water, but it is inevitable that they will add the 'feature' to later models if no one objects. People are right to make a fuss, and right to call apple as bang out of line on this one because they are.

Who said I was happy with this setup?, in fact I said it was a mistake, and hope Apple will learn from it. Can you see what I've done there?, I've pointed out it failings without going all AppleHater. Even Kanu pointed out the Sony only did Atrac, so why isn't he a SonyHater?.

@purephase: Oh - and why should Kanu be pleased that everyone else has inferior mp3 players? What an odd way to measure your satisfaction with a product.

Sorry that bit must have gone over your head, can you not see the reasoning for such a silly remark?. Do I have to spell it out?.


June 8, 2009, 8:22 pm


I really wouldn't bother getting emotional about music players... let alone hating companies that make them. Doesn't mean I can't comment on what I see as undesirable behaviour from a major market player. MS and Intel were caught with their paws in the anti-trust cookie jar and were rightly fined. This sort of behaviour is straight down the same lines.

Your concession that "the design is flawed" is disingenuous and basically incorrect. It works in exactly the way it's meant to. A notebook battery that catches fire is flawed, an ipod nano screen that scratches with normal use is flawed - this is quite deliberate!

I *heart* my iphone btw - if that makes you feel any better?


June 8, 2009, 8:55 pm

As Stu says, I'm not sure I see what all the fuss is about. It's a SHUFFLE. It's aimed at a very specific market; kids, motorcyclists, sporty types, etc. If it works for them, it's done its job. Audiophiles and tech aficionados can look elsewhere, this player was never designed to embody their nirvana.

As for the headphone issue, I think we can rest assured that it should never adversely affect the rest of the iPod range. Apple are smart enough not to mess with a cash cow.


June 8, 2009, 9:21 pm

"and if anyone can fit those in, it's Samsung"

DOH! I meant Sandisk.


June 8, 2009, 10:15 pm

@purephase: Your concession that "the design is flawed" is disingenuous and basically incorrect.

What on Earth are you on about, I believe it's a mistake, how is that incorrect?. Are you saying because it's designed that way I have no opinion on this?.

But if the Shuffle ends up exploding in my front pocket, then I agree the design is certainly flawed. Anyway, that's another subject and was totally different to what I was on about, but heh ho.


June 8, 2009, 10:39 pm

The commments about "nirvana" are a red herring, trying to divert attention from a product that is just poorly thought out. As I pointed above, Sony managed to make a very good player of same size, targeted as same audience and it had a screen and full functional controls. "Even sporty types" can find use for proper controls. This product is lack of creativy masquerading as the opposite. Pure market milking.

Thy waste time trying pull the age old apple trick of "Oh, its not important to you, just because we say so. Now repeat after us."


June 8, 2009, 11:50 pm


The Sony device you refer to has dimensions of 3.7 x 4.9 x 1.8cm whereas the Shuffle is 1.7 x 4.5 x 0.5cm. If you do the maths you'll find out that the Shuffle is actually a fraction of the size of the MS70D or Sansa Clip.

Also, give some credit where credit's due. As Stuart points out, this player has a number of positive aspects, and to some people that's worth putting up with its considerable drawbacks. I'm not one of those people, as I suspect you're not, but those people do exist and that's who Apple are targeting. That's all I was trying to point out.


June 8, 2009, 11:56 pm

@ Keith

It's about your framing of the prop headphone issue as a sort of accident, as if apple will realise the mistake and fix it in future. My contention is that this is a deliberate feature designed to exert control over a business sector that apple want a part of. There are (it seems) not able or willing to compete by making better/high end phones, so they are using this to skim money off those who are.

I think it's anti-competitive behaviour, and I think that by dismissing it as a flaw, you trivialise or draw attention away from that.


June 9, 2009, 5:56 am

i just don't get what was wrong with previous shuffle. was pretty much perfect for it's purpose.


June 9, 2009, 2:59 pm

@purephase: It's about your framing of the prop headphone issue as a sort of accident, as if apple will realise the mistake and fix it in future.

An accident? eh!!. It of course was deliberate by Apple, you can't accidentally design something like that. It was a mistake from the POV of the people who potentially will buy it, wasn't that obvious?.

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