Poker players in all corners of the world rejoiced with the recent announcement that Apple has released a new version of its popular iPod Shuffle music player. Grinders in card rooms across American and beyond will be racing out to get this new music player that boasts a 4GB hard drive and new features. Many players like Phil Ivey and Teddy “Iceman” Monroe are well-known for listening to their iPod Shuffle devices during tournament or ring game sessions at the tables. Beyond this poker-centric need for a new Shuffle, people apparently also use these popular music players while traveling or working out.
The 4th generation iPod Shuffle is even smaller (eventually we imagine them becoming invisible) than the popular 3rd generation. In fact, it is smaller than a house key or a single AA battery. The unit is 1.8 inches tall, 0.3 inches thick, and comes in silver or black aluminum bodies. With the 4GB internal hard drive, a user can load it up with over 1,000 songs. If those new selling points aren’t enough, the new iPod Shuffle added a VoiceOver feature that can recite a song’s title, artist, playlist name, as well as status information like remaining battery life.
This VoiceOver application is based on Apple’s “Text-to-Speech” engine that is built into OSX Leopard, but rarely used by Mac enthusiasts. The voice of the program will be similar to the “Alex” voice heard by Leopard users and is available in 14 different languages.
The first time you synch this new “must have” gadget to iTunes, Apple will install the software (Mac or PC) that makes the voice features available. This is not traditional speech recognition, as you do not speak into your iPod headphones. For example, to use the playlist discovery, a user would hold down a button in the center of the headphone control that takes you into a playlist mode. There, the speech engine will say the names of your playlists in alphabetical order and allow you to select one of them by pushing the button again.
The voice controls have been moved from the actual iPod Shuffle unit onto the headphones and are located on the right ear bud‘s cord. Apple touts this as a more convenient location, but it brings up the issue of forcing users to use its special ear bud headphone solution rather than one of their choosing in order to use the features of the new unit.
The only controls on the device are the on/off switch and the shuffle switch. Apple will ship its own in-ear headphones with the Shuffle, but third-parties will be able to make their own headphones with the controls. For people who absolutely hate Apple’s in-ear solution, they will have to fork out even more money in order to take advantage of the new features by finding a third-party provider of headphones that supports the new controls. In addition, Apple has stated that it will make adapters that will let you use the controls with any existing headphones.
The $79 price tag makes this one of the more affordable new model releases of the iPod Shuffle, as the 2GB 3rd generation model was $99 on its release. Apple announced it is discontinuing the 2GB edition introduced last year, but will sell the older 1GB model for $49 in its stores and online. The iPod Shuffle continues to boast the popular clip and moves to a durable aluminum casing available in silver or black. In addition, Apple maintains that there is still room for personalized engraving through its online store.