New iPod shuffle freezes author's brain with joke overload

Seriously. I still have to use a third-party, system-level-altering application to restore OS 9 window shade functionality to OS X (oddly enough, it's called WindowShade) because Apple is way too busy doing important things like building Steve Jobs an Al Gore-powered Suit of Immortality and, apparently, engineering things nobody really, truly needs.

Like the new iPod shuffle.

By now you've undoubtedly read the reviews, skimmed the specs and done other things of an alliterative nature. Some of you may have ventured into an Apple store and beheld the thing for yourself, perhaps coddling it gently in your palm like a newborn chick. Or biting it like a silver dollar to see if it's really real. I don't know—you're an odd bunch.

For those of you who ignored the hype and kept wondering why pictures of anodized suppositories kept littering your screen, I'll regurgitate the basics here:

  • On Wednesday, March 11, 2009, Apple unveiled their new iPod shuffle. Because people haven't been clamoring for a mid-level desktop all these years – they've been pleading for a redesigned shuffle.
  • The new shuffle features 4GB of memory, twice that of the old shuffle.
  • The new shuffle is so danged itty-bitty it can hide behind something that is only slightly bigger than itself.
  • The new shuffle includes a feature called Voice Over that reads back song information. Handy for music pirates who dump anything and everything into their libraries and won't recognize .38 Special when they hear it.
  • There is one control button on the shuffle, for switching between random and ordered play.
  • All the other shuffle controls are on the headphone cord.

Of course, it's the last bullet that has most people irked. I realize Apple is on some sort of button jihad, but this is, how do you say, dumb. This product firmly falls into the "just because you could, doesn't mean you should" camp. Let's examine this a little more flippantly, shall we?

Was anyone complaining about the gargantuan, 3/4-scale matchbook size of the previous shuffle? No.

Was anyone frightened and/or confused by the previous shuffle's controls that mimicked those of nearly every iPod that had gone before? Maybe, but that's more of a psychiatric issue.

Was anyone so distressed by being able to use any pair of headphones they liked that they went fetal at the thought of having to make a decision? See above.

Because that's the real kicker. With controls on the headphone cord, you have to use Apple's headphones. Or wait for companies to release their own, Apple-approved compatible headphones. Or wait for an adapter to use their existing headphones. Or just weep gently until a stranger takes pity upon them and pushes them in front of a bus.

So yeah, now you've got a proprietary controller for the shuffle. And while Apple and proprietary devices/standards/turtlenecks are nothing new, this one seems especially myopic.

But at least it's user friendly in the way only Apple can make it user friendly. Not.

Here's the diagram Apple itself posted to explain how to use the controller.

iPod Shuffle's dumb controls

Ooh, the eleganceness.

I'll admit, I could become a pro at using this thing in about five minutes. But I'm a gadget nerd. Also, I wouldn't be trying to learn it while running on a treadmill or sweatin' to the oldies. Regardless of the learning curve, it's still a step back when the previous shuffle's controls had no curve to begin with.

Perhaps I should be happy that it gave me something to rant about this week. But I'd rather be relaying something cool and interesting than cold and annoying. And no, I won't be trumpeting the late-by-two-year addition of cut-and-paste to the iPhone OS next week. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to learn how to multiclick like an amaXhosa.



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