Like the fact that there are no friggin' buttons! None. El zilcho. Shuffle 3.0 basically looks like a USB drive with a clip attached to it. Apple ditched the
scroll wheel round control pad like a one-night stand and moved it onto the earbuds. A small plastic cylinder sitting six inches below the right 'bud is adorned with three buttons. Two handle volume up and down duties while the third button in the middle is kind of an uber controller. One click pauses the music, two clicks skip forward a track, and three clicks revert back a track. Hold the button down for a few seconds though and a feature kicks in that no one has ever seen or heard on an iPod before.
The biggest deal on the smallest iPod is undoubtedly the voice software. Dubbed VoiceOver by Apple, it works like this: You press the middle button for several seconds and a disembodied Steven Hawking-esque voice tells you what track or playlist you're listening to. It's fairly accurate at telling you the track — just as long as the name is not terribly complex. Rolling Stones? Clearly chirped by VoiceOver. But Sigur Ros? The program garbled something that sounded more like "boozy roogs."Our dealings with VoiceOver were about as refined as a gallon of crude oil. But its presence on the Shuffle is actually a smart move on Apple's part. We predict Apple will continue to make steady improvements to the software, adding new features and tweaks. They're essentially running a Beta test. Once they get the software fine-tuned, expect it to roll out on devices like the iPod Touch and iPhone 3.0. The biggest gripe on the 4-GB Shuffle we tested is definitely the control set. First off, it's completely counter-intuitive; Apple says you can easily use it without looking. We still don't have the hang of it after a few days of testing. What's worse if you have a decent set of earbuds (say a pair of Shures or Ultimate Ears) you're totally hosed — you'll have to endure the 'buds that come with the shuffle or pick up a specially made third party headphones. Our recommendation? Pick up a new Shuffle only if you're prepared to deal with proprietary headphones and ambiguous controls. PROS: Thumb drive size. Can double as a tie clip. Battery life lasts for 12 freaking hours. Short USB sync cord is the sexiness. Yes, we'll admit, it's another beautifully designed piece of hardware from Apple. Battery bonked out after 11 constant hours of blasting Thunderstruck on loop. Cons:Proprietary headphones are required. Control set awkward to use, hard to get used to. So small, it nearly gets lost in the packaging it comes in. Price: $80 (4GB)