New iPod Shuffle - Apple gets a clue

At the much-awaited September 9 Apple announcement, newly-minted organ donation cheerleader Steve Jobs and Apple surprised pretty much nobody by revving up the iPod line. The Nano muscles up in ways that will surely keep it at the top of the music player heap, and the Shuffle gets a right-sizing and pricing correction.

While not the top of the line, the iPod Nano is the real flagship of the iPod fleet, and it was given a huge boost in value with the addition of an FM tuner, pedometer, and video camera with microphone not to mention the most appealing new feature, a $20.00 price drop on the 16GB model. The addition of a camera has been rumored several weeks since photos leaked from a Chinese aftermarket manufacturer of new Nano skins with a hole on the back that could be for pretty much nothing other than a camera lens.

With the broadest range of upgrades, the Nano was the star of the show. The iPod Touch would have been had it gotten its long-rumored camera. (The MacBreak Weekly guys seem to think this is a temporary design glitch and the photo-capable Touch will come soon.) But it may be that the first item from the event to cause me to open up my wallet will be the less-sexy iPod Shuffle. Here's why:

I posted back in March (here and here) when the new button-less shuffle first came out about my misgivings on the design. While I think it is undeniably slick, the proprietary headphones with inline controls and $79.00 price tag has held me back up to now. Though I've made peace with the headphones, it's hard to spend $79.00 on a 4GB shuffle when, for only 60 bucks more, you can get all the navigation interface mojo and video playing goodness of the 8GB Nano. But now, in addition to pretty new colors to choose from, I can now choose to get a 2GB Shuffle for $59.00. I think this is smart.

Really, how many people need 4GB in a shuffle? The shuffle is a playlist based music player. You don't really need a huge chunk of space for your whole music collection in this type of player. At four gigs, it's doubtful that battery would last long enough to continuously shuffle through all the music through even once. Two gigs makes a little more sense. I'd load a Shuffle two or three podcast playlists, and a couple or three music playlists, and one or two audio books. That's probably only a bit more than one gigabyte of media.

When you buy a shuffle, you just know you are handing Apple one of the largest, if not THE largest, profit margins for any hardware product they sell. But a $59.00 price tag makes this easier to swallow than $79.00.

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