Recycle the Shuffle?

In the most recent "Pundit Showdown" on the Macworld podcast, Chris Breen answered a question about what Apple products should be "recycled" by saying that 5 iPod Shuffles should be mashed together and recycled into "a single iPod that would actually be useful." I listened to this through a mist of irony since this podcast was delivered into my ear canal via . . . you guessed it, a 4GB 3rd Gen. iPod Shuffle.My green Shuggle with Skullcandy in-ear buds, shortened cord, and Scosche Tapstick

I commented in this blog three times (here, here, and here) last year on this newest Shuffle before I'd actually handled one, and I didn't comment in the most glowing terms. This is certainly a device that can leave one thinking. . . "Huh?"

But then, for Christmas '09, my wife gave me one. In green. You know what? I love it.

I come not to evangelize for the Shuffle. It appeals to me for very specific reasons that probably aren't applicable to a great many people. I like it because it's small and stays out of my way when I do physical work on my second job that serves to supplement my freelance photography income until the economy stops sucking. I like that it supports multiple playlists, unlike previous Shuffles. It took me a while to make peace with the proprietary headphones, and I thought Voiceover would be cumbersome and difficult to learn. But Voiceover is a breeze, and I soldered my preferred Skullcandy in-ear buds onto the Apple cable, which has been shortened with small rubber bands my wife had on hand for the college cheerleaders she coaches (for pony tails, don'tcha know). It's now the perfect iPod for me. Not for everyone, to be sure, but for me.

The only way to make it better would be to add an FM radio. I don't know if the that's possible in that small a package, but I can dream. (I visuallize a "playlist" of station presets that could be navigated like any other playlist on the Shuffle, similar to the way the original Griffin iTrip worked).

If you're into getting geeky with smart playlists, and aren't picky about being able to select one particular song to play at the slightest whim, (in other words, if you don't need or even particularly want a GUI interface) this could be the iPod for you. I have several podcast smart lists set up in iTunes that make me feel like I program my own radio station. Every time I refresh podcasts and re-sync the Shuffle, a new roster of news programs, tech podcasts, and audio fiction streams out and keeps me sane as I do the brainless work that guarantees me health benefits and that the bills get paid for one more month. With a few clicks of the in-line remote, I can switch to a different flavor of podcast, or to an audiobook, rock'n'roll, classical, or film scores.

Honestly, I wish Apple would go back to a design similar to the previous generation Shuffle. I never liked arm bands or belt clips, and the Nano tended to fall out of my shirt pocket when I bent over, which I do frequently, so the built-in "tie tack" clip shared by 2nd- and 3rd-Gen. designs is an ideal form factor. I'd like the remote control headphones to continue to be an option (controls are handy right next to your jawbone), but I'd like to see Apple put some actual buttons back on the Shuffle so the proprietary headphones aren't required. I have a Scosche Tapstick, which gives the Shuffle buttons anyway, but this is one third party accessory Apple should make obsolete.

I doubt I'm changing Chris Breen's mind, and I'm not trying to. But the Shuffle has it's niche and I hope it continues to evolve.