Walt Mossberg tests Apple’s new iPod shuffle and concludes that ‘the iPod juggernaut will roll on’

“I’ve been testing the new iPod Shuffle for a couple of days, and, in my tests, it fulfilled — and even exceeded — Apple’s claims for convenience, battery life and song capacity. Sound quality is so good you can barely believe the music is coming from something so small,” Walter S. Mossberg writes for The Wall Street Journal. “To get to the magic $99 price, which undercuts its major competitors, Apple has had to strip down this model so severely that it barely resembles a traditional iPod. The Shuffle lacks the iPod’s two most distinctive physical features — the screen and the famous iPod scroll wheel. The only features that mark the Shuffle as an iPod are the Apple logo and iPod name on the back, and the familiar white iPod ear buds. So the question is whether consumers will consider it a ‘real’ iPod.”

Mossberg writes, “But Apple believes the low price, and its formidable marketing muscle, could well make this model another iPod hit, especially with kids and their parents for whom $249 was too much to pay. The Shuffle uses cheaper, lower-capacity ‘flash’ memory chips to store the music, instead of the small hard disk drives used by the other iPods. This puts it in direct competition with scores of other so-called flash players. But, belying its high-priced reputation, Apple has actually undercut the market. The $99 iPod Shuffle comes with 512 megabytes of memory, which Apple estimates can hold 120 songs. Its price is well below what other name-brand flash music players with 512 megabytes cost. Models from Creative Labs, iRiver, SanDisk, Philips and others cost from $120 to $200 — though all have screens and some other features the iPod Shuffle lacks. A $149 model of the new iPod will also be available with twice the memory, or one gigabyte, which has an estimated capacity of 240 songs. That is also well below the price of competing players.”

“Apple puts the new player’s battery life at 12 hours on a single charge. But, in my testing, it did much better than that, lasting 15 hours and 44 minutes,” Mossberg writes. “Similarly, I found that the iPod Shuffle could hold many more songs than Apple claims. By choosing manual mode to load the player, I was able to cram as many as 188 songs onto my 512-megabyte test model, rather than the 120 Apple claims, without reducing the audio quality of the songs. That’s because Apple’s calculation is based on four-minute songs, but many pop and rock tunes, especially those from the ’60s and ’70s, are actually much shorter than that… this is a good product that will enlarge the iPod’s appeal, especially with kids, people on low budgets, or people who work out. I imagine some existing iPod owners will also buy Shuffles as sort of add-on players. And the iPod juggernaut will roll on.”

Full article here.

25 Comments

  1. Your Mileage May Vary

    “I was able to cram as many as 188 songs onto my 512-megabyte test model, rather than the 120 Apple claims”

    Better to promise 120 and have folks be pleasantly surprised that they can fit more than the reverse. Of course, if your tastes run to Wagner or Mahler, you might find that you won’t fit anywhere near 120!

  2. Hi Gang,
    Does anyone know if the Shuffle can be used in a car stereo system, or to drive external speakers like the ipod can? I understand that playlist and browse and all is not the same, but could my wife, for example, use a simple car casette adaptor (like we do now, gludge but works) and have the Ipod shuffle play through our car system? thanks for any advice…

  3. Hi Mike,

    Fear not, you can use the iPod shuffle anywhere you can use a vanilla iPod. It has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, so it’ll work with cassette adaptors, external speakers, hi-fi’s, heaphones or earphones!

  4. Mike, you will have to have the sound output be via the earbud jack but anything you can hook up to that, you can run. So a cassette adaptor is possible and also speakers such as the Altec Lansing InMotion which has a audio imput jack on the back and comes with a short cable for this (or at least when I bought them this was included so you could use it with the earlier fireware generations iPods). I am sure also that within a very short time there will be tons of accessories for the shuffle. As Steve pointed out, there is a whole ecosystem for the iPod. Something which all the competeing players lack.

  5. Brilliant. Its different enough to set apart from other flash player and wont kill bigger iPod sales because it really is a different player.

    All the stories of recognizing iPod owners cause of the white earbuds will now be accompanied by a “white necklace”

    I gonna be the first to estimate 750,000 sold in the first quarter
    Big hit

  6. Can you imagine Car Stereos with a built-in USB port on the faceplate for just plugging in your iPod Shuffle? Instant music through the radio…

    Maybe I’m just being silly..

  7. Doesn’t anyone take issue with the statement “I’ve been testing the new iPod Shuffle for a couple of days”?
    It was officially unveiled during yesterday’s keynote, and from what I understand, the press does not get advanced previews of Apple hardware. Not to mention having the latest iTunes software in order to test the file capacity. Am I missing something? This person has only used it for 24 hours at the lest. How does that become “a couple of days”?

  8. Hah!!

    I knew that the phrase “iPod Juggernaut” would eventually show up in the mainstream and/or business press. I just thought it was going to happen a few months ago.

    I suppose that it took the announcement of the 4th quarter sales/profits, and the release of the iPod shuffle, to make people realize that the iPod/ITMS is going to be dominating the mp3 player market for a while. SJ’s comparison of mp3 player sales during his keynote probably didn’t hurt much either.

    Roll on, Apple!

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