“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.