Review: Apple iPod shuffle (Fourth-Generation)
Pros: A smarter, redesigned sequel to Apple’s entry-level iPod, containing the best features from prior iPod shuffle generations with relatively few and small compromises. Restored five-button control scheme is augmented by new VoiceOver and battery level button, while support for remote controls remains. New polished metal body may appeal to some users; size is nearly as small as one could expect a device with these features to become without compromising the usability of the button-based control system. Available in five different colors, each with a matching rear clip for easy wearing. Affordable.
Cons: Features are not competitive with rival products at the same price. Even slower than unimpressive predecessor for music and file transfers. Initial collection of colors is muted and somewhat dull by comparison with the best past iPod models; some may find the polished texture to be too slippery. Included USB cable is tiny. Only one storage capacity.
In mid-September 2012, Apple updated the fourth-generation iPod shuffle with a new set of eight colors. Purple, yellow, red, and black were added to silver, blue, green, and pink, while orange was removed from the lineup. The new colors were selected to align the 2012 shuffles with the colors of the as-yet-unreleased seventh-generation iPod nano, due in October.
Notably, Apple didn’t just change the 2012 iPod shuffle colors; it also shifted the texture. When the fourth-generation shuffle shipped in 2010, Apple was experimenting with a “polished” aluminum finish that was a compromise between the sandblasted and coated aluminum bodies of earlier iPod nanos. This finish was used for both the 2010 iPod shuffle and iPod nano, proving different but not particularly better than earlier treatments.
For 2012, polished aluminum has unceremoniously disappeared from Apple’s lineup. The refreshed iPod shuffle is back to a finely sandblasted texture that’s basically identical to earlier models, but with slight color differences.
The most noteworthy new shuffle is the black version, which brings one of Apple’s most stunning colors to the low-end model for the first time since the discontinuation of the ill-fated third-generation model. It’s one of only two current shuffles with a black control ring.
Apple’s new blue shuffle is close in color to early blue iPod minis and nanos, a little closer to aqua than the prior blue tone.
Yellow is just a little odd—on the fine edge of green, rather than the purer yellows of fourth- and fifth-generation iPod nanos, and certainly nothing like the golden first-generation iPod mini.
Purple has more red tint than the second-generation purple iPod shuffle, and looks nothing like the fourth- and fifth-generation purple iPod nanos—it could nearly pass for pink if there wasn’t a pink shuffle.
Pink is a rosy tone, with nowhere near the saturation of the second- and third-generation pink shuffles, but a similar softness to the 2010 fourth-generation shuffle: mature, not “fun” pink.
Silver has remained the same but for the texture, and the use of a black Apple logo rather than a white one.
Green has become closer to a pine color, though still on the light, faded side.
The new red version is clearly darker than the pink nano, but not terribly far from it in tone, and not as saturated as in some earlier red iPods. It has a (PRODUCT) RED marking on the back, and a (PRODUCT) RED card in the package, setting it apart from the other models.
Sonically and functionally, the new shuffles are basically the same as their predecessors, running the same Apple software and including the same pack-ins. You can tell which color shuffle’s in a box not only from the front, but also from the top and sides, which are color-matched to the device. Inside, you’ll get the same pair of older Apple Earphones; Apple’s newer and better EarPods are not bundled in, so if you’re interested, you’ll need to buy them separately.
Updated September 13, 2013: Gray
Updated September 13, 2013: This week, Apple replaced the black-colored iPod shuffle with “gray,” also known as “Space Gray,” shown in the pictures above. It’s matte-finished, slightly darker than silver, and notably lighter than both black and slate iPods sold in the past.