iLounge has obtained both models of the new third-generation iPod shuffle, and will be posting unboxing photos in this story as we take them, along with some brief first impressions.
Update: It’s very similar in size to the Apple Bluetooth Headset, and as small as the smallest flash drives we’ve seen. Its rear clip is somewhat of a fingerprint magnet, and it lacks personality from front, to side, to bottom. The black color is same as the iPod nano 4G and 120GB iPod classic, and if a user plugs in headphones with no music loaded onto the device, a voice directs him/her to sync to iTunes.
Update 2: The results of our initial file transfer test show the new shuffle to be faster than the second-generation model, but not as fast as the iPod nano 4G. When transferring our 1GB test playlist, it took the iPod shuffle 3G 2:02 to transfer, while the iPod nano 4G took just 1:27. The same transfer on the second-generation iPod shuffle took 2:33, but it was only a partial transfer, as some songs could not be played, and iTunes showed only 392MB as transferred.
In addition, iTunes must connect to a server to download the VoiceOver kit before that feature can be enabled, meaning that an Internet connection will be required for initial VoiceOver setup.
In our initial audio testing with a pair of Ultimate Ears UE-11, there is an immediately noticeable difference in the amount of static present in the audio compared to the iPod shuffle 2G—hissy, static-like noise present in the prior generation’s audio is gone in the iPod shuffle 3G. Our initial impressions of its sonic balance are that its sound signature is extremely similar to that of the late 2008 iPods and iPhone 3G. Our testing has also found it basically impossible to control the unit with standard third-party headphones, and that Apple’s other remote-enabled headphones appear completely compatible. Of note, Apple has further slimmed down the headphone plug on the new earphones, physically matching the top of the shuffle’s headphone jack.