Charging the second-generation iPod shuffle with your computer isn’t exactly a challenge: Apple includes a free USB 2.0-cabled Dock with every shuffle, and sells them separately for $19. But once its cable has been unwound for the first time, Apple’s Dock seems to take up more space than the shuffle itself – a fact that’s led several companies to develop alternatives. Incipio’s IncipioBud (iLounge rating: B) was the first one we saw; now a company called Carrot Idea has a second option.
Called the USB Flexible Dock for 2nd Generation iPod shuffle ($10), Carrot Idea’s design takes the form of a short (approximately two-inch) white cable with a USB plug at one end and an iPod shuffle-customized headphone port plug at the other.
Connection to your shuffle and PC or Mac is as simple as that sounds, and the Flexible Dock works virtually identically to Apple’s official part, only consuming less room. Over several weeks of testing, we’ve found no issues with charging or synchronization; the latter’s ever so slightly faster, and we’ve never had the shuffle fall off the end of the cable during charging, either.
The USB Flexible Dock’s issues are three in number. First, though it’s smaller than Apple’s Dock, it’s not as small as IncipioBud, which basically handles the same features in an even more compact package; in order for Carrot Idea’s larger design to be preferable, your computer’s USB port layout will need to in some way benefit from having the shuffle further away, rather than up close.
Second, though USB Flexible Dock sells around half Apple’s price, it’s 40% more expensive than the $6 IncipioBud. And finally, just as with IncipioBud, USB Flexible Dock is dangerous to connect to any other device’s headphone port – even the first-generation iPod shuffle’s. Voltage from the USB port can burn out any non-second-generation shuffle device connected to the headphone port plug, the reason that Apple shaped its own Dock so unusually and suggests that other companies do the same.
Overall, the USB Flexible Dock for 2nd Generation iPod shuffle is a better value than Apple’s part, but neither as small nor quite as great of a deal as IncipioBud, which we consider to be the better buy for most users.