The third generation iPod shuffle retains the diminutive size, distinctive shape, and is fabricated of anodized aluminum with a built-in clip just like its predecessor. The big change this year is the introduction of a less-expensive 2GB model that can hold up to 500 songs for $59. There's also a 4GB model that holds up to 1,000 songs for $79. Both models are available in pink, blue, green, silver, and black as shown below.
Also new for 2009 is a 4GB "special edition" in bright, shiny polished stainless steel for $99.
Like the second generation iPod shuffle, the third generation shuffle has no buttons. Instead, its controls are located on the earbud cable as shown below, so it's easy to use without unclipping it from your clothing.
But the coolest thing about the new shuffle is still its VoiceOver technology, which allows it to talk to you. Just press and hold the center button and your iPod shuffle will speak the song title, artist name, or the names of your playlists. It even lets you know when your battery is running low. Since the most distinguishing feature of the iPod shuffle since time immemorial (or at least since 2005) has been its lack of a screen, VoiceOver is a welcome and ingenious touch.
I have but one complaint. Because the controls are integrated with the earbuds, you are pretty much stuck with Apple’s mediocre and somewhat uncomfortable earphones unless you want to spend additional dough. The good news is that if you're willing to spend a few bucks (or more than a few), third parties including Klipsch and Scosche have introduced excellent earphones and adapters that let you ditch the crappy Apple ear buds. For example, the $99 Klipsch Image S4i In-Ear Headset with Mic and 3-Button Remote Headphones cost more than the iPod shuffle itself, but they sound so good I often use them with other iPods and with my iPhone even though I got them specifically for my iPod shuffle.
While Scosche's $59.99 IDR400m noise isolation earphones with handsfree microphone don't sound quite as awesome as the Klipsch phones, they do sound quite good and they are $40 cheaper.
Scosche also makes a cool little adapter for $29.99. It's called the tapSTICK and it's a white polycarbonate case that covers your iPod shuffle with an integrated three-button remote and a headphone jack so you can plug in your favorite headphones or ear buds.
The Bottom Line
If you can excuse the ear bud issue, the new iPod shuffle is gorgeous, sounds great, and includes the cool VoiceOver feature that makes it easy (and fun) to use. I recommend it without hesitation.