Apple 2GB iPod shuffle (fourth generation, late 2010) full review - Page 2

Holding down down the VoiceOver button for a second or so puts you in navigation mode; the device will start speaking the name of all its playlists, as well as “All Songs” and any podcasts or audiobooks you’ve synced. You can use the left and right navigation buttons to quickly move through the list, or just wait as the iPod’s voice reads them to you at a leisurely pace. If you press the center button during one of the selections, the iPod immediately begins playing from that selection.

Although basic iPod navigation has been returned to its rightful place on the shuffle’s body itself, if you’ve got a pair of headphones with a clicker, you’re not out of luck. As with all of Apple’s products, a single click toggles playback, a double click advances forward one track, and a triple click takes you back a track. But if you click and hold the headphone button for a moment, it’s got the same effect as tapping the VoiceOver button: the shuffle tells you the name and artist of the currently playing track. And if you click and hold a bit longer, it’s the equivalent of holding down the VoiceOver button: the iPod shuffle will begin listing all its playlists, and will switch to whatever one it’s currently reading when you click again.

It’s a nice compromise that lets users with button-equipped headphones have some extra control while not sacrificing the comfortable on-device buttons that are easy to use by feel. (The 4G shuffle ships with a plain pair of Apple earbuds, with no onboard controls of any kind.)

Apple iPod shuffle

In terms of battery life, Apple claims the 4G shuffle can last for 15 hours of continuous play (up from its claim of 10 hours for the 3G model), and in my initial testing Apple's claims seem slightly conservative, as they should be. My shuffle finally conked out after nearly 16 hours of playing time.

One odd disappointment I had while using the 4G shuffle: While listening to music with the shuffle clipped to the bottom of my t-shirt, I kept bumping into things, which had the effect of changing tracks or altering the volume. Yes, I used to bump into things while using the 2G shuffle as well, but that device had a trick: If you held down its center button for a few seconds, it would lock out all the controls until you pressed and held the center button again for a few seconds. I used that feature all the time to prevent mistaken button presses; I couldn’t find any combination of button presses that would lock out the controls on the 4G shuffle model.

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