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New iPod shuffle requires extra adapter for third-party headphones

Nilay Patel
03.11.09
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We were wondering why the new voice-enabled iPod shuffle even has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack since it's controlled by proprietary headphones, and we just got the answer: non-Apple headphones will require a special dongle that includes the new three-button controller, and Apple says it's working with third parties to bring other compatible 'phones to market. Yes, Apple's cheapest iPod is now the most needlessly complex, and far from cost-effective if you want to use your own cans: assuming the adapter will cost between $20 and $30 like most other Apple accessories, you're looking at minimum $100 outlay for the new shuffle, and at that point you might as well pick up a $150 iPod nano, which is also VoiceOver-enabled in addition to having twice the storage, dongle-less controls, a screen, and numerous other features. We'll see if this thing is so tiny these concerns wash out when we get one in our hands, but does anyone actually feel like the numbers tip in favor of the shuffle here? We're all ears.

P.S.- Yes, we know $100 can get you any number of fine non-Apple players, we're just talking about Apple's price points. Feel free to suggest your favorite alternative, though!

Update: Apple called to clarify that the nano doesn't have the exact same VoiceOver feature, which is shuffle-exclusive; the nano does "spoken menus" but doesn't say track names as you skip around. We're getting a full list of differences between the two systems, we'll let you know if there's anything else major.

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