The minimalist third-generation Apple iPod shuffle has innovative text-to-voice technology, but the controls take some getting used to.

Apple's third-generation iPod shuffle will please minimalist-design enthusiasts. Smaller than a USB thumb drive, it is completely devoid of buttons, knobs, and a screen. While it is attractive, the shuffle's earbud controls and VoiceOver feature might not be for everyone.

The latest Apple iPod shuffle looks like no other MP3 player - or even iPod - out there. Aside from the earbuds, the only indicator that it does something other than accessorise your outfit is the Apple logo on the backside clip.

Measuring 45.2x17.5x7.8mm and weighing a scant 10.7g, this minuscule device could easily get lost in your pocket or bag if you're not careful. At the top of the device, next to the headphone jack, resides a switch for iPod shuffle, Play in Order, or Power Off. Between the switch and the jack is a status light that indicates how much life is left in the battery.

The controls for the iPod shuffle are located on the included earbuds, housed in a tiny remote on a cable below the right ear. This earbud design debuted last fall alongside the newest versions of the Apple iPod touch, iPod nano, and iPod classic. The controls are pretty basic: volume up/down buttons sit on either side of a multifunction centre button.

Using the multifunction button for playback isn't difficult, but it might take some time getting used to. Pressing the button once plays or pauses a song; twice skips forward and three times skips back.

Apple iPod shuffle

Although the earbud controls are quite small, they're very easy to press. Our main issue with the iPod shuffle design is the placement of the controls.

We had a lot of difficulty trying to skip songs and adjust volume while we were jogging or working out with the iPod shuffle. Since the controls are too close to the right ear, we had to move our neck in an awkward way to grasp them. And unsurprisingly, the earbuds fell out of our ears very easily.

We imagine that a lot of people use their iPod shuffles while working out, so we were disappointed when we learned that the controls were located on the bundled earbuds. And, let's face it, Apple's bundled earbuds have never been the best.

Luckily, a few third-party manufacturers such as Eytmotic Research and Klipsch have headphones compatible with the new iPod shuffle. Apple has also said that third-party adaptors will be available, as well.

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