Updated 20 February 2008, with new pricing: Apple's first iPod shuffle was the smallest digital-music player on the market when released in January 2006. Version 2 makes that old model look positively cumbersome, weighing in at just 15g (half an ounce) and taking up about as much space as a CompactFlash card or tiny book of matches. It really is teeny (41x27x10.5mm). And now that iPod shuffle pricing has been slashed by Apple, it's an even better deal than before. See also: third-generation Apple iPod shuffle review (16 March 2009).
You can't watch videos on it or play Tetris, but as a barebones music player it's hard to beat. What it lacks in features it makes up in extraordinary miniturisation. The first time anyone sees it, they're bound to gasp. Guaranteed.
Crafted from aluminium, the flash-based player incorporates a built-in clip that lets you attach the iPod shuffle to a pocket, belt or shirt. It'll be a wild hit with gym goers and joggers, who can forget about lanyards flapping round their necks, and at the same size as the iPod remote control it won't ruin your stretch nylon tracksuit.
As expected, sound quality is excellent, although audiophiles will prefer to spend more on headphones superior to the standard earbuds included. We tried it with the £39 Sennheiser PX-200 and £399 Shure E500, and there were no complaints. Volume goes higher than you should be able to bear.
As with the original, there's no display. This won't bother the mobile keep-fit brigade that have taken the shuffle to heart, but isn't for those who like to select individual tunes while on the move. Despite its name, you don't have to use the shuffle mode; you can also set ordered playlists, navigable via the familiar iPod scrollwheel.
On/Off and Shuffle/Play switches and indicator lights are subtly hidden on the top and bottom of the player.
With 1GB of storage, the iPod shuffle can hold about 1,000 minutes of music – nearly 250 songs at 128Kbps compression, according to Apple. It fully supports the market-leading iTunes Music Store. A new 2GB model is being readied for release, for £45 - so if you feel 240 songs just ain't enough then it's worth waiting.
Battery life is claimed at around 12 hours per charge (and Apple has been conservative in its recent battery-life claims), which is ample for all but the craziest joggers, and will get you through the longest single flights and train journeys.