iPod Shuffle 4GB Review


Whenever Apple updates one of their products, it always seems to create a lot of buzz. When the third generation iPod Shuffle was announced a couple of weeks ago, the buzz was almost as audible as a hive of bees. Why so much attention for a sub $100 MP3 player that doesn’t even have a display? Well, we are talking about an Apple product, aren’t we? Buzz doesn’t always mean that a product is a good one though, so let’s take a closer look at this little digital audio player.


Hardware Specifications

Capacity: 4GB
Audio formats: AAC (16 to 320 Kbps), Protected AAC (from iTunes Store), MP3 (16 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, and 4), Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV
Size and Weight: 1.8 inches (45.2 mm) x 0.7 inch (17.5 mm) x 0.3 inch (7.8 mm), 0.38 ounce (10.7 grams)


Package Contents

iPod shuffle
USB charge cable
Quick start guide
Mini Apple stickers

Family portrait Left to Right: First gen shuffle, second gen shuffle, newest shuffle

It’s fun to see how the shuffle has evolved over the years. If I’m being honest (wow, I sound like Simon Cowell from American Idol), I think I’d pick the 4 year old original shuffle as my favorite. If only because it has a built in USB connector for charging. I also liked the second gen shuffle because of the metal case. The latest iPod shuffle seems to almost be a merging of the two. It retained the metal body, but has reverted back to a vertical form. No USB connector though. Darn…


Available in Black or Silver, the anodized aluminum shell has a brushed finish, with a completely plain front. The sides are rounded and the whole device feels like a solid metal bar.


Flip the shuffle over and you’ll see the chrome pocket clip with a frosted Apple logo. Gah, I really wish Apple would fire the person / people that are responsible for using chrome accents on their products. Yeah, I have a personal issue with chrome…  Excuse me for a moment while I polish my smeary fingerprints off the clip for the billionth time.


Ok, I’m back. The clip is a strong one. It should have no problems staying attached to whatever you decide to attach it to.


There is only one switch and one connector on this player, and both are located along the top edge. The stereo earphone jack is a standard 3.5mm size, but you won’t be able to use any old earbuds with this shuffle. More about that in a minute.

The switch has three settings. Off, On with sequential playback and On with shuffled playback. Although you can’t see it in the image above, there is a tiny battery status LED between the earphone jack and switch.

How do you charge the shuffle? The same way that you charge the previous version, through the 3.5mm headphone jack. This time there isn’t a small dock included though.


Instead, you get a short USB cable. One end has a USB connector and the other end has a 3.5mm plug.


Plug it in and it charges the internal battery and syncs content with iTunes. On a full charge, you can expect up to 10hrs of play time. The short USB cable won’t take up much space in your gear bag, but the fact that you have to carry around a proprietary charge cable when you travel, is a bit annoying.


If the charge / sync cable annoys you, then the fact that you can’t use your own fave earbuds with the shuffle will probably really put you in a bad mood. Let me back up though… You CAN use any old earbuds / earphones / headphones that you like with this new iPod shuffle.  But (and this is a big but), if you do, you won’t be able to adjust the volume, pause, skip songs, use the VoiceOver feature or pretty much do anything except listen to music. Why? Because all the user controls are built into a small inline controller on the included earbuds.

The controller is a 1.125 inch long plastic piece that hangs about 4.5 inches from the end of the Right earbud. It has 3 switches built into it, one on each end and one in the middle. Each switch is activated by squeezing it. The end switches adjust the volume, and the center switch allows navigation between songs and playlists. The center switch also provides pausing and the VoiceOver feature.

If you opt to use the VoiceOver feature (it is an optional download during the initial setup and has to be downloaded through iTunes), it will announce the name and artist of the currently playing track. To activate it, you just hold down the center switch on the  controller for a couple of seconds. If you continue to squeeze the center switch, you’ll hear a male voice speak the names of the playlists, which will allow you to switch to the desired list. It’s kind of a neat feature, but I’d rather just have a small LCD display…

Out of the box, the shuffle has 3.77GB of available space, with no option for storage expansion. Audio quality is not unlike other digital audio players that I’ve tested. They all start to sound alike after awhile – especially with stock earbuds. I don’t have any complaints about the sound quality and find listening to music through this player to be enjoyable. I clip the player to my jeans pocket while I’m sitting at my desk or walking around and have not have any problems with the shuffle in the time that I’ve been testing it. The switches all worked as indicated. Dave Rees has had a different experience though…

I use my Shuffle solely for running and working out. I have used a 2nd Gen Shuffle since they came out; its form factor, lightweight, and controls are ideal for running. That said, the sleek design of Apple’s latest Shuffle tempted me so much I bought one the first day they were available at my local Apple Store. I got it home, charged it, and loaded it with my favorite running tunes. Since it was dumping down rain (Seattle), I did my first few runs on my treadmill/running machine….a very controlled environment.

During these runs, after a while, the volume progressively maxed-out. Additionally, the remote would fail to respond (aka, I attempted to lower the volume but to no avail) to any input at all. I used my first 3rd generation Shuffle 3-4 times (each time with the volume maxing out and the remote becoming unresponsive) before returning it back to the Apple Store. The Genius Bar person very nicely gave me a brand new Shuffle, earbuds, and sync cable. So, my hope was that my first Shuffle was defective and the issue was not how the new design of the Shuffle interacted with my running.

I got my second Shuffle all charged & good to go. I was 5 minutes into my run when the volume went to max and the remote failed to respond…. I tried it several times and the same thing happened each time. My theory is that since the remote control bumps against my neck as I run, it caused the + volume to continuously be activated. Thus not allowing other input to be given because the + has been hit so many times that other inputs are not accepted.

This was so frustrating, I returned my second 3rd generation with no regret at all. And was glad to be done with it and extremely happy to go back to my 2nd generation shuffle, which has better controls with none of the hassles.

It would be interesting to hear from other people that have purchased this latest shuffle and also run with it. Have you noticed the same problems that Dave has?

Although I’m a big fan of Apple products, this is one that I’m going to suggest skipping unless you love Apple’s stock earbuds and don’t plan on running with it. I wonder what we’ll see next year with next gen player…


Product Information

  • VoiceOver feature
  • Very small
  • Cool Apple style
  • Can't use third party earbuds to control player
  • Running with this player can cause involuntary volume activation
  • No display
  • Proprietary charge / sync cable

58 thoughts on “iPod Shuffle 4GB Review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. Apple chooses form over function again. Shocking. They could have extended the Shuffle half and inch and included a USB adapter right on it (like a billion USB flash drives already do). That way, when I’m traveling, I wouldn’t need to remember to being their USB plug.

    But really, the lack of controls are a deal breaker. Apple’s poorly made earbuds don’t sound good, and won’t stay in my ears. I realize that other, better vendors will soon offer earbuds that work with the Shuffle, but the fact that I can’t use my perfect, $50 earbuds that work with every other device I own — and instead am expected to spend another $50 just because Apple insisted on crippling the new Shuffle — is unacceptable.

    I’ll stick with my 2nd gen Shuffle until it dies, thanks. Then I’ll switch to Creative Zen: replaceable batteries, nice screen, and standard earphone jack — what more could I want?

  3. For runners (and walkers) I recommend the Sansa Clip. For the same amount of money you get: (1) an OLED screen; (2) FM Radio; and (3) recording capability. No, you can’t play AAC files, but it takes everything else. I still have my first generation Ipod shuffle and dont’ think Apple ever really improved upon it.

  4. I ordered one for running. For running the user interface was close to perfect in my opinion. You don’t have to read a tiny screen or find tiny controls on your device (or take your gloves off to use your ipod). However my shuffle opted to run down twice after running 1 hour 45 min. Either specs do not meet reality or there might have been a moisture or low temperature issue. Well while I liked the device I returned it.. It should definitely run longer than I do..

  5. This thing sucks. Most people who will buy it are nothing but Apple Fanboys. I think that Apple in general are starting to make a lot of one-time-fans-now-haters. And i am one of them. Maybe Hate is too harsh… Strong disliking sounds a bit better. They are putting themselves too far into their little bubble thinking that people will come to them and they dont have to come to us. They have some things that are really good and work well. And other things they make impossible for some to get… ($$)

  6. Apple will be releasing a control fob for the iPod touch soon that will allow you to use 3rd party head phones. Also, a lot of head phone manufacturers are releasing headphones with the controls built in soon.

  7. I don’t understand Apple’s obsession with upgrading the shuffle. I agree with you, Julie. The first gen was fine. I’d be scared of swallowing this one if I was listening to it 🙂

  8. This is my first i pod shuffle. What a shame it been such a bad product to get stared with. Have had 4 sets of head phone in a little over 35 days happy it not costing me as i paid for product protection. only use mine to workout and have tried all the fixes out there. Tape, shrink wrap and puting a loop in right ear bud. wish i had a 2nd gen shuffle to fall back on. Any new idea?

  9. continuous problems with the in-line control…I GIVE UP! The bummer is I am out of town with no apple stores within reach…no music until I return home and get my money back.

  10. Great comments, I have nothing but problems since I’ve had worked great for about 3 weeks, and then shutsdowns after 40 min with a voice saying “All Music” I’ve tried restoring it 4 different times thinking it was the music I was loading on there. Loaded strictly on tunes from the Apple Istore and still have problems. Nothings worse then going on jog or snowboarding and having your Ipod go out within 40min of getting started.

  11. After losing my 2nd gen shuffle (which I had NO problems with), I purchased the 3rd gen. I had problems with my 3rd gen shuffle within 2 weeks. I clipped it to my t-shirt collar when I used the treadmill at the gym. The volume kept maxing out and the voice over kept coming on during the music causing it to skip and start over again. I took it back to Apple store where they exchanged for a new one. Now this one won’t charge. It is perpetually blinking yellow for 5 days now. I will take this back one back too and will return to using my regular ipod. It’s too bad as I love the small size of the 3rd gen as it is perfect for exercising.

  12. I have the latest shuffle for over 2 months now with no problems…yet… but I have a friend who happens to work for the Apple Store here in Miami and , yes, he has had people return to the shuffle due to the volume malfunctions and also he reports that the new shuffle is selling poorly. I spoke to him about what the people reporting the volume and they all happen to be runners and gym goers. As per him, no reports directly from Apple about this but he and the other staff believe that sweat gets into the cord controls causing the control problems. I checked my shuffle and there is a small gap between the headphone cord and the control and, yeap, I can see sweat getting in there.

  13. I tried 3 of the new generation shuffles to run with and all 3 malfunctioned exactly as others described. Apple offered to replace it with a new Nano at no extra cost to me. This is acceptable but I really liked the size and clip for running. I hope they figure it out.

  14. Oh, boy I just wrote a review here about the shuffle and…guess what…the volume problem happened to me over the weekend!!!! I was at the gym doing cardio and sweating pretty badly when all of a sudden the voice over starting repeating the name of the song over and over again then the volume became loud the cord controls stopped working!!!! I definitely believe now it is the sweat getting into the cord controls because the cord had sweat on it. I let the chord dry off and wiped it dry and in about an hour…it began working again…I can’t return mine because it is past the return time…..aaaahhhh!!!!

  15. Same problem here. Sweat gets into the volume control. This is a fact. I popped it open and it was wet and shorting out. Volume goes up, or off, or keeps repeating the song name.

    Bought another 2nd Gen. It’s sitting here on my desk. Works fine, except for workouts which is the only place I ever use my shuffle.

  16. Don’t buy this shuffle if you want it for the gym or running. Like others here, I got one purely for that reason and the headphones keep repeating songs, speaking the tracks, and not responding after about 30 minutes running. Avoid.

  17. A simple way to use your own headphones with the Apple shuffle 4 gb 3rd generation player is to use a splitter with the apple headphones on one side & your superior headphones on the other. Simple but effective.!

  18. matt in farmers branch

    I’ve jogged for years now with my 2nd gen shuffle and all was good. I figured i’d get the upgrade for the sweet features.

    After a week or two the stupid thing would stop after about 30 minutes. You couldn’t turn it back on or anything. The next day it works fine. ALSO, the headphones suck. I may have gotten sweat in them or something as certain notes sound sorta like static. I’ve reverted back to my old shuffle…

    If you want to jam out and jog/workout, don’t buy this crappy shuffle.

  19. I wanted to get something to use when I hit the gym. The volume will no longer decrease, it is stuck on max level. It is a horrible design putting the controls on the headset.

  20. I did find a way around it, restore it to factory settings…..it is not the greatest way of fixing the volume, but I guess it works.

  21. Hi guys,

    I just got my 3rd Gen Shuffle today and the remote volume control + and – does not respond. Any advice???? The center button is working tho.

  22. I received the shuffle and the earbuds w/controls for my birthday in June. It is July 27th and I have had the shuffle replaced once for a new shuffle and replaced again with a new nano. I have gone through 5 sets of earphones, all with the same control malfunction issues. I just called Apple today and they are sending me a pair of Bose earbuds, which are the only ones they carry without the control. Hopefully this will be the last replacement, as I just want it to work!!!

  23. I guess maybe i have the worst problem…. i am in Brazil (where there is poor and spensive service) and for my surprise a got a problem with the earphone… when you increase the volume the left side stop working and just the right side works then you can decrease the volume level and the left side still does not work anymore… and this remains untill you reset the iPod trought iTunes than works again… then you put all your sogs back to iPod again and if you increase the volume or play some strong song the left earphone goes away again…. i definitely does not recommend this version of iPod Shuffle… its strange the how can the price of this version its so close to the 1G an 2G versions… in my opinion its a bullshit project of apple… and them cant put it on the trash…. its a shame, the idea was nice… but probally the next releases can be better than mine….

  24. Moisture getting into the control and putting it down. Had the same problem twice: total loss of control. Looks like rock album title. Apple replaced the first one and now the replacement has the same problem. Just bad design. Why doesn’t Apple do a very simple design modification: put the control at the other end of the chord, near the player instead? Over there sweat would probably get into the control…

  25. Moisture getting into the control and putting it down. Had the same problem twice: total loss of control. Looks like rock album title. Apple replaced the first one and now the replacement has the same problem. Just bad design. Why doesn’t Apple do a very simple design modification: put the control at the other end of the chord, near the player instead? Over there sweat wouldn’t probably get into the control…

  26. This is a piece of crap. I’ll explain…

    It’s common sense that anyone buying the device would want to use it while getting exercise. I think Apple’s own advertising alludes to this. However, if you attempt to do this and like any normal person sweat (even a little), the thing will stop working. The problem is that the headset cannot tolerate water vapor in the air and will short-circuit and quit functioning. The unit itself is fine, but the headset gets toasted just 20-30 minutes into any reasonable workout since it’s exposed to the air’s moisture. It’s not necessary for water to actually touch it…water in the air is sufficient.

    Unfortunately, you have to use the Apple headset since this shuffle model requires that you use the control in the cable…there are no controls in the unit itself. Hence, you’re at the mercy of the Apple headset.

    I’ve gone through three replacement headsets, provided free of charge from Apple at their “genius bar” and all of them screw up like this. This is in spite of the people there telling me that they’ve “finally solved the problem” and the headset they’re giving me “should work”. BS. Apple’s not solving the problem as far as I can tell….hence I’m stuck with an mp3 player that’s dysfunctional for the main reason I, and many people, would use it…to listen to music while exercising.

    It’s not just me….Google the relevant terms and you’ll get a lot of hits. Here are some postings from Apple’s own forum:


    I’m quite pissed about this. Apple needs to fix this or offer a recall. MY ADVICE: DON’T BUY THIS UNTIL APPLE’S FIXED IT

  27. The new ishuffle is inherently poor. I have just gone through my third unit with the same problems. What is the most frustrating aspect is the total denial by Apple that there is a problem.

  28. I have had the new shuffle for about 3 weeks now – it’s my first Ipod so I didn’t buy it because i am an Apple fanboy but because i wanted something really light weight to run with. I had been using a Creative stone which worked fine for 5 months but i wanted something smaller. I can confirm that 20 mins into any run the new shuffle starts to go haywire – jumping tracks, the voice coming in and out all the time, volume going up and down. It’s absolutely to do with sweat/moisture. The controls are just placed in the wrong position – far too near to parts of the skin that sweat will run off. If i leave the shuffle to dry off, it runs fine again. Considering that it seems this shuffle was designed for joggers or sports people since you don’t need to look at a screen, the controls are in a pretty stupid place. It needs a whole new rethink and definitely isn’t suitable for use in any place it may get damp.

  29. Same problem as above. Bought it yesterday for HKD 450 and went hiking today. I think sweat entered the volume control and now, the middle button works but I can’t increase or decrease the volume.

    I am quite disappointed. I think I am just going to buy a cheap Chinese made Mp3 device and use that rough and tough. It’ll probably last longer!!

  30. I disposed of my Ipod touch because it was malfunctioning and bought the 3rd gen Ipod roughly 5 days ago. I went running today and when I was finished the controls were not working I couldnt pause or control the volume. Quite Frankly Im dissapointed in apple this device IMO would be Ideal for us runner but they totally missed it up.. Good thing I purchased a 2 year warranty on it Im going back tomorrow and returning it and purchasing a new Mp3 with a clip (either 2nd Gen or a Sansa clip)

  31. Oh thank goodness, I thought it was just me. I am clumsy ,so I assumed i did something like look at it funny. Mine doesn’t max out though, it mins out. I might try that Scosche thing.


  33. I have read the comments and have only had mine (4 gig) 2 weeks and it has not worked since day one, I am taking it back. Unfortunately I gave a number of these for Xmas presents as well. Mine will max out volume on one walk and min out volume on another, the volume control simply does not work after day one. After 10 hours of charging on my laptop it only goes for about 1 hour! I cannot believe apple has released these with so many issues unaddressed. I have purchased ipods for Xmas presents from day one of the 40 gig big version, I expected this mini to be of the same quality of every other family members and my wife’s other models. We all have not one but a number of ipods, the one I first bought my daughter was 2005 and still goes strong today with no battery issues, same as my wife’s. This new model appears to be faulty and released that way and apple should be ashamed for dumping it on an unsuspecting group of apples consumers… Shame, shame, shame apple hang your heads, you have lost us all in my family (about 20 ipods collectively) forever, I don’t trust apple anymore. Collectively we have every model of ipods and some family members have 3 different model each, for different purposes.

  34. I purchased the 4G 3rd Gen shuffle. After 2nd workout, same as all other posters. The controls on the cord short out as soon as you start to perspire. I found this website form another poster,
    http://www.swimman.com/ I had to pay $40, but they sell water-proofed Apple headphones. Other posters gave good reviews. hated to spend the extra, but I love the IPod and the 4G worth of storage. Still have my 2n gen iPod, but with only 1G I wanted the new design and storage space. Apple needs to waterproof these controls and release the replacement headsets.

  35. I’ve had 2 of the 3rd gen shuffles now…and I’m awaiting #3 as both of the other devices went bad. The ‘Genius Bar’ guys were baffled at both Apple stores I’ve taken mine to, saying there have been no issues like mine they could find on the Apple website…BUT clearly in reading the above, there have been plenty of issues. My experience is exactly like what I’ve read above…every time both units have gone out was during running and when I’ve started to sweat. The volume gets oppressively loud, or progressively softer until it can’t be heard, the volume controls and forward/backward don’t work, or the ‘all songs’, ‘playlist 1’, ‘playlist 2’ gets repeated over and over again, or the thing just doesn’t work at all.
    One poster above mentioned that Apple just replaced her stock earbuds with Bose ones and that fixed the problem…has anyone else gotten Apple to do that, too?
    I bought one of the Skosche devices too, but I did it to be able to use some decent earpieces…not to spend another $30 to fix a problem Apple clearly needs to do.

  36. This is my First iPod and Shuffle 3rd gen so far so good on me. Excerpt to Low Quality Earphone sound. I still waiting Scosche IDR350M and I will tested, some review on IDR350M said this product have nice quality sound and confort

  37. Plz anyone help me i have ipod shuffle. but now its earphone control not working. only +Vol button working. and othere buttons are not working

  38. I agree that this Ipod SUCKS! I run and bike and the ear buds are junk – they won’t stay in your ears running. The control on the headset is going to cause serious bike accident for me having to always look down at 30 miles an hour to try and change the volume or song selection. I’ve used shuffle since they came out and have been pleased with them all (not the headphones) I went back to the store that i purchased it at and the only advice I got was to buy a nano and strap it to my arm. Are you freaking serious? Apple needs to do something quick to fix these issues (like bring back the old one for crying out loud!)

  39. This shuffle sucks. I am on my 3rd head set. I too use it in warm conditions and think this is the problem From reading about I am convinced it has something to do with sweat. I had two iPods before this I wore on Lanyards. The first one quit and I sent it back to Apple. They looked in the earphone jack and said it had been submerged. Apparently something in there turns red when sweat gets in there. The second one same thing but I didn’t waste my time sending to Apple. This time I am going to send them all to Steve Jobs and have him put them on an engineer where the sun doesn’t shine. I have had it with them.

  40. Yes, i am a runner and have had exactly the same problems with the new shuffle where the unit becomes progressively unresponsive to the cord controls. I had the cord running on the inside of my tshirt to stop it banging about – bad move i see now. Twice i sent it back to Apple who declared nothing was wrong with the unit. New headphones initially solved problem but progressively it came back. Thankyou to KMart where i purchased it from for giving me a refund – NOT TO APPLE.

  41. Same issues as other runners. Headphones are bad enough (got them replaced twice at the Genius bar). Tried other headphones, but it’s not enough. If the unit itself is exposed to any moisture it will stop working. Totally useless for any form of exercise, which you’d think it was intended for. Shocking design faults from Apple, and their inability to own-up to any problem is just not good enough. Fed-up with hardware faults with Apple products, won’t buy any more.

  42. are there other earphones out now that work with this shuffle? mine are broken already and i badly need to replace them! thanks 🙂

  43. I had the exact same issue as Dave did. My friends who had the same thing didn’t though. That was because they used it in doors at their desk only. In cold weather or in heat that comes off your body when working out damages the mic/volume function. Also, i think the Mic/Volume function on the ear buds go out no matter what after 3 months. That means I have to spend $30-39 each quarter which will exceed the actual cost of the product. REALLY SUCKS! I can’t find other ear buds with the same function. I bought the item Nov. 2009 and can’t return it. Even more so because I had the back engraved like an moron.

  44. I’ll the complaining is great, and I too am having the same difficulty. However I think solutions would rather be read than basically the same complaint being vented by hundreds of people. Anyway if someone sane out there has a path to take to satisfication from the 3rd Gen shuffle problem please post.

    P.S. my shuffle also only blinks orange..


  45. I repaired one remote control piece: usually the two wires of the right side earphone are going to heaven under the button panel, during the contionus small twisting cable movement between the earphone and the remote. Was a hard job, but somehow managed

  46. I bought a new iPod shuffle and within a month or so the left earphone suddenly went extremely quiet although everything else works. I have found new earphones are extremely expensive but there is now an adaptor that you can by for normal earphones so you can use your own without losing control of your iPod. Other than that I love my little iPod and hope to use it much in the future 🙂

  47. I was so excited by this release, I’ve been using the 2gb for ages, its great for running and cycling, its so small and light. But only using their crappy headphones? Are you kidding me? I tried the sansa clip, which was a nightmare, so faulty!

    I guess this is another product line that I wont be investing in any further (Im on iTunes 10.7 and shall never “upgrade” again).

    Im glad I read a full review on these before I went out and bought one!

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