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Random Access Memories: iPod shuffle

A trip back to 2005

Weighing just 22g, the original iPod Shuffle could hold 240 songs. That might sound a bit rubbish in the Spotify era, but it’s still 12 hours of music…

…or roughly half a Pink Floyd track.

Another showcase of Apple’s amazing design skills: the USB stick-of-gum iPod!

Look here – we’ll have nothing said against the first-generation iPod Shuffle, which is now 15 years young. Sure, it was a bit weird to see Apple start selling an iPod without a screen… and a scroll wheel… and any apps… and even basic playlist management. But you could argue that iTunes automatically filling it at random with songs from your collection was remarkably prescient.

After all, who bothers managing music these days? We all just use a streaming service and have it pump whatever it chooses into our ears 24/7.

I have more discerning tastes. Plus the Shuffle looked like the Siri Remote. Bleh!

Arguably, the iPod Shuffle’s a better design than the Apple TV remote – at least when holding it, you can instantly figure out which way up it is.

Anyway, Apple quickly iterated on this design. 18 months later, a radically different follow-up emerged in the shape of a clip you could attach to your clothes or, if you were feeling particularly weird, ear lobe. Admittedly, the thing needing an oddball proprietary docking station was annoying, but it showed Apple really did have some amazing design skills. So there.

Explain the third-gen, then – the most ‘Apple’ iPod ever, and in the worst possible way.

Fair enough – that was an ‘innovation’ too far, not only removing the screen, but also the controls, and making the device small enough to lose down the back of an atom.

Still, Apple realised its error and released a masterful second take on the clip design, which was sold for nearly seven years. Plus all the iPod Shuffles were pretty much indestructible. You could hurl one out of the window, or run the thing over with a car and it’d be just fine. Try that with your shiny new smartphone and see how well it fares.