When the iPod Shuffle was originally marketed to us in San Francisco (Apple literally bought all bus and bus stop ad inventory in the city for a month) I didn't quite get it. I mean, shuffling had always been a feature of the full-size iPods. Maybe it was a stroke of genius calling out a pre-existing feature and positioning it as the impetus for buying a device. I began to think that the next step in the iPod evolution would be the introduction of the iPod On/Off with just one prominently featured button that controlled whether the device was powered or not.
That said, after buying an iPod Shuffle (500MB) I quickly began to see the beauty of this thing. While I had previously owned two full-size iPods (20GB and 40GB), and used them pretty frequently when commuting or working out, I had two main issues.
First, despite the conventional wisdom that everything Apple is a cakewalk of user experience, I always encountered bumps in the road as I tried to consolidate my music library and update it to my device. I consistently encountered errors along the way and needed to update the device with new firmware more than once. I think I even made a trip or two to the Apple store downtown to work out some kinks. The result of all of this was that, while I used my iPod frequently, I rarely, almost never updated the music on it. To do so required finding the USB adapter, having a full charge on the iPod itself, and then crossing fingers that the stars would align.
Second, it comes as no surprise that the full-size iPod, with its array of moving parts and fragile hard drive, gives up pretty easily when taken running, skiing, and mountain biking. In such cases, not only would playback be interrupted, but the Ipod often required a full reset to recover.
With the Shuffle, since there are no moving parts, it performs unhidered by the shock or shaking of any sport. Also, filling it up with music is pretty much a no-brainer. The Shuffle slides right into my USB port, no adapter or cable necessary. There is a setting by which the Shuffle grabs songs at random from the iTunes library. Otherwise, putting specific songs on it is no harder than drag and drop. . . . or so it would seem.
Yesterday, I attempted for the first time to load my Shuffle with podcasts from the recently launched directory at the iTunes store. Though I had listened to podcasts on my laptop itself courtesy of Ev's new venture Odeo, I had never pulled any of these audio feeds onto an iPod. iTunes makes it pretty easy to subscribe to new feeds and automatically grabs the last episode of each show. So, I signed up for four or five just to dip my toe in the water.
As I dragged these files onto my Shuffle, all appeared well and the file transfer went smoothly. Yet, as I removed the Shuffle to go for a run, none of the files on the device wanted to play. It powered up just fine, but no audio output at all. Zilch.
Thus began the frustratingly thorough process of eliminating each possible cause. New firmware updates, hard resets, other podcasts, different pair of headphones. Sigh. The breakthrough came when, on a whim, I added a few Beastie Boys hits to the queue for download to the Shuffle alongside the podcasts. This time it played the Beasties but the podcasts were nowhere to be found. What gives?!
Lo and behold, I eventually encountered the answer on Apple's site. Shuffle will not play podcasts in shuffle mode!
Update: I haven't updated my software, but if Apple's revised Shuffle support page is any indication, maybe they have pushed an update and fixed this.