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This iPod Shuffle is a disaster

Apple is known for offering products with great designs. But in the case of the new third-generation iPod Shuffle it made some strange--and bad--choices.

The controls for the new iPod Shuffle are built into the headphone cord, which means you can only use Apple's earbuds. Apple

Updated at 11:30 a.m. PDT with info on Apple allowing third-parties to make accessories.

Let me start by saying that I'm a fan of the iPod Shuffle. I run with one and I just recently bought a second refurbished gen-two Shuffle for $30 to give to my brother. But with the new gen-three Shuffle, Apple made some design decisions I just can't understand.

First off, the old Shuffle was small enough. There's small--and then there's too small. Yeah, it's great that the gen-three Shuffle is the size of a small USB thumbdrive, but the smaller the device is, the easier it is to lose. I feel the same way about microSD memory cards. It's great that they're tiny, but they end up disappearing really easily whenever you take them out of your phone (or other device).

But the size thing is a minor infraction compared to what Apple did with the controls for this new Shuffle: it moved them to the cord of the headphones it bundles with the device (see video demo on this page). The only problem is I--and a lot of other people--simple can't use or don't like the earbuds that ship with iPods. We want to use our own headphones, particularly if we're using the Shuffle as an "active" MP3 player. The fact is the Apple buds just don't stay in your ears when you're running with the Shuffle (and yes, the new smaller form factor should appeal to runners).

As for the whole voice-over feature, it just seems like one of those "cool" innovations that isn't really necessary for a basic MP3 player--and I don't particularly want to hear a computerized voice in my ear announcing songs. In other words, I don't see it as a big selling point (the simpler thing to do would have been to just add a small display like competing entry-level models do). The generous 4GB of memory doesn't do much for me either, because without a display storing more than a few hundred songs on a Shuffle seems like overkill.

Now, Apple does say third-parties will be able to sell their own headphones that have the controls built-in as well as adapters that will allow you to use your own headphones with the new Shuffle. But that would just add another $15-$30 to the $79 price tag. So, thanks very much, Apple, but I'll stick with my second-generation Shuffle.

What do you guys think?