The iPod shuffle is really small, and the serial number printed on its back is teeny tiny. This presents a challenge to iPod owners of a certain age who need to read that serial number for any reason, such as when getting service. Luckily, Apple provides helpful tips on how to make out your iPod shuffle's serial number:
Locate it on the barcode label that's affixed to the original packaging.
Your product invoice or receipt may list the iPod shuffle serial number.
Use a magnifying glass to see the smaller print.
Connect iPod shuffle to your computer and open iPod Updater 2005-01-11 or later. It will display the iPod shuffle's serial number.
iPod shuffle is the first iPod with no real-time clock. So what? Well, that means you can't use it to find out what time it is. Of course, that's a little tricky anyway, because there's no display. More importantly, no clock means the iPod shuffle can't update the "Last Played" time and date for songs. So if you have a smart playlist in iTunes that checks to see when a song was last played, with criteria like this:
At the Macworld keynote last week, Steve Jobs re-announced and showed pictures of a Motorola phone running iTunes. With all the other new products that appeared in the keynote, the phone announcement was kind of lost in the shuffle. ;-) Although we don't have many details yet, iPodlounge has a good summary of the Moto iTunes phone status.
iTunes 4.7.1 (the new version that you need for an iPod shuffle) includes a new option labeled "Keep this iPod in the source list". What's up with that? When you check this box, and then unplug the iPod shuffle, the iPod doesn't disappear from the iTunes source list, as ejected iPods always have before. It sticks around whether the iPod is there or not.
What is this phantom iPod good for? Even though the iPod isn't there, you can mess around with its music library: add or delete songs, create a new list with Autofill, even change the song order. The next time you connect the iPod, it will update to reflect the changes you made. Handy! One of the iPod folks I talked to at Macworld called this "shadow mode".
One problem: the iPod icon in the source list looks exactly the same to me whether the iPod is connected or not. If there is a difference, it's too subtle to see. The icon should turn gray or fade in some way to show that there's not really an iPod there.
In iTunes 4.7.1, shadow mode works only with iPod shuffle, not with any hard disk iPods. Seems like it could be useful for big iPods too.
UPDATE: A friend pointed out that we already have something like this for hard disk iPods: playlists. Unless your hard disk iPod is in manual update mode, it's set to sync with playlists in your iTunes library. You're free to change those playlists even when the iPod is not connected, and all changes flow to the iPod when you sync. You can even think of shadow mode as a substitute for this feature, because the iPod shuffle has no playlists.
I few weeks ago I imagined what kind of flash-based iPod Apple might make that wouldn't "end up in a drawer", as Steve Jobs famously described the competition last year. So how lame was I? Let's take a look.
A 512Mb player holds about 125 songs using Apple's calculations, or about 8 hours of music. A 1Gb player gets you 250 songs, or about 16 hours of tunes.
Hey, I guessed the capacities right! And, I know how to multiply. Right on!
...if Apple could make a flash-based player that is somehow super-easy to update, it might be an interesting product. You could make iPod updating painless with a two-part solution: a new version of iTunes, and updating over WiFi. With WiFi in the iPod, you wouldn't have to remember to dock it, or even have it in the same room as the computer.
No WiFi, of course, and my hardware-savvy buddies ridiculed me for ever thinking that a little bitty iPod could handle the power requirements of WiFi. But there is a new version of iTunes that makes updating easier. I did some more predicting on that point.
A new version of iTunes could add features to smart playlists and the iPod interface, like a timer that says how often to update the iPod -- like "every day, replace the songs I've listened to with fresh ones" -- and an assistant-type interface that makes it easier to build smart playlists for small capacity players.
My solution is a little overwrought, but iTunes 4.7.1 did add AutoFill, a super-easy way to pick tunes for your iPod. So I was, let's say, 47.1% right. (And by the way: adding a whole new feature to the UI only merits a second-level dot release of iTunes? I guess something serious must be in store for iTunes 4.8 [or perhaps 5.0]).
And just to make it even more drop-dead simple, we might not even have playlists on our flash-based iPod, just a music library.
And so we do! Another lucky guess for me.
With the updating problem solved, Apple's industrial design could really go crazy with a flash-based iPod. It could be smaller than a mini (click wheel + 2 or 3 line display, a la iTunes), thinner, and with better battery life. And if you think the mini is tiny-sexy, imagine the appeal of this one -- the iPod pocket.
It certainly is smaller than a mini! And there sure is a small display -- vanishingly small. ;-) Looks like I didn't quite Think Different enough. And although the iPod shuffle fits in your pocket, my guess at the product name was dead wrong.
Let's make them in six great colors. At $199, even people who already have iPods would try to figure out how to justify buying an iPod pocket.
No six great colors, way off on $199 (in a good way), and as for people who already have iPods buying the new ones -- well, what do you think?
Even though I blew it on the wireless docking, I still think that's a killer feature for the future. Unfortunately, Bluetooth is too slow and WiFi too power hungry, so I don't know how you could fix this one. C'mon, iPod hardware geniuses! The iPod shuffle is a feather-light device, both in form and function, but plugging it into your computer to update songs is a relatively heavyweight operation. That goes for software too, because you have to wait for iTunes to launch (if it isn't running already), and in my experience it doesn't always launch automatically anyway. You could imagine a sort of "iTunes lite" that runs as a background application, then wakes up fast when you connect your iPod, pops up a progress window, does its syncing business, then goes away. As for the six great colors and the tiny display, I still think we'll see those on future members of the iPod shuffle family.
One more thing about the iPod shuffle: one of its best features is the word "iPod" on the box. I have a feeling that if Apple had started out with a no-screen music player, it might not be successful. But music lovers will give the iPod shuffle a chance in the first place because of its bigger siblings' success and Apple's current shining reputation, and that $99 price helps too.
With CES starting and Macworld coming next week, the iPod-related product announcements have started. According to engadget, TimeTrax has announced a new docking station that's a satellite radio time shifter. Cool, but Windows-only. Watch for zillions more new iPod products in the frenzy of the next week.