Today Apple released a new form factor for the Shuffle with even smaller (!) physical size and larger capacity, plus a new VoiceOver function for navigating. The (3g?) Shuffle has shrunk to smaller than a typical house key, and is so tiny you can only control it via the included Apple earbud’s cord (yuck!). This suggests that you need to use Apple’s crappy earbuds, or some 3rd party head phones with compatible controls. The new Shuffle also has a 4GB capacity, the same as my old 1G iPod Nano. Apple currently is only offering two colors, grey and black. The Voice Over feature will announce the upcoming tune, and (for the first time) allow you to navigate through different playlists via CG voice choices. VoiceOver works in 14 languages, apparently.
My take - I haven’t seen or used one of these yet (nor do I have a shuffle), but I feel shrinking the shuffle further seems pointless. With the current monochrome color choices, these will be easy to misplace or lose entirely if you drop it. Limiting users to certain headphones with inset controls (or just Apple buds) also feels like a bad move. Those buttons on the Apple Earbuds look pretty tiny to me! The last gen Shuffles seemed just right for manipulating controls with average sized fingers, plus the color choice was good for individualization. My guess is the cost to manufacture the new Shuffle is considerably less, with very few moving parts in a one piece shell. However, until I can see one in person, I’ll hold further judgement.
UPDATE: Looks like you MUST use the Apple Earbuds, at least until 3rd party controllers step up. Plus using the new Shuffle ain’t no party compared to the last one. Engadget’s send up of the situtation is priceless. It’s seems analogous to using QuickSilver on a Mac with no keyboard or monitor - just audio output.