I have a few topics to cover in this post, including my thoughts on Apple’s new iPod Shuffle, Amazon’s WhisperSync technology, and the Kindle 2.

Shuffle

The new iPod shuffle has been met with mixed feelings from me. It is a good concept: take a very compact flash drive, and put a headphone jack on it. Controls? Put them on the headphones. As much as I love the headphone controls, really, I do, I do sometimes like to use my Bose headphones, considering how much better they sound, and their noise canceling abilities. Supposedly there will be an adapter coming out, but still, that means I have to pay more to use my own headphones, that I already paid for. Not to say that that is Apple’s fault, but it’s not exactly going to be met with resonating applause from all the QC3 owners out there. So in essence, I’m saying Apple messed this up, and even if it really isn’t their problem, they are going to be getting a lot of complaints about it. I’m curious if they’ll be allowing third part headphone manufacturers to add the extra controls to their products: if so, this might be salvageable.

The design of the shuffle is great, overall. I like the simplicity, and the aluminum casing. They fit well with all of the new Apple product lines. The clip seems like an effective way to carry it around, instead of losing it in the depths of your pocket. I think them claiming it to be a fashion statement might be overdoing it, but you know, they’re entitled to saying whatever they want. Oh, and when they say that it is the first mp3 player to speak to you…they’re making a false claim. One of their own products, the iPod Nano, already can speak its menus to you. But since both products come from Apple…is this okay? I don’t honestly care.

WhisperSync

This is totally my new favorite thing. With the new Kindle 2 which I have gotten my hands on, as well as the Kindle iPhone app, Amazon’s WhisperSync technology has been proving itself time and time again. Purchase a book on the Kindle, open the iPhone app, the book is there. Purchase a book online, it’s on both devices next time I look. This is the kind of system that Apple should have going with the iTunes Store. Amazon allows you to add devices to your Amazon account, and all your purchases are synchronized between all of the devices without you even knowing a thing. This could work perfectly for the iTunes Store, seriously. Apple can still have their happy little limit on authorizations, but that’s not what you would call it. You’d call them devices. And no more transferring songs to your other computer, or syncing them to your iPod (assuming you have one of the WiFi capable models, if not, you’re still stuck with the USB cord.) Why didn’t Apple do this?

Part of the elegance of the system is the fact that it is completely unobtrusive. You never have to sit and wait for progress bars, watch a locked screen while something syncs, or press the refresh/sync button 10 times before it recognizes your need for synchronization.

No, I don’t want this to be part of MobileMe. I don’t think it should need to be a paid service. The infrastructure is there, Apple just needs to build off of it.

Kindle 2

My family got a Kindle 2 to test a few days ago. My experiences have been mixed, and thus, I will join the army of bloggers faithfully reviewing the device.

The readability of the e-ink screen is brilliant. It causes no strain on my eyes at all, and this made the purchase worthwhile by itself. Having to look at a digital screen for hours is always what prevented me from reading e-books. Now I can. The paging through books is easy and simple as well, which made reading through a fiction novel a breeze.

Now for the downside: the UI is the worst I’ve ever had to deal with. The “5 Way Controller” is basically what you would expect from a Palm Pilot or Blackberry, 5 years ago. And the response time of the system is way too slow to know if what you’re doing is actually having any effect on the device. Maybe a throbber progress meter up in the menubar, just to clarify when it is working out a task? Something so simple as that would make the experience of navigating the UI much less frustrating. Hopefully software updates will be released to improve the usability of the interface, because as of now, it is something I dread using. Like I said, the actual reading part is great, but the rest of the user experience is full of small failures to communicate between the user and the device. Amazon: please fix the UI. Hire a UI designer.

That’s all for now folks, please share your thoughts in the comments (and spammers, enjoy the reCAPTCHA filter).