Apple quietly released a new iPod Shuffle on Wednesday, and much to the surprise of tech pundits and Apple fans, the company moved the controls of the device from the face of the Shuffle to the cord of the earbuds it bundles with the iPod.
According to Apple, anyone who wants to use their own third-party headphones will be required to purchase a third-party Shuffle-controlling dongle that will attach to both the iPod and the headphones.
It didn't take long for the blogosphere to erupt and start saying that this is like the recessed iPhone jack of 2009, in reference to the first-generation iPhone earbud jack that required an adapter for some headphones. When that was announced, Apple caught fire until the second-generation iPhone featured a standard jack.
And now it's happening again. I spent 30 minutes last night looking around the Web, trying to find reactions to this so-called "debacle," and more often than not, I read posts on blogs or complaints on Twitter saying that an additional $15 to $20 for a dongle is ridiculous and that it eliminates all the value of the iPod Shuffle.
I considered that argument and found it flawed.
The new iPod Shuffle costs $79. If you decide to use the bundled earbuds, that's all you'll be spending on a 4GB device with a slim form factor and iTunes compatibility. If you already have headphones you like more than those earbuds, you'll be forced to pay an approximate grand total of $99 before tax to own an iPod Shuffle and use your existing headphones.
Maybe I'm missing something, but when did $99 for an iPod become too expensive? Look, I realize that it's not the $79 price tag, but what are you going to do--go out and buy an MP3 player from another company because you don't want to pay an additional $20 to use your own pair of headphones?
If I want to save money by buying a Shuffle, which is $70 cheaper than the low-end iPod Nano, I have no cause to complain, if I'm still able to save $50 with the additional dongle. Any way I look at it, I'm getting a new iPod with quite a bit of storage at a price that's much cheaper than the next model up.
From a business perspective, this move makes perfect sense. Executives at companies like Griffin and Belkin are probably salivating at the thought of being able to produce dongles for third-party headphones. It's just another iPod "necessity" that these companies can release and profit from.
I realize that it's annoying that iPod owners might need to buy an extra dongle to control their new iPod Shuffle with their third-party headphones and the extra cost is tough to swallow at first, but if we put things into perspective, I think that it becomes blatantly clear that we're still saving money by buying a Shuffle, and to be quite honest, it's the most purchase-worthy iPod Shuffle Apple has released in years.
Sorry, but for an additional $20 that will still deliver cost savings of $50 compared to an iPod Nano, I don't understand the outcry. No one is forcing you to use third-party headphones, and even if you want to have that luxury, you're still saving quite a bit by not buying a Nano.
With or without that extra dongle, the iPod Shuffle is still a great deal.