The new Shuffle is half the size of the previous -- a feat achieved by removing nearly all of the controls off the device itself and onto the headphone cable. Only the Off/Repeat/Shuffle switch stays on device. In other words -- don't plan on using your own headphones with the Shuffle. While that's a bit of a downer, the upside is that the headphone controls are very thoughtfully laid-out and easy to hit without looking.
VoiceOver and how the controls work -- after the break!
VoiceOver is pretty darn clever. It actually gets created on your PC or Mac and then synced over to the Shuffle with your music. The upshot is that Apple has managed to add the feature without having to ask too much of the little device. The voice you hear will therefore depend on what type of computer you sync to.
Back to controls: the are three buttons. Volume up and down is pretty obvious, then there's the middle button. A single click starts and stops music, a double click advances tracks. Holding down the middle button activates VoiceOver, which reads title and artist. Holding it down even longer activates a beep and then the Shuffle reads through your playlists, you can click to select the one you want.
In all, it's a pretty neat little iPod, available now (ships within a week), for $79. Unclear is whether or not the feature is going to be made available to other iPods or the iPhone. Given that the heavy lifting of creating VoiceOver happens on the computer instead of the iPod, it seems like a no-brainer. It might be a little more dicey with the iPhone and iPod Touch, though, since you're able to download music directly.
Any iPhone owners out there thinking of supplementing their Apple music phone with an Apple music gadget?