Apple Extends its Closed Music Ecosystem to Earbuds   -   March 13, 2009

I'm a huge fan of the original Apple Shuffle. The one with the USB plug built right into it, so I didn't have to carry (and lose) a custom charging and sync cable. I still own three of them, and often have one in close proximity. The arrival of the 2nd generation shuffle disappointed me, since the killer feature for me was the built-in USB plug. The 2nd gen shuffle used a new custom cable which was not mini-usb, and not the same as the larger ipods. Apple's Shuffle team has dug deeper into the hole and made a 3rd generation device which not only requires a custom charge cable, but also requires the Apple supplied headphones to navigate. Yuck.

I don't use the Apple supplied headphones for any of my music players. They simply hurt my ears, and fortunately there is a blooming market of different music listening options. I used Shure earphones for a while, but found them heavy and expensive, so I switched to these cheap, light, and comfortable Sony Fontopia earphones which are just perfect for me.

If I made the mistake of buying a 3rd generation shuffle, I wouldn't be able to switch songs because Apple has blunderously remove all controls from the device itself. Rumors have it that they will have a dongle-control cable which you can insert between the shuffle and your custom headphones to solve this problem. However, even with a custom dongle, their new control scheme is already receiving cricism for resembling morse code. These mistakes are somewhat irrelevant when you consider that I likely wouldn't be able to keep either the 2nd or 3rd generation shuffle charged because it requires a custom charge/sync cable.

In fact, I have a growing graveyard of products which don't work simply because I've lost my resolve to keep track of all these custom chargers and cables. Products that survive either have a USB connector built-in (original Apple Shuffle, flip video camcorder), or use a standard mini-usb cable to charge/sync (Sony PRS-505 reader, Android G1, Blackberry Curve, Motorola W755 Flip Phone, Canon Powershot cameras, Gamin Nuvi 650 GPS).

Products with custom charge cables that have entered my graveyard of chargelessness include the Sony PRS-500 reader, Kindle1, Sony PSP, Nintendo DS, Apple Nano, Apple iPhone. I regret that one day even my much loved primary phone, the LG VX8600 will enter the graveyard when it's custom AC adaptor becomes misplaced. I assure you my next primary phone will charge via mini-usb.

Fortunately, there is a whole bevy of mp3 players which brilliantly include a USB connector, including the Sony Walkman MP3, Creative Labs MuVo T100 4GB, SanDisk Sansa Express 2GB, Coby MP305-4GB, and the curious TrekStor i.Beat xtension which allows SD-card memory expansion. Sadly, we need to break the back of Apple's iTunes store / iTunes Software / Apple player lockup to make these players as viable as those from Apple. Support wallmart and

Apple, the 3rd gen shuffle is a step backwards. Put the buttons back on the device. Bring back the USB connector, or at least use mini-USB so those of us who have exhausted of custom cables can buy your products.

Posted by jeske at March 13, 2009 10:56 AM