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What are the differences between the iPod shuffle 3rd Gen and the earlier iPod shuffle 2nd Gen?
Please note that all iPod models mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. The poorly received iPod shuffle 3rd Gen was replaced by the iPod shuffle 4th Gen on September 1, 2010.
The most notable difference between the iPod shuffle 3rd Gen models -- including the subsequently introduced "colors" iPod shuffle 3rd Gen line on September 9, 2009 -- and the earlier iPod shuffle 2nd Gen models is that the 3rd Gen eliminates the simple and straightforward controls from the body of the player.
Instead, the iPod shuffle 3rd Gen introduces an essentially three button controller -- volume up, volume down, and "action" (which varies depending on the number and duration of clicks) -- integrated with the headphone cable.
The iPod shuffle 3rd Gen also is the first iPod shuffle to support playlists -- groups of songs -- and introduces "VoiceOver" which speaks the title and artist of songs and playlists upon pressing the center "action" button (press and hold for the name of the song and the artist and press and hold until you hear a tone for the playlist).
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (2nd Gen - Left, 3rd Gen - Right)
These product images are not precisely to scale, but should provide a decent idea of the size difference. The second generation iPod shuffle is a tiny 1.07 inches tall, 1.62 inches wide, and 0.41 inches deep and the third generation iPod shuffle is an even smaller 1.8 inches tall, 0.7 inches wide, and 0.3 inches deep. Although it is not apparent from Apple's promotional shots above, the "clip" (with the Apple logo) on the iPod shuffle 3rd Gen has a mirrored finish.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (3rd Gen Colors, Stainless Steel Not Pictured)
Both use aluminum housings, but the second generation models were offered in a variety of colors, and the initial third generation models only were offered in silver or black. On September 9, 2009, however, Apple introduced new iPod shuffle 3rd Gen models in colors, which essentially are the same as the previous iPod shuffle 3rd Gen apart from the color options -- blue, green, and pink -- as new additions to the same black and silver colors offered previously and a new all stainless steel "Special Edition" as well.
Apple also eliminated the "dock" that shipped with the iPod shuffle 2nd Gen for connecting the device to a computer for the iPod shuffle 3rd Gen, and instead provides an extremely short headphone jack-to-USB cable for connectivity.
The iPod shuffle 2nd Gen was offered with 1 GB or 2 GB of storage, holding a reported 240 or 500 songs, respectively, and the iPod shuffle 3rd Gen originally was offered with 4 GB of storage, holding a reported 1000 songs. The "colors" iPod shuffle 3rd Gen models were available with 2 GB and 4 GB of storage, capable of holding 500 or 1000 songs, respectively.
The official estimated battery life of the iPod shuffle actually decreased by two hours -- 12 hours for the iPod shuffle 2nd Gen and just 10 hours for the iPod shuffle 3rd Gen. No iPod shuffle models have a screen, and consequently, only support music playback.
Interestingly, pricing was increased for the iPod shuffle 3rd Gen back to the US$79 price that the iPod shuffle 2nd Gen carried when it was introduced. The "colors" iPod shuffle 3rd Gen models, likewise, sell for US$79 for 4 GB of storage, but also sell for US$59 for 2 GB of storage and the stainless steel "Special Edition" -- only available direct from Apple and in a 4 GB capacity -- sells for US$99.
For your convenience, the major differences between the two generations are summarized below:
|iPod shuffle||Second Generation||Third Generation|
|Flash Memory Size:||1 GB, 2 GB*||2 GB, 4 GB**|
|Song Capacity:||240 Songs, 500 Songs||1000 Songs|
|Battery Life:||12 Hours||10 Hours|
|Material:||Aluminum (Silver & Colors††)||Aluminum (Silver & Colors§)|
|Dimensions:||1.07 x 1.62 x 0.41 inches||1.8 x 0.7 x 0.3 inches|
|Price (As Introduced):||US$79*||US$59, $79, $99**|
* The 1 GB configuration of the iPod shuffle 2nd Gen was introduced for US$79 and dropped to US$49 on February 19, 2008 with the introduction of a 2 GB configuration for US$69. When the iPod shuffle 3rd Gen was introduced on March 11, 2009, the 2 GB configuration of the iPod shuffle 2nd Gen was discontinued and the 1 GB configuration continued to sell for US$49 until September 9, 2009 when it was discontinued.
** The original iPod shuffle 3rd Gen was introduced in silver and black with 4 GB of storage for US$79. On September 9, 2009, Apple started selling 2 GB configurations, as well as 4 GB configurations -- available in colors as well as silver and black for US$59 and US$79, respectively. Apple also introduced a stainless steel "Special Edition" in a 4 GB capacity for US$99.
† The iPod shuffle 3rd Gen has a three button controller -- volume up, volume down, and "action" (which varies depending on the number and duration of clicks) -- integrated with the headphone cable.
†† When first introduced on September 12, 2006, the second generation iPod shuffle was offered only in silver, subsequent models were offered in a variety of colors as well as silver.
§ When first introduced on March 11, 2009, the iPod shuffle 3rd Gen only was offered in silver or black. On September 9, 2009, Apple started selling it in blue, green, and pink, as well as the original silver and black and a "Special Edition" stainless steel.