A touchscreen iPod Shuffle could be a cool innovation

Is Apple granting touch treatment to the lowliest of iPods, the iPod Shuffle? Maybe, if the rumors are to be believed; and, unlikely as it may seem, a touchscreen iPod Shuffle is actually a good idea.

Rumors of a possible 1.7-inch iPod Shuffle with a touchscreen comes from iLounge, which published a bunch of unsubstantiated details on upcoming Apple devices. My colleague, Ian Paul, already wrote at length about the likelihood of these rumors. But I wanted to take a moment to just want to focus on the iPod, because let's be honest, with all hoopla over iPads and iPhones, the music player's just not getting any love.

To the gut, a tiny touchscreen iPod doesn't make much sense. We're talking about one quarter of the iPhone's screen real estate, and these days the trend in touchscreens is to go bigger, not smaller.

But given the recent history of the iPod Shuffle, a touchscreen would be a logical transformation. With each new model, Apple has relentlessly pursued miniaturization, eventually removing button controls from the third-generation Shuffle and reducing it to finger size.

The reaction was tepid, to say the least. Critics complained that the controls on the Shuffle's included earbuds were difficult to use, and if you wanted to use different headphones, you had to buy a separate adapter or sacrifice the ability to control the music at all. Even worse, some of the earbuds were prone to failure, forcing Apple to launch a replacement program.

This was a classic case of form over function, where the wow factor of a tiny music player didn't make up for its shortcomings in useability. You might say the same thing about the external antenna in the iPhone 4, except that the iPhone 4 actually produces a stronger signal when held properly.

It's for this reason that a touchscreen iPod Shuffle holds appeal; such a device would bring controls back to the mini music player, without making considerable sacrifices. It would also have the side benefit of actually displaying information--a case of function winning over form, for a change.

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Tags p3 playersAppleconsumer electronicsportable media playersapple ipod

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Jared Newman

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