I didn’t realize it until very recently, but my iPod had been stressing me out. Every time I stuck the phones in my ears, powered up the device and scrolled through my tracks I had a decision to make. What genre? What artist? What album? Or should I pick a playlist? Or just shuffle everything? Or shuffle a genre? Or an artist? Should I shuffle my albums? By the time I had made up my mind, I’d be half way through my commute, and then spend the other half wondering if I had made the right choice.
My iPod was giving me option anxiety. (Woe is me.)
I didn’t realize this until I picked up a Shuffle on Monday. It hasn’t left my shirt pocket since. Not only is it ridiculously light, but the Shuffle’s insanely simple product design has turned the “what to listen to?” decision into a simple yes/no: to listen or not to listen. If yes, then jam the headphones into ears and push Play. That’s it.
Well, that’s not only it, of course. The iTunes Autofill feature gives the user control over what music ends up in their pocket (pick from this genre, from this playlist, etc.) while staying true to the gestalt of the device. It’s this combination of streamlined industrial design and sophisticated software design that makes the Shuffle such a fantastic product. Apple made the most important use case (“listen to music”) a complete no-brainer, and then backed it up with elegant way for the user to shape their day-to-day experience of that use case.