Rarely has a device so immediately inspired as much scorn as the latest Apple iPod Shuffle. Within 12 hours of its release, the third-generation of the littlest iPod had no shortage of complaints railed against it. It's too small, shuns compatibility with third-party headphones, and doesn't have a screen or even any buttons. At least one tech editor has even gone so far as to call it a disaster. Still, like most things, the iPod Shuffle undoubtedly has a few redeeming qualities, and some people have come to its defense.
Having spent some hands-on time with the teeny MP3 player, I can verify that it's not all bad. There is something impressive about the smallness of the device, and the design has a certain simple, understated appeal. However, operating it is not an intuitive exercise, and the lack of controls on the device itself borders on infuriating. Plus, not being able to swap in your own headphones out of the box is rather obnoxious. (And, frankly, I'll take a display over spoken menus any day.)
Luckily, the iPod Shuffle is not your only option if you're looking for a simple, ultracompact MP3 player. I've rounded up a selection of alternatives that offer at least a few benefits that the Shuffle does not, such as a lower price tag, a display, or--heck--even buttons on the device. To that end, I've been so bold as to include the previous generation Shuffle in a story dedicated to its successor's alternatives (now is the perfect time to start looking for deals on that device). Oh yeah...I went there.