A colleague recently called because his iPod shuffle wasn’t keeping track of when songs were last played.
“Won’t it do that?” he asked.
“No,” I answered, “it won’t.”
The iPod shuffle lacks an internal clock and so it can’t keep track of the date and time it last played a track. With the use of Jonas Zimmermann’s Update iPod Shuffle LastPlayed AppleScript, Mac users can kinda/sorta work around this limitation. After installing the script you run it before connecting your shuffle to the Mac—this gives the script an idea of the current status of the play count of the shuffle’s playlist. Then connect the shuffle, let iTunes update it, and run the script again. When you do, the script will compare the before and after state of the shuffle’s play count and enter the current date and time in the Last Played column of the shuffle’s playlist.
Not elegant, I grant you, but it’s the one way around this limitation.
This question got me to thinking about the shuffle’s other limitations. Now’s as good a time as any to make a list of what the iPod shuffle won’t do:
Anything requiring a screen Forgive me for starting off the list with a “well, duh!” item, but we might as well get the obvious out of the way first. Because the shuffle can’t display calendars, contacts, notes, to-do items, album art, a clock, games, and so on and so forth, there’s no need to include them in the feature set. For this reason you shouldn’t be surprised that no contact and calendar entries appear when you plug an iPod shuffle into a Mac running iTunes 4.8.
Support for AIFF, Apple Lossless, and MP3 and AAC files encoded at over 320 kbps The shuffle offers limited storage and because it does, Apple tries to keep you from filling it with very large audio files. It does this by allowing iTunes to copy only MP3, AAC, and WAV files to the shuffle during an autofill operation. You can instruct iTunes to convert AIFF and Apple Lossless files to 128 kbps AAC files (the option for doing this is found in the iPod pane within iTunes’ preferences). Although the shuffle will play audiobooks, Autofill won’t place audiobooks on the iPod. You must add them manually.
Sound Check and EQ support The iPod shuffle won’t play back songs with the EQ settings you’ve imposed in iTunes. Likewise, don’t expect the shuffle to balance the volume of its tracks if you’ve switched on Sound Check in iTunes. The shuffle won’t recognize Sound Check settings.
Support for multiple computers Unlike with other iPods, you can’t flip the iPod shuffle into Manual mode, connect it to another computer, and move music from that other computer to your shuffle. The shuffle was cleverly designed to be updated by one computer only. If you attach it to a computer it’s not linked to, you’ll be asked if you’d like to align it with the currently connected computer. If you reply “no,” the shuffle disconnects.
Of course the shuffle is capable of some cool tricks of its own—autofilling, maintaining its own configurable playlist within iTunes even when it’s not connected, and its ability to be configured to hold specific amounts of data and music. And, of course, there are its outstanding battery life and skip-less playback. While it may not jump through the number of hoops as a “real” iPod, it’s a quite capable music player in its own right.