Update 2007/12/15: The iPod has two shuffle modes. I'd been going to the list of songs and hitting Shuffle, but this isn't sticky. The trick is to 1) start playing a song, 2) tap on the cover area to get the track position slider, and 3) tap the shuffle icon on the right side. This is sticky, and I now have shuffle play by default! Still no shuffle by album, though...


The iPhone has a few very small features which show a surprising level of thought went into its design before launch.

The do not disturb switch. This has been a signature feature of Treos for years -- completely disabling the speaker. Apple got smarter: the iPhone's side switch mutes incoming calls, SMS notifcations, & calendar alerts. But the alarm clock and immediate actions on the phone, including speakerphone and iPod playback (with earphones disconnected) -- still use the speaker. So Apple has evolved from "mute" to "do not disturb", which is much more useful.

Keyboard key-up. Registering keys on finger lift allows correction without mistyping (if you're paying attention) and provides some really handy tricks, like dragging from shift to I to get a capital I in one (long) tap instead of three -- works for numbers & punctuation too.

iPod stop on earphone removal. When you unplug earphones, the iPhone stops music or video playback. I use this feature at least twice a day, when I get home or to work. If the iPhone is in a holster or bag, this saves the trouble of getting it out to stop playback. Apple could have opted to activate the speaker instead, but people unplug their earphones and stop using the iPod much more often than they switch from earphones to speakers.

Earphone remote behavior. When listening to music, it fades out if the phone rings; I thought this was silly, but it's nice. When I hit the button on the remote, the phone answers; when I hit the button later to hang up, the music resumes. If I'm using the iPhone (in any app) and hit the earphone remote, music starts (or stops) playing; this saves me a few steps on switching into the iPod app and back to what I was doing. When watching video, it pauses and resumes. Between that, the double-click to skip to next track, and the volume controls on the side of the iPod (easily accessible in a belt holster), I don't miss the 6-button iPod remote.

Unfortunately, it's always alphabetical play of everything on the iPhone, so I have to switch to iPod and start Shuffle play the first time; then it stays in Shuffle mode until either a) the iPhone gets confused and stops playing, or b) I plug into a Mac; neither of these should switch me out of Shuffle mode, actually.

And that reminds me: What genius at Apple decided that iPhone users don't want to shuffle by album? So much for "the best iPod ever". Pfeh!

But overall, the iPhone is remarkably sophisticated. Perhaps Ive & Jobs and their 5 closest friends spent a year writing down all the things about cellphones that annoyed them, and brought that into the iPhone design discussions.