THE IPOD SHUFFLE is dead, but it still has ardent admirers. While Apple discontinued its tiny MP3 player in 2017, refurbished devices endure on eBay, a happy hunting ground for music fans who want to enjoy tunes without a cumbersome phone or the distractions it subjects them to. I’ve held on to my Shuffle for those exact reasons—and it doesn’t hurt that it looks cool.
But there’s a new cool kid in town: The Shuffle has clearly inspired the Mighty, a device which debuted last year and recently got an update in the Mighty Vibe ($86, bemighty.com), a 1.5-inch chunky square clip-on that fits just about all the music you’d need. The twist is that it’s built for the streaming age: Vibe downloads playlists and podcasts exclusively from Spotify to its 8GB hard drive—four times as large as the Shuffle’s—making about 1,000 songs available offline.
Apple’s sleek styling influenced the Vibe’s design, down to a circular control ring with a “play” button in the center and three sassy palettes (Gully Blue, aka turquoise, particularly pops). Vibe, however, is more utilitarian: Instead of polished steel, it’s made of light, high-grade water-resistant plastic—wear it in the rain, but not the pool. It also has five hours of battery life and an added button that lets you switch between playlists. Hold it down to set your Vibe to shuffle, and try to ignore the grating 1990s-era robotic voice announcing each selection.
For music fans Mighty hits a sweet spot. Founding partner Anthony Pu sought to relieve the frustration of having your Spotify favorites “imprisoned” on your phone and computer. Mighty’s tagline, #breakfree—corny but not entirely inaccurate—underlines that goal. Still, Spotify-only compatibility may be a no-go for many with large iTunes libraries. The Vibe makes the most sense at times when fiddling with a phone gets truly annoying: if you’re trying to run unencumbered or survive a “can’t move your arms” train or bus ride.
I found setting up Vibe via the Mighty app simple, but it took a surprisingly drawn-out 15 minutes to sync a few hundred tracks from my phone via Wi-Fi. I quickly forgot that quibble when I used Vibe on a flight—giving my phone a rest rather than anxiously watching its battery drain—and on a jog in Miami where the fuss-free Vibe let me serenely admire the banyan trees.
Listening to my playlists without the burden of an iPhone, I felt lighter. But mostly I was just glad I could still jam to Steely Dan uninterrupted on something the size of my thumb.