Pros: Great idea, flexible and collapsible, works great with the product it was designed for
Cons: Exclusive to only the shuffle, headphones themselves are of average quality
As someone who has searched long and far for the ultimate workout MP3 player, I am drawn to anything that I think will be beneficial to workouts. I have owned an old 128MB Philips/Nike player, the original iPod shuffle, and the newest generation of the iPod shuffle. The old Nike player was perfect for the time frame, but as newer players came out that were smaller and held more music, it was soon thrown into the gadget cemetery. The original iPod shuffle (the one that looked like a pack of gum) was great because you could wear it around your neck with a lanyard and didn't need to wear it around your arm on an arm band. I don't like arm bands when lifting weights, especially when doing bicep curls. With the newest shuffle, it was so small (now the size of a matchbook), that you could simply throw it in your pocket and be done with it. But it was still an issue at times if you were lifting because if you touched your body on a machine, there's a chance you would hit your player and change a song or turn it off accidentally. The shuffle doesn't have a lock.
With Monster's iFreePlay, most of my issues have been resolved. The iFreePlay is a set of headphones that work only with the newest generation of the iPod shuffle. Instead of plugging the headphones into the shuffle, the shuffle fits itself over the left side of the headphone. It's cordless and since the shuffle itself is light, very lightweight.
The headphones themselves aren't of high quality. If they weren't made especially for the shuffle, I wouldn't buy them as stand alone headphones. They are made of what looks to be pretty flexible plastic and they fold in the middle and near both sides of the headphones which makes them easy to collapse. The padding that fits over the headphones themselves is a little thin and I could see it wearing down over long periods of use. On the whole, they look cheap.
The sound quality is what you'd expect. Since the headphones aren't high quality phones, the sound is pretty good for talk, and just ok for music. Audiophiles aren't going to be excited while listening to their music through these. But for folks who want easy access to their tunes without having wires around their body, they may be ok with the trade off in quality for ease.
The one thing issue I have with design isn't really Monster's fault. It more has to do with the way the shuffle is designed. The headphone jack is at the top of the shuffle. When you plug the shuffle into the headphones, since the jack is at the top, the shuffle sits upside down. When you're trying to advance tracks or even fast forward through something, you have to do it backwards. Sometimes I simply take the headphones off to advance the tracks if I'm not having success doing it blindly. But I'm not going to blame that on the iFreePlay. It's just the way the shuffle is put together.
Aside of it being exclusive to only the shuffle, the one other problem that shoppers might have with the iFreePlay is the price tag. The shuffle is probably one of the lower selling iPods because it simply doesn't have the cool factor with the kids, and I can't imagine Monster is selling these by the boat loads. But charging $50 probably doesn't help either. Considering the shuffle is only $30 more itself, creating an expensive accessory for a product that's main selling tag is that it's inexpensive, doesn't seem like a smart move.
While I don't think the product is perfect, I do think it's solid first try and very creative. And for what I do, it works great. Though I haven't done any heavy duty running with the iFreePlay, based on my usage, I don't think they'd be great for running. The fit on the ears isn't snug and having the shuffle attached to one of the ears makes drag on one side just a bit. But for lifting weights, using an exercise bike, or any other lower impact cardio exercise, it will work fine. And I've also found that it's easier to lug around the house than any other iPod as well.
I imagine that if they think it will sell, we'll see better implementations to this product from Monster. For now, I enjoy being completely wireless.