A year ago, Apple scrapped the headphone jack from its iPhones, signaling the future is going to be free of wires. This summer, it put the final nail in the coffin when it killed its entire line of iPods—including the Shuffle, a postage stamp sized player that was beloved by runners, cyclists, and gym rats.
For runners, in particular those who use a Garmin (or competitive, sport-specific watch) to track their pace and mileage, that last move hurt. It meant they’d have to resort to streaming tunes from bloating smartphones to get through long runs.
Enter Mighty, a small music player that’s a dead ringer for the iPod Shuffle, right down to its physical dimensions and button layout. One noticeable difference: you don’t have to actually own the music it plays. Instead, it stores up to 1,000 Spotify songs so you can leave the phone at home.
Launched on Kickstarter in early 2016, Mighty raised more than $300,000 from nearly 3,000 backers. The device finally became widely available this summer, and we’ve been running with it clipped to our waistband. Here’s what we like.
SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS ONLY
The first thing you need to know: You must have Spotify Premium ($10/month) to use Mighty. That’s because the player technically requires you to download the audio tracks for offline listening—a feature reserved for paid memberships. Advantages to this, however, are that you don’t get fed ads, you can skip as many songs as you like, and you don’t burn through your cellular data plan.
But, at the moment, Mighty works only with Spotify, and plays only your Spotify playlists—no artists, albums, or individual tracks. Of course, you can get around this by creating a dedicated playlist for, say, Jason Isbell’s latest album, The Nashville Sound. It’s cumbersome, but it works.
SYNCING TUNES IS FAST
iOS users will note that the above functionality kind of sounds like how the Apple Watch works, albeit using a different music service. And, that’s true. When Mighty is paired to your smartphone, you select which playlists you want to sync to the device—any that you’ve created or any curated playlists you’ve followed. But, unlike the Apple Watch, which uses Bluetooth to slowly transfer tracks, Mighty leverages WiFi for much faster file transfers. Bluetooth lets the device communicate with your phone to control settings, but the actual audio files are delivered via your home network. This is great, because we’re routinely trying to add new songs right before lacing up our shoes–we added a 50-song playlist in just three minutes. To be fair, the Apple Watch Series 3 and watchOS 4 have greatly improved transfer speeds, but, since it’s still nowhere near as quick as Mighty, we still typically sync songs to the watch overnight.
The Mighty app itself is surprisingly simple and useful: It’s easy to navigate your playlists, add songs, and pair Bluetooth headphones or connect to your home WiFi network. You can also peek on the battery life and available storage space.
On the run, you don’t even feel Mighty coming along for the ride. Clipped to our waistband, we found its Bluetooth signal is plenty strong to avoid any dropouts or hiccups when listening with Aftershokz Trekz Air headphones. But, depending on which headphones you’re wearing, you may need to adjust where you position it—Bluetooth doesn’t pass through the body. The battery gets us through at least a few hour-long runs before needing to be recharged.
The interface is easy to operate when dashing down busy streets. Instead of looking at a smartphone screen to tap a skip arrow, we easily found the buttons to switch tracks, adjust volume, or even switch playlists. Clicking the 3-dot button in the top corner scrolls through the playlists stored on Mighty, and the device speaks the name of each playlist so you know which one you’re hearing.
Plus, Mighty has rolled a useful update that lets you shuffle the songs in any playlist. Early users griped that the songs were played in a fixed order—do we really have to warm up to Sam Smith again? But software version 1.0 lets you shuffle the tracks directly on your Mighty, and can also keep playlists you’re following updated: If your Mighty is left on a charger overnight, it’ll connect to your WiFi to pull down any new tracks that have been added to the playlist since the last time you synced your device.