Remember Mighty, the so-called iPod shuffle for Spotify? After extensive delays, it has shipped to all backers on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, where the device cumulatively took in over $800,000 of crowdfunding money. Actually managing to ship a Kickstarter almost seems commendable these days, and now you can buy Mighty directly from the company for $85.99; orders placed today should ship by July 30th. But should you? Is this the iPod shuffle of the streaming generation?
I’ve only had a few days with the Mighty, so I haven’t been able to put it through as many runs and workouts as I’d like before giving a full review. I haven’t perspired on it enough to test its sweat resistance or fumbled it to see how tough it is. That’ll come soon enough. But my early takeaway is this: if you can deal with the lackluster, rudimentary smartphone app that’s required to load your Spotify playlists onto the Mighty, the product itself follows through on its promise. You can leave your phone at home and take Spotify with you. And there’s something about that that’s very freeing. But there are also plenty of early frustrations.
The shipping Mighty product looks rather different from what the company showed off early on; it’s no longer green or reminiscent of the Spotify logo — almost certainly a design change that came at the behest of Spotify’s lawyers. It’s still fundamentally a bigger, fatter iPod shuffle-type music player, though. (Remember that Mighty had to fit Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in there.)
You can get it in black, white (both with blue accents), or orange. The front is a carbon copy of the iPod shuffle’s controls: a big play/pause button smack dab in the middle, with volume and next/previous track buttons surrounding it. There’s also a playlist button at the upper right, which cycles through any Spotify playlists you’ve synced to the device. Up top is a headphone jack, and there’s a clip on the back for attaching the Mighty to your shirt, backpack, or wherever you want it. The hinge is tight and reliable; no complaints there.
The thing is... you can’t actually shuffle (yet)
You won’t find the handy shuffle switch that’s on Apple’s minuscule iPod, however. And that leads us to the Mighty’s biggest omission — and my key gripe with it. There’s currently no way to shuffle your music period. And being left without something as simple as “shuffle all,” well, it sucks. Playlists will always follow the order you’ve got them in prior to syncing. Mighty says this is something Spotify will need to rectify on its end. Until then, you might find yourself skipping through tracks a bunch unless you manually switch things up and re-sync your workout playlists. Bottom line: it needs shuffle, and fast.
But let’s back up. To get music onto the Mighty, you download the Android or iOS app, set up an account, and run through a setup process of connecting to Mighty, adding the device to your Wi-Fi network, and logging into Spotify. It’s when using this app that you’ll remember Mighty’s crowdfunded roots — and not in a good way. Also, this company only has six full-time employees. Add those together and you’re left with a pretty rough, ho-hum user experience with ugly textured backgrounds and no real polish. For example, whenever music is playing on Mighty, you can’t even access it with the app. I encountered some connection issues early on that eventually cleared up, but my colleague Nick Statt has dealt with issues using his Mighty between different Wi-Fi networks (ie. work and home).
Mighty at least puts the important things (storage and battery life) at the top. And the app is good at showing how much space your next batch of playlists will take up. Once you’ve chosen what playlists you want on Mighty in the “Your Music” section, hit sync, and your tunes transfer over. Slowly. Very slowly. Mighty downloads music directly from Spotify’s servers using its built-in Wi-Fi chip, but it has consistently taken longer than I’d expect. Playlists aren’t kept up to date automatically, either; that’s something the company hopes to add with a future software update. For now you can pull to refresh and see your latest changes. There’s also a useful “Stay Fresh” button that’ll sync up those playlist updates before you head out.
Once the music makes it way onto Mighty, it’s actually pretty great. You hit play and the classic text-to-speech voice will tell you what playlist is currently on. Press the playlist button to change to another one. The buttons are all super clicky — this thing has become a fidget cube of sorts for me — so you don’t have to worry about accidental presses.
Mighty supports Bluetooth headphones, too. That’s something the iPod shuffle can’t get you. (Bluetooth speakers also work if that’s something you’d want to do.) Bluetooth accessories are added through the Mighty app. Wireless headphones will knock down the player’s 5-hour battery life, however. And let’s be honest: 5 hours itself for a music player isn’t great. That’s enough for a gym visit or hike, but you’ll need to charge the thing fairly often. The company says improving battery life via firmware updates is its biggest priority right now. It takes about 30 minutes to get an 80 percent charge and another 30 to fully top off Mighty. It plugs in via a USB-to-3.5mm connector, if you were curious. Just like the shuffle.
As a whole, I like the Mighty so far. The software needs a ton of work, though. Maybe some tech company that’s good at software will just end up acquiring Mighty. Pebble had a similar idea with the Core before everything crumbled. What if Apple released the equivalent of this, but for Apple Music? Even as is, I could see Mighty turning into my regular gym companion. It’ll be interesting to see what demand looks like. Sure, running without your phone sounds great. Bye bye, armbands. But what if you like tracking your routes or performance? Perhaps this thing and a Garmin watch would make the ultimate outdoor terrain runner’s combo. Or... once offline Spotify playback comes to smartwatches, that might be all a lot of folks need for a break from their phone.