Listen to the music you want with an endless radio that customizes to your tastes. Voice-activated tunes adds to its appeal.
Free custom playlist has the edge on categorization
The service that revolutionized the music listening industry
Pandora is a free streaming music app. The Music Genome project gives Pandora an edge. Its detailed song analysis comprises almost 450 different categories.
When you listen to Pandora music, those algorithms combine to form the core of Pandora’s listening experience -- and a better guarantee you’ll actually enjoy what you hear. But does it deliver?
When you use the Pandora app for the first time, you’ll have to turn over personal info like your zip code, the year of your birth, and if you are male or female -- there are no other options here. You can’t create an account without this step.
Pandora states this information sharing is to “personalize your experience” which likely translates to “here are ads that match your demographic.” It’s an annoying intro.
Make your own media library
The frustrations with Pandora only grow as you break into the app. The interface lacks the sleekness of competitors like Apple Music and Spotify. While Pandora’s layout is clean and bright, it feels dated and cumbersome.
To get to the music, you can go “old school” and browse but at least Pandora integrates voice commands. Request the top hits, songs to workout to, or “something awesome” with a tap on the microphone icon and a “Hey, Pandora.”
As you use Pandora, the app will figure out the kind of music you prefer and generate your own Thumbprint radio. For free users, the app will use songs you've thumbed up and add in other songs from artists the app believes will fit your tastes.
When a song isn’t a match, you aren’t stuck listening to it forever. Like the rest of the music-streaming services, you can thumbs down any track you don’t want to hear.
If you want to listen to a specific song on mobile, you have to either spring for Pandora Premium or watch a short ad. After viewing the ad, you can hear your tune using Pandora Premium. When the song is over, you’ll revert back to the basic listening experience which always includes ads.
For the best results, you need to create playlists and add artists or bands to your playlist. Search for what you want or browse through Pandora’s selection. You’ll tap “+” to add anything you want to your list.
Find your favorite bands and more
Click on your favorite band and you’ll see the number of active listeners and a brief blurb. Tap on the summary to learn more or continue scrolling for more music.
Unlike other services (like Spotify), Pandora doesn’t display all the band’s albums on one convenient screen. You have to click again to view the rest of the albums.
If you want to view similar bands, you will be shown three related groups, and will tap again to see other artists. Pandora offers a limited number of related bands so it is harder to find new bands to you or a way to fast revisit a past favorite.
But, with Pandora’s Music Genome project, it is fun to see what bands the service feels are similar -- and why. If you looked at Breaking Benjamin and “The Diary of Jane,” you can view how Pandora analyses the song.
Pandora describes the features of this song as “Hard rock roots,” “a subtle use of vocal harmony,” “mild rhythmic syncopation,” and “repetitive melodic phrasing.”
It’s an interesting look at why Pandora believes you’ll like the songs they choose and how they overlap. It’s also pretty good at figuring out what you’d like but, of course, it’s not 100% accurate. But, it sure feels pretty close.
Pandora radio and the method behind it seems more right than wrong based on the way they categorize the music you love.
Where can you run this program?
You can install the Pandora app on your Android or Apple device, listen through any browser, or via the downloadable desktop program (but only for premium members).
Is there a better alternative?
Spotify boasts a grand collection -- more than 50 million songs, 450,000 podcasts and 3 billion playlists. That service dwarfs Pandora’s few million tracks and 1400 podcasts. It also can’t keep up with Apple Music’s 45 million songs.
Pandora’s twenty exclusive SiriusXM shows only available through Pandora don’t make up for the big difference in musical options.
The app does have a social option missing in other services. You can access your favorite band’s Twitter account. Scroll to the bottom of the band’s page on Pandora, then click the “follow on Twitter” button.
It’s an easy way to keep up with your faves though Spotify and Apple Music win on the “sharing” front with their Facebook connection option for simple playlist shares.
Pandora and Spotify pull ahead for anyone not wanting to have to pay for music. Those services offer a free version Apple Music lacks.
But, the free radio and detailed categorization aren’t enough to help Pandora keep up with the two big dogs of music.
Pandora is a decent option for anyone who wants fast access to music without a lot of extras. Voice features, excellent radio capabilities, and an emphasis on podcasts help keep Pandora in the game.