Pandora review: Price, features and content

Pandora has long existed in the background of the music Pandora Reviewstreaming world, slowly amassing followers.

Update: Pandora has announced that it will cease services in Australia and New Zealand effective 31 July 2017, which means that both the web site and app will stop working for Australian customers. Our original story continues below.

In the lead up to Apple Music’s launch, we’ve been comparing each music streaming service side-by-side, so when June 30 rolls around, you’ll know for sure which service suits you best.

About Pandora

The OG music streaming service, Pandora, is still running strong with around 200 million registered users (35% of which are active). Where services like Spotify allow you to select individual songs to play, Pandora is focused on creating 'radio streams' based off your preferred genre, artist and mood.

Powered by the Music Genome Project (an algorithm that organises huge libraries of music), this service is only available in the US, Australia and New Zealand. Even with such limited scope, the automated music recommendation service has still managed to become one of the most popular in the world.

What are Pandora’s features?

Pandora’s free service is a bare-bones, ad-supported streaming service, but the paid version, Pandora One, is where it’s at. Here are the many features that make Pandora’s paid subscription worth the small monthly fee.

  • No ads and more skips

Free versions of music streaming services have ads — many of us have come to terms with this and decide to grin and bear it, because we’re cheap like that. If you just can’t stand to sit through the obnoxious advertisements, however, Pandora One will grant you access to an interruption-free service.

The added benefit of six skips per hour (as opposed to 12 per day), is okay we suppose, but to be quite honest it seems odd they don’t offer a higher tier for unlimited skips.

  • Pandora One’s Better Music Quality

To the layman, a higher music fidelity probably doesn’t mean a whole lot. We’ve lived through mp3, tape and AM radio, so the sound quality of today’s streams seem better than anything we could ever imagine. As any muso knows, however, it’s much like comparing televisions; you can only really tell the difference when comparing them side-by-side, but once you do, the inferior product will never suffice again. Pandora’s free stream currently runs at about 128 kbps and Pandora runs at a smooth 192 kbps. While 192 kbps is nothing outstanding (Spotify’s premium service runs at a stunning 320 kbps), it’s still a quality stream at a much lower price.

  • It’s a mostly on-rails experience, but you can influence the flow

Just recently, Pandora added a new 'thumbs up and thumbs down' feature to their streaming service. It still doesn’t allow you to select individual tracks, but it does allow you to “thumbs up” a track to increase its frequency (and other tracks like it) in your stream and also “thumbs down” tracks (to lower a track’s frequency in your stream).

  • Excellent for business owners

When big department stores play music over their speakers, this is considered “commercial use” and requires the appropriate licensing to play. This is why you’ll often notice many stores recycle the same few songs for about a month at a time.

Obtaining licensing can be arduous and expensive, so Pandora decided to offer their streaming service for commercial use and created a Pandora for Business subscription. For $24.95 a month you can use all of Pandora’s premium services for your business. Best of all (or maybe not) Pandora has seasonal offerings, so you can continue to play the most joyous tunes around Christmas time (yay…).

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How much does Pandora cost?

Pandora has three versions: Pandora (free), Pandora One, and Pandora for Business. Below are the different packages and their pricing:

  • Pandora Supports advertisements, has 12 skips per day, “thumbs up and thumbs down” and runs at 128 kbps for $0.00 a month
  • Pandora One Free of advertisements, 6 skips per hour, high sound quality (320 kbps) and “thumbs up and thumbs down” at $4.99 a month
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Is Pandora compatible with my device?

Pandora is available on a massive range of computers, tablets, smartphones and smartwatches. Below is the complete list of compatible devices:

  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Kindle Fire
  • Nook
  • Blackberry
  • Apple Watch
  • Pebble
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Our verdict

Whatever it is that Pandora Radio are doing, it’s been doing alright for many years now. Pandora survived the arrival of Spotify and it’s user base continues to grow to this day. The secret to their success is anyones guess. Some people certainly prefer “radio” style listening and their free option is just as good as any other offering, but 200 million registered users? That’s unbelievable, especially considering the service is only available in the US, Australia, and New Zealand.
With one of the biggest names in digital music, Apple, entering the fray, it would be understandable if Pandora Radio were bracing for impact, but something tells us the long-standing service will come through the other side unscathed.

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