This article was written in 2010. Pandora has gone through many changes since then, including switching to a better, HTML5-based player. Please note that this review was written in for the original flash-based Pandora experience and doesn’t reflect any changes that have been made since then.
Pandora‘s internet radio service. I first asked for Paramore and it gave me Fall Out Boy. I hated Fall Out Boy, and for this I hated Pandora and gave it no mercy. Lack of music from eastern Asia (specifically Korean) was also a total bummer and a disadvantage when compared to last.fm. I boycotted Pandora for a short time and stuck with last.fm. Come to find over time, last.fm was very disorganized with duplicate songs, constant repetitiveness, and incorrectly tagged music. I would hear the same song repeat as much as three times in a row or hear music from a completely different genre that didn’t even relate. For this, I decided to give Pandora another shot. After getting to know how it worked, it surely did not disappoint.
Always working in front of a computer screen, whether at home or work, I found Pandora to be quite the companion. I was slowly discovering new music, artists, and genres that I have never heard about. It became addicting. Unfortunately, it all came at a price: a 40 hour per month time limit and 10 to 20 second advertisements every 3 to 6 songs. I would always use up my 40 hours halfway through the month and the advertisements began to become annoying. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been repetitively told by the same advertisement that the Baseball world series was on TBS. For a reasonable price of only $1, you could suspend the 40 hour time limit for the remainder of the month. I was fine with that, but those freaking RAMEN ADS! They were getting persistent! Figuring that Pandora has already given me a lot for so little, I decided to succumb, pay $36, and become a victim of Pandora One for an entire year. It’s been over 9 months since then. Only question remaining now is: was my money wisely spent or did it become a lost cause?
Lets go over the list of features that Pandora One gives you compared to it’s free counterpart. For $36 a year, Pandora One gives you:
For now, lets talk about the smaller features. The desktop application will be mentioned later. The difference in the higher quality audio is night and day. It’s like comparing a low quality YouTube video to CD audio. Hearing songs again on Pandora One, it felt as if they were remastered. Pandora One delivered fully on it’s promise of unlimited listening and no ads, which delivered a much better and convenient listening experience. It’s like listening to an endless audio CD. Fewer interruptions can be a bit subjective. The free version of Pandora would pause the music player if it detected an hour of inactivity from the computer. Pandora One increases this to 5 hours. The thing is, if I’m paying for unlimited listening, whether someone is listening to it or not, then what is the point of automatically pausing it? Sure, pausing the music may save bandwidth resources, but if unlimited listening is promised and paid for, then Pandora should be ready to hand over those resources whether they like it or not. Custom skins aren’t exactly what you would call “custom”. It’s really just a set of 13 (at the time of this writing) preset skins, which you can see in the gallery below. I just use the black one at work because it matches best with the company system interface. Nothing entirely too special.
Another perk of Pandora One that isn’t exactly advertised or encouraged by Pandora is multiple users. More than one person can use the same Pandora One account at the same time with no penalties. You could possibly do this with a regular Pandora account (haven’t tried it) but you would more than likely hit that 40 hour time limit much sooner. My Pandora One account is shared between both my girlfriend and I. If you and a buddy have been debating about whether to upgrade or not, you both could pay $18 each and share the same account. Just be respectful towards each others radio stations.
Adobe AIR, allows you to listen to Pandora One without having to open your web browser, which can be very convenient because it’s one less browser window or tab that you have to deal with on your workstation. It can be be minimized to the background and will display track information in the upper-right corner of your screen whenever a new song plays. It’s a perfect and simple application that gives you the same usability of the browser client with only one small exception: you can only create and listen to stations. You cannot delete or edit them, so if you accidentally create a station in the desktop client, you have to open your web browser, log in to Pandora, and delete the station. This also applies to renaming, adding artist attributes, and managing your QuickMix. Also, even though this should be a given, the app will only work if you login as a Pandora One user. There are third-party desktop applications that will allow you to log in whether you’re a Pandora One user or not, but they’re just essentially just a web browser page that goes to the Pandora site and resizes the window to fit the player, not a native application.
iPhone and Android applications are available for anyone to use free of charge. Unlike it’s desktop client counterpart, it’s not a a Pandora One exclusive application. All of the same playback perks of Pandora One are brought over to the app, so you still get to enjoy the same high quality audio, ad-free experience whenever you’re on the go. Considering that I don’t have an iPhone, I don’t really have too much hands-on experience with the iPhone app. One advantage over the Android version that I did see was that it took full advantage of the iTunes style “coverflow” GUI when flipped to landscape mode, allowing you to flip back to songs that were previously played so that you could rate them or get more info. The Android version will not let you flip back to past songs or rename stations. Other than that, it’s a perfect mobile companion. Nothing beats listening to endless amounts of high quality, uninterrupted music while you’re on a (seemingly) long road trip. With something as good as this, it makes me wonder why people lay down way more cash for alternatives such as satellite radio.
At this point, there is only one important question left to answer. After experiencing all of the perks that Pandora One has to offer, is it worth throwing down $36 a year? $3 a month? $0.10 a day? Are you kidding me? The answer is a definite and absolute yes! Pandora One has quite frankly given me more than what I’ve even paid for. It is one of the best internet radio services out there if not THE best. Paying only a dime a day for perfect unlimited music playback is quite literally a steal among other things and allows me to appreciate music for what it simply is: crisp, clear, uninterrupted music. A service like this has my guaranteed renewal for years to come.
Now about adding that support for eastern Asian music…