Review: Pandora One

Posted July 15, 2010

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.

Slightly less than a year ago, I started using 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?

Features

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:

  • Pandora Desktop Application
  • Higher Quality Audio
  • Unlimited Listening
  • Fewer Interruptions
  • No Ads
  • Custom Skins

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.

Pandora Desktop Application

Now lets talk about what is one of the best perks of switching to Pandora One, the desktop application. The desktop app, powered by 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.

Mobile

The Pandora 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.

Wrap up

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…

Comments

  • Bereninga

    Thanks for posting a review of Pandora One! I was trying to find out if it was worth it or not. I didn’t know you could share accounts, which is pretty sweet! $18 or <$20 seems like a better price point than $36 IMO.

    • http://www.ruizwashere.com Ruiz

      No problem. If you sign up, I hope you enjoy it.

  • http://scanty-evidence-1.heroku.com Kai Middleton

    Thanks for the definitive review of Pandora One. I started playing with the free Pandora account a couple months ago, setting up a bunch of stations, and listening here and there. I’m very pleased with Pandora’s ability to come up with music that matches a particular theme I’m interested in. For instance, this morning my wife and I were doing yoga and she asked for some yoga music. Pandora did not disappoint. And this was a genre of music I wouldn’t have thought to play with in the past. I have built stations around rag time music, A Tribe Called Quest, Santana, and others. I figured the paid account would be better but didn’t really start getting motivated to sign up for it until I the commercials started. Then it was time to go paid. The one concern I had was in regards to the language “fewer interruptions” on the Pandora site. They didn’t define this clearly, or give a reason why. I wondered if it was commercial interruptions. Apparently it is not. From the discussion on this page I gather that if someone listens for 5 hours without interaction there’s a good chance the person isn’t present, so that the pause conserves bandwidth. From the perspective of conservation of resources in regards to global warming and such I’m all for that. So I signed up today. Thanks for the great info.

    • http://www.ruizwashere.com Ruiz

      Hey, not a problem. Hope you enjoy it. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/warrencorpus Warren Corpus

    I am doing the “24-hr free preview” of Pandora One. The only downside I’ve noticed between the Pandora One desktop app and the free Pandora web version is the pause between songs – I’ve noticed about a 30-second break between each song. Do you notice this? Or does this pause disappear once I pay?

    • http://www.ruizwashere.com Ruiz

      I have never experienced a 30-second pause. If it’s pausing that long, then I would say that it’s not properly requesting the next song as soon as the previous one ends. To say what is exactly causing is a bit difficult. Could be your computer, ISP, bad application programming, or, like you said, a result of using the trial.

      Nonetheless, it’s worth shooting an email to Pandora support though. Who knows, maybe they’ll be like “Oh, that problem. Simple fix! All you have to do is *click click click*. There, problem solved!”

    • Abraham

      Pandora one streams higher quality audio therefore, it may take longer to load a song. It might be you have a slow internet connection…just a thought.

  • Lisalowery

    I think you can only skip 6 songs per hour with the free version of pandora, is it the same with pandora one?

    • http://www.ruizwashere.com Ruiz

      I just tested this in the Pandora One application. It will not allow you to skip more than 6 times on one radio station in the period of one hour, but if you switch to another station and switch back, it will play a new song. So, you technically get infinite skips.

  • Casey

    To my knowledge the point of the 5 hour limit is to keep the royalties down. The reason for this is even with the subscription fees, the cost to stream 24/7 would exceed $3 per month in royalties and Pandora would lose money. While it is likely very few people would stream 24/7, it is likely some would just try to leave it running non-stop. 5 hours does seem a little short. I think Slacker Plus is 8 hours, but the idea behind the limit does make sense.

    As far as the skip feature that has been mentioned. With Pandora free, you have a limit of 6 skips per hour and also a total limit per day. With Pandora One, the 6 per hour limit remains but you do not have a daily limit.

    This is a good review. I personally am a Slacker Plus subscriber because I find it fits my needs better for $4 per month, but both services are really great.

    • http://www.ruizwashere.com Ruiz

      I do agree with you about the royalties. But with that said, there probably are people out there that keep Pandora streaming as long as possible. All they would have to do is click “I’m still listening” whenever Pandora pauses after 5 hours to continue listening. So technically if the cost to stream 24/7 really does exceed $3/mo., Pandora potentially set themselves up to lose money because I’m sure there’s people out there that will keep it streaming 24/7 one way or another. I honestly feel that they’re smarter than that though. I think they will make money regardless, but the limit is there to maximize profit and keep streaming costs down. Very good point.

      And yes, the 5 hour time limit does seem a bit short. Perhaps I would not have complained about the limit if it was raised to 8 hours like Slacker Plus. It would allow me to get past an entire workday.

  • Pat Guttery

    Am I correct that if you skip a song or add a playlist or do anything on Pandora One, it will reset the 5 hour time clock? Is that so?

    • http://www.ruizwashere.com Ruiz

      That is correct. I’m positive that any action that requires action from Pandora servers will reset the time clock, the same way that making your computer respond from moving your mouse will reset it’s screensaver timer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ronzalpha Ronald Zhu

    Awesome, I never knew you can share the Pandora One Station with other users either! Now, if only they had Asian music support, that would be awesome. There are virtually almost no Japanese/Korean/Chinese artists in the Pandora database. I hope they’ll add other languages in the future. Thanks again for the review!!

    • http://www.ruizwashere.com Ruiz

      I actually have good news for you! As of recent, Pandora has added support for Eastern Asian Music! But before you get excited, just know that the support still has a very long way to go.

      If you create a station based on an Eastern Asian artist or song, the station is not limited to the language of that artist and the music may be outdated. For example: Let’s say I create a station featuring my favorite girls (SNSD/Girls Generation), it works! But you’ll notice that it’ll also play Japanese music and even music from different parts of Europe. Different language, yes, but the style is very much the same! Plus, SNSD has come a long way over the years. They’ve gone through a lot of singles, songs, albums, etc., but the only SNSD music that I hear Pandora play is from their first album.

      While it is not complete, it is definitely a step in the right direction and hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot of improvements in the future!

      • http://www.facebook.com/ronzalpha Ronald Zhu

        Really? That gives me more of an incentive to buy Pandora One. Now, if only they gave discounts to students…haha. I’ll probably buy it later this year when I can afford it after buying other items on my to-buy list. ^.^
        And asian music on Pandora would help A LOT, since I spend so much money to buy actual import CD’s. Thanks Ruiz!

  • Krayzieace

    I was wondering if with pandora one, you get more radio stations? I think the free version they give you 100 stations. I hate randomly being in the mood for something I don’t always listen to and needing to delete a station to get my fix.

    • http://www.ruizwashere.com Ruiz

      Unforunately, I’m not able to test this. I recently stopped using Pandora One since they have now given some Pandora One features to regular Pandora users, such as unlimited playback. I have not updated the article to reflect this.

      But with 100 different stations tied to your account, I find it hard to believe those are really 100 truly unique sounds. You may want to consider merging stations that sound alike in order to free up station space.

  • Coolz Monkey

    You liar!! I thought u said Unlimited Songs! Ive restarted my blue ray and phone and they still give 6 skips aper hour!

    • http://www.ruizwashere.com Ruiz

      Please quote where I said unlimited skips. I didn’t lie. Thanks.

  • Qstansell

    Hey Ruiz, Thanks for all the good info. I am on the 24 hr trial also. Please tell me, with the paid subscription, is there still a few second break (dead air) between songs?…or is there “no dead air” between songs like XM radio?
    Q

    • http://www.ruizwashere.com Ruiz

      Hello,
      Pandora lays out tracks similar to how you would with your own music library on your computer. As soon as one track ends, the next one begins. It doesn’t merge the ends and beginnings of tracks together for constant sound if that’s what you’re asking.

      If you pay for it, it will probably end up being the same way as the trial you’re currently using.

      • Qstansell

        Great!! Thanks for the info.

  • stacy

    can you chat on pandora 1 radio without facebook through comments ?

    • http://www.ruizwashere.com Ruiz

      Hello,
      I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking. Thinking that it was some kind of new feature, I tried searching for “pandora chat”, etc. to try and get an idea, but nothing relevant came up. Mind going into a bit more detail?