Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The New Walkman Part 1 - Pandora Radio

So you got yourself a new smartphone, complete with a giant empty space to store all your music on, and you're itching to fill that micro SD card with some apps and all of your favorite hits! I know the feeling... So, the ever-burning question remains - "Which service should I use?"

With all the major tech companies with their hands out looking to make fractions of a penny on every song you play, which one will work best for you? Welcome to our series on smartphone music players, cloud services, purchase services, and radio station reviews, called "My New Walkman." I am going to be going through all the different major services with a fine toothed comb, and bringing you up to date on what's great, and what to hate!

Up first is Pandora Radio! Read the full review for my thoughts on this sweet music App!

Right now it's my personal favorite, and to be honest, it's a great way to get started with music on your phone. That is, if you have an unlimited data plan or Wi-Fi. Pandora radio is very easy to use, and is quite a brilliant concept. You can take the name of your favorite group or song, do a search for it, and Pandora will stream music that is most like what you chose. You can put as many stations as you want on your account. Truthfully, I don't know if it gets any easier than this app. There are ads, but they're usually local, and short. It's definitely worth using this app if you don't want to or can't listen to an actual FM broadcast.

Typical list of radio stations by artist that you can personalize!

You don't actually "download" music, you're streaming it. What that means, is that Pandora has it sitting in their server. When you open the app, and select a radio station, it starts a new stream just for you. It's not likely that anyone else in the world is hearing the exact sequence of songs at the exact same time.

Typical screen shot of a song playing with the album cover!

If you dont like the current selection, you can "skip" the song ahead to the next one or you can give it a thumbs down. Skipping the song will simply move it onto the next song. Giving it a "thumbs down," will let the app know you don't care for that particular song, and it won't play it on that station anymore. The number of "skips" and "thumbs down" you can give are limited. Generally, you get to use 5 in an hour. Once you use them up, you're stuck listening to whatever songs Pandora chooses for you until an hour passes and you get your skips back. The biggest downfall I experienced with Pandora, is the "generic," feeling you get after you've listened to it for a while. You'll have heard all the songs in that genre and you'll find yourself almost wanting more, or something different to satisfy the rhythm craving inside. Example: With the Foo Fighters station, you will never hear some of their key songs like, "Wheels," "Everlong," or "Hero."

You can also give a song the "thumbs-up" and Pandora will make sure to play that song more frequently than other songs. There's no limit to how many songs you can "thumbs-up."

If you create a sign-in with Pandora you can create multiple different stations on your account. It saves these under your login and you can then login on any iPhone or Android phone or tablet or any computer and have all your previously created stations right there. If you've been listening to one station and thumbs-downed or thumbs-uped a ton of songs on it, you don't have to re-create the wheel (or your frustration) by thumbs-downing(?)... all the same songs again... Pandora remembers your preferences.

  • Free music on the go
  • Customizable by Song, Album, Artist, Decade, Genre, etc.
  • Easy to use
  • Shows the name of the Song, Artist, and Album, so you can jot it down if you like it and purchase it later
  • Exposes you to new music you may not have heard i.e. Like style bands.
  • The music is not stored on your phone's memory, therefore, you are not filling your phones hard drive or SD card with large music files.
  • Ads - few and short, but they're there
  • Uses high amounts of data
  • You don't get to choose what song is next
  • "Skips" and "Thumbs Down" are limited
  • After a while, it starts to feel kind of "generic."
Pandora is also available as a paid subscription service called "Pandora One". With the paid service you get no ads, better quality sound, a desktop application (instead of just using it in your browser), custom skins, and fewer interruptions (they don't ask you if you're still listening as often). Pandora One is $36/year. Find out more here.

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