Since Pandora’s inception in 2000, it’s been the go-to choice for both those new to internet radio and those who have the sampled the whole range of offerings. Pandora piggybacked on the Music Genome Project, using the same algorithms to deliver playlists catering to the listener’s tastes, preferences, and responses via “like” and “dislike” votes. Apple is challenging the juggernaut with their new iTunes radio service, which uses similar algorithms, plus your iTunes history, to create custom playlists. Apple also has the benefit of a massive licensing catalogue, the only challenger to Pandora’s extensive access.
So which service is better? Which deserves your hard-earned shekels for a premium subscription?
Pandora Vs. iTunes Radio:
As mentioned above, both Pandora and Apple have access to the largest range of musicians available through streaming. Since Apple worked out so many deals with even the most intransigent artists when creating the iTunes store, they might have a slight edge in variety. But you probably won’t notice a difference on your average playlist. iTunes radio capitalizes on its breadth of range by offering the option to listen to “Hits”, “Variety”, or “Discovery” mode. “Hits” will get you the most popular songs in your chosen genre, “Variety” will provide more unusual songs from each artist, and “Discovery” will likely provide both songs and artists you’ve never heard before.
2. Ease of Use
Both Pandora and Apple offer simple, user-friendly interfaces. If you are already familiar with the iTunes store, you’ll feel right at home with iTunes radio. Plus, iTunes Radio offers playlists from guest celebrities, musicians, and DJs to get you started. The one negative with Pandora is that users are required to regularly like/dislike songs, or the music is paused until interaction resumes. This means you can’t listen to endless uninterrupted music while rebuilding a car engine or working at your desk in the office. The negative with Apple is that they do not yet offer a mobile version for Android.
3. Quality of Streaming
Both Apple and Pandora offer a free version of their radio. With Pandora, this free version provides noticeably inferior sound quality. With Apple, both the free and paid versions provide quality sound.
On both Pandora and iTunes Radio, it’s easy to purchase whatever song is playing with a few clicks of the mouse. However, on iTunes radio you can also purchase anything from your recent history, a feature not available on Pandora.
5. Premium Subscription
Ads are a feature of the free version of both Pandora and iTunes radio. The paid version of Pandora costs $36.00/year or $3.99/month. Apple offers only an annual membership to iTunes Radio at $25.00/year. Clearly iTunes Radio is cheaper, but not everybody wants to commit to a year right off the bat.
Generally speaking, it appears Apple has improved on what was already an excellent service through Pandora. Since I’m already an Apple-lover and iTunes Radio syncs easily with all my devices, I’ll probably make the switch. For Android users and Apple-haters, Pandora remains a strong contender.