April 23, 2014

App Review: Pandora for Android

mytouch_widget_400Pandora, the popular ad-supported music streaming service, has now been available for the Android platform for over two weeks. In this review I’ll discuss some highlights and opportunities for improvement which we will hopefully see in future versions to come (reviewing version 1.0.0).

Like other streaming music applications available for Android, the Pandora application also includes a widget which can be placed on the home screen, allowing you to run the application in the background. The widget controls (Like, Dislike, Play/Pause, Skip) are responsive to touch, although tapping on the widget to bring up the actual Pandora app may take a few tries. On 3G networks, there can be up to a five second delay when skipping songs and sometimes an additional one or two more seconds for the album view to load after the song has begun to play. On 2G, I experienced up to ten seconds for the song to load and up to 20 for the album art to load (please note, these readings represent the maximum and do not necessarily reflect typical load times). When allowing the song to play through, the proceeding track loads up much faster than if you were to skip to the next track yourself.

If you’re an existing Pandora user, after logging in you will see a list of your current stations as well as the QuickMix option. For new Pandora users, QuickMix merges artists and genres which would normally fall into separate stations, giving the user an easier way to listen to a more diverse collection of music in one station. When you begin playing music, hitting the “Menu” key brings up options to Bookmark the song or artist, Buy, Share, Preferences, and Quit the application. Contrary to what you may think, “Bookmarking” a song or artist does not save a link or provide on-demand access to the song or artist, it is purely to develop your profile on the Pandora website. Selecting “Buy” launches the built-in Amazon MP3 application. Quite redundantly, one must perform an additional search from within the Amazon application to find the artist, album, or song. “Share” allows you to send a link to your station to a friend via email. Lastly, “Preferences” gives you two options, “Audio Quality” and “Sign Out”. Please note the load times listed above were tested under the High Audio Quality setting.

The advertisements only appear in the actual Pandora application, not the widget, and can be closed. However, another ad will pop up at the beginning of the next song. These ads are minimal in size, unobtrusive, and again can be avoided altogether by using the widget.

In this author’s opinion, Pandora represents the best of what the current internet streaming music model has to offer in the US. However, competition is brewing as the next generation of streaming music services, such as Europe’s Spotify, are offering on-demand music streaming. Pandora may have to quickly adapt to compete with on-demand streaming technology.

I’d like to see future updates integrate scrobbling to Facebook, MySpace, Last.fm, and other social networks. The “Thumb Up/Down” function seems to have little effect on reducing or increasing the frequency of artists appearing in your station. Future updates should include more customization and adaptation based on the user’s musical preferences. At times, Pandora seemed to take up enough of the system’s resources to the point that typing a text message was extremely lagged. Given the quality of this initial version, I am confident the issues I experienced will be addressed in future updates as Pandora continues to be a competitor in the evolving world of internet streaming radio.

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