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Review of Updated iTunes Alternatives: Pandora vs. Spotify

Once upon a time, the primary source for people when it comes to listening to music is by tuning in to their favorite FM/AM radio. However as internet technology continues to evolve, the way people consume music has definitely changed over the last decade or so. With the introduction of Apple products like the iPod and other iOS devices, and the advent of iTunes, the market for purchased music has skyrocketed. But outside of Apple, there is a music listening trend that has grown over the years and reached maturity. I am of course talking about online music streaming services. Today, we will look into updated versions of two of the main players of the online music streaming industry: Pandora and Spotify.

Spotify & Pandora Review

Review of Updated Pandora

Pandora Review

By far one of the most established internet radio services which is made available back in 2008, Pandora boasts 150 million registered users, over 58 million active listeners, and 115 million registered mobile users. However, there is no doubt that the market for streaming radio is evolving which directly affects the number of competition. With competitor strength posed by services like Pandora and possibly Apple in the future, it is clear that Pandora can't rest on its laurels just yet or it will be left out in the dust. Fortunately, Pandora has received a major update aiming to improve the service for mobile users.

Pandora Updates Its Mobile App

Pandora Radio Android

At the end of October, Pandora has just received a significant update for iOS and Android devices. The update is poised to integrate an all-new improved navigation, deeper integration with the music library and artist database, and extensive social features. The update counts as the biggest one yet since the app was launched in iOS back in 2008 and in Android in 2009. The main purpose of the new apps is to provide parity to the mobile platform with the desktop experience which already have features like social integration.

Pandora App Social

Officially called Pandora 4.0, to quote the app "offers listeners a better music experience with expanded listening functionality, a detailed personal music profile, diverse social sharing capabilities and other innovative features that are available on mobile for the first time." For a more personalized experience, the app provides listeners with their own profile page. This social feature is very much like your Facebook profile which will show which station you've created and tracks you've listened to, bookmarked and rated. Think of the activity feed as your Facebook News Feed. You can even follow your friends too and see what tunes other listeners with similar interests are listening to. Artist pages exist as well complete with updated information such as biography and discography. There are also recommendations which could help you discover similar artists.

Pandora App Review_0

Another most requested feature that made it into the new Pandora app is Social Sharing. Now, you can finally share the links of your favorite tracks or stations with your friends on social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Unlike other apps though, Social Sharing is purely optional which means that you won't be forced to share if you don't want to. “We’re not pushing it in your face. If you don’t want to share, we’re not pushing it out to your network” says Asi Behar Director of Product, User Experience at Pandora. The whole mobile experience has gotten a whole lot better as well because you can now easily access different stations, rename created stations, and view other station details.

It is quite interesting to note that Pandora's iPad app wasn't updated which ironically was the inspiration for the web update for the service that triggered all these changes. In 2013, Pandora will be available for Windows Phone 8. You can download the Pandora Radio app using these links: iOS and Android

Review of Updated Spotify

Spotify Review

When it comes to the music streaming service, then one of most popular ones is definitely Spotify and it could definitely give other leading services such as Pandora a run for its money. While the service has been around since 2008, it was only last year that Spotify was made available to users in the U.S. As of this time, Spotify is a critically-acclaimed music streaming service garnering praises from TIME and Facebook CEO Spotify Mark Zuckerberg. This is most likely the reason why a partnership between Facebook and Spotify was established earlier this year.

Spotify Goes to the Web

Spotify Web App

So what is new with Spotify as of late? Well, the biggest thing that happened to Spotify recently is definitely beta rollout of its first ever browser-based music player. As of now, the streaming music outfit offers its members two listening options, a standalone desktop application and an app for both iOS and Android. The only thing missing now is the web-based version of the service, something which the company plans to address by rolling out the beta version of Spotify's Web app. The beta will be made available to on a small scale  for the months to come.

Spotify Web App_0

The greatest advantage of a Spotify web-based app is that it will enable users to listen to playlists or nearly any track regardless of which computer they are on. You can basically access your Spotify account even you are at work (where software installs are prohibited) or in a friend's laptop. One of the biggest concerns with a web-based app however, is that there is the possibility that it will be a lot slower than the downloadable counterpart. Fortunately, this isn't seem to be the case. Spotify for the web utilizes Flash and with a good web connection, you should be able to play tracks in a just a matter of seconds.

Spotify Web App_1

Another thing that is worth noting is that the design of the web app is fairly similar to what's found on Spotify's iPad app which features cascading navigation. This means that you'll be able to check out a new band or artist if it catches your attention but since the edge of the screen is visible, you can jump back easily if you wish to move on. Users will be happy to know as well that navigating functions like Search, What's New, Radio and Playlists are now much easier as compared to the desktop version. The "Now Playing" section is also now bigger which paves the way for better control. One notable omission however is the Play Queue section which should let you know which track is coming next or view your listening history.

There are other glaring omissions like gapless playback and the lack of social features however, keep in mind that Spotify app for the web is still in beta and there are bound to be many changes in the future. Here's hoping that the changes will be better with bigger features and not just a port of the desktop version. In order to give the Spotify web app a shot, you can visit this link (play.spotify.com) and you might be given an access (users in Spotify supported countries only).

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