Lightning Review: Pandora

(Today's Lightning Review comes from BaLLi5t1c, a full review of the awesome Pandora Radio app (available on iTunes for free!). BaLLi5t1c gets a 25% off coupon to the iPhone Blog Accessory store. Want one yourself? Post a review in our forums -- full details here)

This is my first time writing a review for an iPhone app, partly because I just received my 16GB Black this past Friday and partly because I’ve been basking in the glory that is the App Store, and I couldn’t think of a more deserving app than Pandora Radio to review.

For those of you who have never heard of Pandora Radio, I’m sure you’re wondering what it is exactly and why I would make such a bold statement in my title. Allow me to enlighten you.

To put it lightly, Pandora Radio is a heaven-sent program/application that will allow you to stream music that you’ve never heard of but probably should have, music that you listened to many moons ago but somehow let slip into obscurity with those passing moons, music that is probably still in your current rotation in iTunes, and anything in between. Not too shabby, eh?

You might ask, “BaLLi5t1c, how does it do all of that without me hand-picking all of the artists and songs that I want to hear?”

(Disclaimer: This initial section is just to give would-be users an idea of how great this program works from a real-world/user perspective. I have a “Functions” section below that details what you can expect from the menus and features of the app itself. Feel free to skip to that portion if you just want to find out the basics/technicalities of Pandora Radio.)

The logistics are anything but simple and I won’t even pretend to understand all of the intricacies but if I were to hypothesize, I would have to guess that it boils down to old-fashioned voodoo magic. Ok, I admit I’m no scientist and my hypothesis is far from accurate but if you do want more detailed information on this truly spectacular process I would advise checking out Pandora Radio - Listen to Free Internet Radio, Find New Music for an overview and FAQ for an in-depth explanation (other than voodoo) of how it all works.

As soon as I installed the app, I clicked on “Create a Station” and typed in Three Days Grace as the artist I was interested in. The first song that played was, as you might have guessed, by Three Days Grace. I enjoyed that song so I hit the “thumbs up” icon but wanted to delve further into what this handy-dandy app could offer. I hit the “next track” button and a song played that I had not listened to since back in 2006 when I played it several times a day for at least a month (10 Years – Wasteland in case anyone was curious). By that point, I was seriously intrigued but wanted to see what else this puppy could do. I hit “thumbs up” and then went to the next track and I couldn’t believe my ears. Disturbed – Stricken fired right up which coincidentally happened to be the artist whose newest album had been playing in my car non-stop since I purchased it several weeks ago. That was when I thought to myself, “Get out of my head,” then after realizing what I had stumbled upon, immediately retracted that thought and clicked “next track.” I’ve not looked back and I couldn’t be happier. The icing on the cake? It’s ABSOLUTELY FREE!

Functions:

The layout is pretty straight-forward and I don’t anticipate anyone having issues navigating the menus/using the app itself but if you do and don't feel like perusing through the site or FAQ for your concerns, I'll do my best to answer any questions you might have right here. As you can see in the screen shot below, all of your current stations are listed (determined by what you search for using the "+" in the left-hand corner) and there's a "QuickMix" station which basically melds all of your tastes together and samples them accordingly (Note: Stations included in the "QuickMix" can be edited from the site listed above).

Once you're actually listening to a station, you'll be looking at a very eye-catching screen with various options allowing you to manipulate and refine your experience even further. In the screen shot below, you can see the "thumbs down/up" buttons which are pretty self-explanatory meaning that you either like the song or you don't and WILL have an effect on future choices presented to you through this application (read more on the impact your actions have in the FAQ listed above). There are also options to bookmark the song and/or artist and even purchase the song via iTunes which can be accessed by clicking the little up arrow between the "thumbs down/up" buttons.

If you are curious as to why a particular artist/song was chosen for your listening pleasure, you can click the button in the right-hand corner (kinda looks like a few bulleted lines) and it will bring up an in-depth explanation that may or may not go right over your head but it's comforting to know that the selections aren't just lucky guesses.

To ensure that users are actually rating the music/not just browsing for the sake of browsing, you're limited to six (6) skips/next track selections per station per hour. So, if you have multiple stations with similar artists you can workaround this in a sense because you get six (6) skips on each per hour.

Note: If you hit "thumbs down" on a song, it will stop playing and go to the next song. This is considered a "skip" and will count towards your allotted six (6) per hour.

Pros:

  • Accuracy with which it picks and chooses artists/songs based on your tastes is simply astonishing.
  • Quality of the streams is definitely above-average and will please practically anyone utilizing this incredible app.
  • Speed of streaming is quite impressive. My first encounter with the app as recounted above was on the EDGE network and the load-times were definitely tolerable then. On 3G and Wi-Fi, you’ll be going through songs at almost the same rate as you would by clicking “Next” in iTunes.
  • Cover-Art/aesthetics when you’re actually listening to a song is top-notch.
  • Easy-to-navigate menus and two volume controls based on your access to the device (on-screen slider and dedicated volume keys on side of the device).
  • Seamless integration with your account via Pandora Radio - Listen to Free Internet Radio, Find New Music and the ability to access all of the same features and then some while on the site.

Cons:

  • Playback volume leaves a bit to be desired when just listening via the external speaker making it difficult to entertain multiple people in the same room without huddling around the device.
  • The initial menu where all of your stations are listed is almost too simplistic visually. It’s not that it doesn’t do the job but it pales in comparison to the view you enjoy once you’re actually listening to one of your stations.
  • Inability to edit/remove bookmarks and re-name stations unless using the online portal (Pandora Radio - Listen to Free Internet Radio, Find New Music) slightly tarnishes the otherwise brilliant experience.
  • Makes you want to worship your shiny Apple toy more than you already do!!!

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 - Highly Recommended

Have something to say about this story? Share your comments below! Need help with something else? Submit your question!

Dieter Bohn

Dieter Bohn is former editor-in-chief of Smartphone Experts, writing across iMore, Windows Phone Central, Android Central, and more. You can find him on Twitter (and everywhere else) @backlon.

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Reader comments

Lightning Review: Pandora

5 Comments

Pandora is the best radio and I was very excited when learned they released the iPhone app.
It seams great at a first glance, however there are couple annoyances that keep me back from using it.

  1. A very big flaw: the program quits when a phone call received, then you have to start all over. Can you imagine how annoying it is over EDGE and when you're driving? I am sure there is some kind of non-sense limitation coming from Apple, but there are other apps that would pause and prompt to resume when you go back.
  2. The iPhone screen turns off while the phone is docked and Pandora app is active, so you have to push the home button, then slide to unlock the phone in order to see what's playing, skip a track, or for any other function. The iPod app instead dims the screen during music activity, so you can still see album cover and all other info, plus access to any function just by a touch.

I think these are the two major and probably the only issues the Pandora app has, but still it's the best mobile radio app available.

well i was going to say the lg dare until i reak you use at t. But if switching to veiozrn is an option, it's great 3.2 megapixel awesome camera, landscape querty texting, and only 0.54 inches thin. Plus it has a great touch screen (not as good as the iphone, but very good)

I love Pandora on my iPhone, but agree with the #2 item above - when driving in the car and a song comes on that I want to rate/skip, doing those items listed above is a pain (and somehow distracting as well!). Is that a Pandora fixable item, or an iPhone setting?

I enjoy listening to Pandora stations on my iPhone but I also found this really cool gadget that lets me broadcast the Pandora music to any regular radio in my house.
I found it here: http://www.usbfmtransmitters.com .
Thanks to everyone for sharing their tips.

Just got my samsung delve yesterday and gotta say i am lovin it. I've previously browsed this site very a bit and i'm in fact using my samsung delve as being a modem to sort this lol. I am a U.S. cellular buyer and we have a single of thier aircards for world wide web but i consider this cell phone is more quickly, I did do the signal strenght hack also and appears to become workin relatively well.