Pandora announced this week that it is rebranding its $5-per-month Pandora One music streaming service and adding additional features, such as more skips and replays, and offline listening. But a more full-featured music service like that offered by Spotify is still months away.
I first wrote about the possibility that Pandora (and Amazon) could disrupt the music streaming market earlier this week in $5 Per Month for Music? (Premium Only.) As I noted at the time, Pandora already offers a $5-per-month service called Pandora One, which is ad-free, offers high-quality music, and more daily song skips than the free service (which is ad-supported). But the newly-announced Pandora Plus, while an improvement over Pandora One, falls a bit short of what I was hoping to see.
According to Pandora, Pandora Plus is rolling out right now, so anyone who is subscribed to Pandora One will “seamlessly transition” to the new service on the web. (Well, unless you live in Australia or New Zealand, in which case you need to wait until sometime in 2017.) The mobile app versions of Pandora on Android and iPhone will be updated to support Pandora Plus “in the coming months.” So “today” is a bit of a stretch no matter how you’re rating this change.
From a functional standpoint, Pandora Plus doesn’t really do much to straddle the gap between streaming radio and full-featured services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music. The marquee feature here, of course, is offline playback. So while you still can’t choose exactly what you want to hear, you can at least take music offline. Or, you will be able to, whenever those new mobile apps appear.
There are a few nice bits, however. In addition to more skips and replays, Pandora Plus subscribers will benefit from a new “predictive offline mode” that automatically detects when you lose your signal and switches to one of your top stations and keeps playing. And even those on the free service will see some improvements, with “more control over their advertising and listening experience with the ability to skip more songs and replay songs simply by opting into a video ad.”
As for Pandora’s coming $10-per-month full-featured service, that’s even further off: That offering won’t ship until “later this year,” apparently because of international licensing negotiations.
Pandora is one of the older online streaming services—it first launched way back in 2000—but it’s often left out of discussions about the future of streaming music services because it’s paying audience is so small. That is, while 80 million people using Pandora, only 4 million or so actually pay for it.
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