Sunday, January 13, 2013

Most Used Apps: Pandora

I get asked the question all the time, mostly because of my job, "What do you use your smartphone for?" The typical answer can be just about anything except doing the dishes. The following post is, and some of the posts to follow will outline, specifically, some of the most useful things that I use my smartphone for. I am going to try to keep them platform agnostic as possible, because I truly don't prefer one smartphone operating system to another, so everyone should receive some benefit from these posts. Currently, I am using an Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.2.1, but I have used and will use in the future (I'm sure), iPhones, Windows Phones and Blackberrys.

One app that is available across virtually every platform (except Windows Phone) is Pandora. I recently re-downloaded Pandora and started listening to music again. If there is one thing that people who know me well will tell you is that I don't sit in one place for too long. Whether it be on the couch or listening to one kind of music. Pandora has gotten me listening to music again because of the sheer variety and breadth of music that you can listen to. Some days I feel like listening to heavy metal, so my station is populated with Korn, Five Finger Death Punch, Tool and Rage Against the Machine. Other days I am more mellow so I want to listen to what I call modern hippy music, so I have a station that is Jack Johnson, Mumford and Son's and Dave Matthews Band.

It's free to download and free to use. Though the free to listen model is advertising supported, so be aware of that. You can sign up for a Pandora-One account for $3.99 a month which will eliminate the advertising. I subscribe to the Pandora-One account mostly because I find the ads non-relevant and annoying, and I think that it is a small price to pay for a service that I find so useful. The one thing that I wish Pandora would add is some talk radio stations, maybe a sports and news radio station.

The way that Pandora works is what makes it pretty cool. It uses something called the Music Genome Project. Basically, you select a song or artist that you like, say The Rolling Stones. Pandora will serve you up a song by The Rolling Stones, you tell it whether you like that song (thumbs up) or not (thumbs down). It will then play you a song by a different artist that has similar qualities to The Rolling Stones, maybe Aerosmith, and you either give that one a thumbs up or down. As you continue to rate whether or not you like songs and artists you are building your perfect radio station populated with only songs that you like.

One word of caution with this app: It does use your cellular data connection. And music files are some of the larger files, so you could potentially use up a bunch of your monthly data allotment, so you will want to monitor that until you figure out your usage.

There are several other services that are similar to Pandora out there: Slacker Radio, Spotify, LastFM and Rdio. I am not sure why I chose Pandora, but it seems to work very well for me. I have tried Slacker Radio and did like that service as well, although it was more expensive for the ad free version, but it did add the functionality of caching your stations so that if you lose your data connection your listening won't be interrupted. The same goes for Spotify, great service, more expensive, but it did add the ability to download music for off-line listening, but you also have to have that premium membership to utilize the service on mobile.

What online music service do you use and why? Is there something better that I should check out?

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