With our focus on Android multimedia, I find myself browsing AppBrain multiple times per day. There are always hidden gems in the Market, and AppBrain makes it easy to find them. Music & Audio is obviously a category of my particular interest, since it’s where I can find media players and streaming services that make Android a better multimedia platform. Yet every time I go there I see the same thing: Pandora on top. It doesn’t quite surprise me. If you graphed my most frequently run apps, Pandora would be No. 1 by a long shot. It made me start thinking about why this streaming service absolutely destroys all others. The simple answer anyone can conjure. Pandora is simply awesome. It not only has a library filled with millions upon millions of songs, but it’s quite good at detecting which of those millions you will enjoy. Even though there are limits on skips, even for paid users, it’s not often that I find myself skipping six songs in a row and being forced to change channels. That is, if used properly, Pandora is almost guaranteed to stream you songs you want to hear. Yet there’s so much more to the app than that. It mimics radio in the right ways Radio is a familiar medium, but with digital music, along with portable MP3 players, spreading so widely, choice becomes paramount. Why listen to someone else’s playlist when you can just make your own? In other words, if you have an iPod full of songs, you can build a playlist that you’re guaranteed to enjoy. On the radio you might hit a strong patch of songs, but you’ll be flipping the channel sooner or later — if for no other reason than the inevitable commercials. Still, there’s a level of passivity with radio that keeps it alive. Maybe you’re not in the mood for any of your playlists, and you don’t want to take the effort to build a new one. When I was growing up this was essentially the purpose of radio: for when I didn’t feel like making a new mix tape. Pandora simulates that experience. And, because it is attuned to your musical tastes, it more often than not plays songs you enjoy. More often than radio, certainly. It just keeps going You might notice a commercial here or there, but it’s nothing like a radio commercial break. On the radio it can be painful: five or six songs, followed by 5 to 10 minutes of commercials. Blech. With Pandora you might get a commercial every dozen songs, but it’s relatively short, and it’s only one. And then it’s back to the music. You can skip the songs you don’t like Don’t like a song on the radio? Too bad. You’ll have to change stations to get something different. On Pandora you can just skip ahead a track. You have a limited number, so they’re valuable. But you can always create a bunch of similar stations, so you have flipping alternatives if you wear out your skips on one channel. Multiple channels trumps multiple stations Even the largest radio markets have limited selections. With Pandora you can create stations for each genre of music you enjoy. You can even create multiple stations for similar genres. (For example, I have both a Bad Religion and Bad Brains channel.) It streams to everything Have a portable device? Chances are you can stream Pandora to it. It’s kind of like Netflix in that way. Netflix is destroying any competitors, because its streaming service is embedded in so many platforms. Pandora has apps for every major mobile platform, plus many others — e.g., my father’s BluRay player has Pandora built in. It’s tough to compete with something so ubiquitous. It is radio What this boils down to is that Pandora is a superb replacement for radio. It even faces similar problems, especially when it comes to mobile. There are some areas where you won’t get FM reception, just as there are some areas you won’t get a mobile signal. Spotty FM reception never killed radio, and I don’t think Pandora takes too much of a hit when people drive into a mobile drop zone. Normally at this point I’d invite you to go download Pandora. But chances are you already have it.
Why Pandora rules the streaming music market
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