Pandora is finally going after Spotify, but which service is better? Pandora Premium, the service's on-demand streaming music tier, launched back in March at $9.99 per month after a 60-day free trial.
Illustration: Tom's Guide
What makes Premium stand out from Pandora's other offerings is that users will finally be able to select the songs they want, rather than depend on the service's radio stations. Pandora will be catch-up out of the gate when it comes to device support and video content, but it looks like a strong contender overall, though customers looking for the best deal will find it on Spotify.
|Pandora Premium||Spotify Unlimited|
|Monthly Price ||$9.99||$9.99 |
|Annual Price||$109.89 ||$99|
|Family Pricing||$14.99 per month or $164.89 per year, 6 accounts||$14.99 per month, 6 accounts|
|Free Trial Length||60 days||30 days|
|Song Library||The same as Spotify, minus the karaoke tracks, covers and tributes||More than 40 million songs|
|Availability||Android phones, iPhones, Chromecast, Android Audio, CarPlay and other car stereos (at launch); desktop computers and connected devices ("in the coming months")||Android devices, iPhones, iPads, desktop computers, Amazon Echo speakers, Amazon Fire TV, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox, smart TVs, Sonos speakers and other connected devices Chromecast, Android Wear, Android Audio, CarPlay and other car stereos|
|Other Content||Music and limited podcasts (Serial, This American Life, Questlove Supreme).||Music videos, other videos (including TED Talks and content from Genius), podcasts|
How much do they cost?
Just like Spotify Unlimited, Pandora Premium will cost $9.99 per month with a 60-day free trial. Existing Pandora Plus subscribers received a longer 6-month trial. Spotify offers a 30-day free trial to new users.
The only big pricing difference comes for those music lovers looking to invest in a year's worth of premium service up front. Spotify offers a $20 discount with its $99 per year pricing, while a year of Pandora Premium costs more than $10 more, at $109.89.
In May of 2018, Pandora revealed family plan pricing of $14.99 per month for 6 accounts, matching Spotify's plan which offers the same rate. Pandora is also offering annual family plan pricing of $164.89 per year, which is how much 11 months of Pandora Premium costs. Spotify offers no such annual rate.
Is Pandora Premium going to be available everywhere, just like Spotify?
At first, no. Unlike Spotify and Pandora's current offerings, Premium will launch on iOS and Android phones, Google Chromecast, and smart car setups including Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and systems from GM, Honda, Subaru and others. Pandora says Premium will land on the desktop and "popular connected devices" in "the coming months."
That's in stark contrast to Spotify, which is gaining ground on Microsoft's platforms. Not only did a Spotify app just launch on the Xbox, but Microsoft's offering an easy playlist transfer tool for users of its Groove Music service, which will stop streaming at the end of 2017.
What makes Pandora Premium better?
Pandora says Premium's going to make Search smarter by organizing your results based on what it knows about you, and hiding the stuff nobody wants. So while the company has access to the same "more than 40 million" song library as Spotify and Apple Music, it removes covers from other artists, karaoke versions and other renditions you don't care about at the bottom of your results.
Pandora Premium will rise from Rdio's ashes in a trial for new and existing users starting March 15. Image: Pandora.
Pandora Premium's "Add Similar Songs" feature appears to be a slightly better version of Spotify's automatically generating song radio stations. On Pandora, once you've added some songs to a playlist, you'll get the option to "Add Similar Songs." On Spotify, you can create a playlist based on one song by clicking the Radio tab, clicking the + icon in the top right corner and finding a song of your choice. The difference is that Pandora lets you add as many starter songs to set a base, while Spotify allows for only one song.
Pandora Premium will offer a dynamic user interface, changing the color scheme of the Now Playing screen based on the art of the song you're listening to. This will be familiar for those who used Apple Music prior to iOS 9, which used a similar trick.
You'll also get a cleaner look with Pandora Premium, which appears to have kept the minimalist look that made Rdio (which Pandora bought) popular among those who appreciate well-designed apps.
How are they the same?
Much like Spotify and other services, Pandora Premium will offer personalized suggestions based on what you've listened to previously.
Pandora Premium will also let you download albums, songs, stations or playlists for offline. This way you won't need to burn through your monthly data allotment or go without tunes when you lose a signal.
What's Pandora Premium missing?
If you want more than music, you might be out of luck. Pandora's given access to select podcasts, such as Serial, but doesn't offer much more. Videos aren't there either, so you're gonna still be YouTubing your favorite music videos.
The Verge reports that there's no ability to edit the Up Next queue currently, which seems like a mistake on Pandora's part that should be remedied soon.
If you want to take a trip down memory lane of your favorite songs, Pandora offers a My Thumbs Up playlist that compiles every song you've tapped the Thumbs Up icon for. It'll also continue to add to this playlist for all songs you Thumbs Up going forward.
Pandora Premium looks like it will offer a more personal and catered streaming music service than Spotify. On the downside, early adopters better be OK with sticking to their mobile devices and Chromecasts, as other connected devices won't be supported at launch.
We look forward to getting our hands on Pandora Premium to see how it stacks up as an experience.