15
Nov
unnamed (3)

I've been using Pandora for a while now. I honestly don't remember when I started - maybe around early 2008. The web client has been a standby for me, even as the ads have grown more frequent, intrusive, and lengthy. I don't really mind. But since picking up my first Android phone, a Nexus One, back in 2010, I've never been too fond of the official app.

Sure, it works, but the speed, stability, and reliability of streaming have never been particularly good, despite numerous major updates. Tonight, Pandora released Pandora v4.0 for Android. Previously, it was v1.7. So, wait a minute - how do you go from 1.7 to 4.0? That doesn't make any sense. Well, actually, it almost sort of does, if you listen to Pandora's logic. The iOS version of Pandora is currently at 4.0, and with this release, Pandora claims the Android app is finally good enough to match its iOS sibling.

Screenshot_2012-11-15-14-09-36 Screenshot_2012-11-15-14-09-57 Screenshot_2012-11-15-14-10-06

Visually, this looks pretty much like the old app, though there's a lot more going on in terms of features. And actually, I do like the design, it's functional and puts the information you want in your face pretty obviously. It even uses the modern software menu button implementation. Unfortunately, one major flaw should already be dead obvious in the screenshot on the far right: no notification bar (or lockscreen) controls. That's a serious bummer for any music app, and one that I find very hard to overlook.

Anyway, what exactly puts this new version on par with the iOS one? Well, there's a lot more stuff you can do, basically. First, Pandora's integrated their whole social thingy, so you can share songs and stations and see what your Pandora buddies are up to. I really haven't had much time to delve into it, but it does seem kind of cool, if your friends use Pandora. It's also 100% opt-in, so Pandora isn't forcing you to use it or anything.

Screenshot_2012-11-15-14-48-06 Screenshot_2012-11-15-14-11-05 Screenshot_2012-11-15-14-50-03

There are a load of new options for dealing with your stations, too. In the old version of the app, you were pretty much limited to deleting and creating them. 4.0 lets you share stations, rename them, and view a detailed page about each one. The aforementioned page shows you the tracks you've thumbed-up / thumbed-down for that station, the seed artists you put in to create it, and comments on that station by your friends. You can also add a station description, as well add variety to stations on the fly.

Screenshot_2012-11-15-14-56-38 Screenshot_2012-11-15-14-10-36 Screenshot_2012-11-15-15-11-00

There's no denying the added utility here - Pandora has definitely upped its feature-set for Android, and that puts it back in the running as one of the best music streaming services on the platform.

But there are some issues. The lack of notification bar or lockscreen controls aside, Pandora still is missing some key elements of a proper music player, streaming or otherwise. Other than a barely-visible blue progress bar, there is no indication how long a given track is. That's just always struck me as weird, personally. The fact that you have to pull up the lower bar in the player to adjust volume isn't so bad in and of itself, but it's made annoying by the difficulty in the whole "actually pulling it up" sense; I often have to grab it two or three times before I'm successful. The app generally doesn't feel very quick, either - the double-tap gesture that takes you to a list of your recently played tracks on a station stutters along, artist bio and song info pages scroll lethargically even on my quad-core S4-packing, Jelly Bean-running DROID DNA review unit. Text and content in a lot of these secondary areas also isn't exactly formatted prettily, while the main screen - the station list area - is gorgeous.

The net result of these effects? As a user, the app feels just a little lazily hashed together to me. Some performance optimizations and rearranging could go a long way.

Speaking of performance, Pandora claims stability and playback have been improved generally, and I'm mostly inclined to agree. I only had the app lock up on a song switch once, and skipping to a new track alleviated the issue. Otherwise, I've not had any pauses, crashes, or random skips, and that's using the app over mediocre LTE signal, not Wi-Fi. But what about audio quality?

Well, Pandora's mobile app still fails to impress me in the area of fidelity. Why can I stream 192Kbps audio with Pandora One on the desktop, but only a maximum of 64Kbps AAC over mobile, regardless of account type or connection (yes, that is the "Higher Quality Audio" setting)? This is downright silly. Modern high-end smartphones have excellent digital-to-analog conversion, generally, and ever-more robust headphone amplifiers. Is 192Kbps just out of the question? Don't get me wrong, 64Kbps AAC doesn't sound bad (roughly equivalent to 128Kbps MP3), but it's a little bit annoying knowing I could be getting a noticeably better experience if Pandora would lift its utterly arbitrary restriction here.

Pandora's new app is undoubtedly better than its old one, and it's great to see the Android release hit feature-parity with iOS, but it still needs work. More speed, more attention to presentation, and more control for users all need to be on the Pandora dev team's "list." Regardless, I'm glad to see Pandora taking Android seriously, and things can only get better from here (I hope). Hit up the Play Store to grab the new app now.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    No lock screen or notification controls? In a music app? Come on...

    • http://mitchs.co Mitch Samuels

      Can the volume rocker/buttons switch songs on Roms that support that?

      • Russell Walker

        just tried this with CM10 and it works.

  • Daniel

    Any chance somebody could please post the APK? Pandora is available here in NZ, but the android app is blocked from installation, so it's web-only...

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000338649747 Omario Amriky

      I'll try

      • James

        Awesome, works great. Thanks!

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000338649747 Omario Amriky

          no problem.;)

      • leoingle

        Awesome hook up for them, bro

      • Daniel

        Thanks for taking the time to do that!

  • Superman

    I reckon since Android is now 75% of the smartphone market, app makers ought to step up their game. Else someone who wants the attention will replace them.

    • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

      i hope so!

  • James

    I hope they finally expand where you can install it too. IN New Zealand we can use pandora in a browser on a desktop but the app isn't available in this country.

  • Brian Menius

    The omission of focus on lock screen and notification controls is flat out inexcusable. Major letdown there...

  • Brian Menius

    Oh, and... “things can only get better from here," you say?

    See: Facebook. Every time they touch that turd, it's clunkier and less worthwhile than before they jackassed around with it. Here's hoping Pandora's developers aren't so dense.

  • Tyler

    Hopefully they realize they forgot the notification bar and when they add it, its expandable for people running 4.1 and up. Lock-screen stuff would be nice but considering I can view the notification bar from the lock-screen it wouldn't be terrible if it was forgotten a little bit longer.

  • sprior

    I've been a Pandora One subscriber for a couple of years, love the service and listen for 10-20 hours a week from my desktop PC, but as long as their Android app requires "add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owners' knowledge" permissions there's NO FREAKING WAY I'M INSTALLING THAT ON MY PHONE!!! I don't care if they claim they won't do anything I don't want with that permission, they can't have it.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Yeah, a multi-million dollar company with a reputation at stake is going to use its app to send random emails to people on your behalf and create calendar events it'll invite all your friends to without your permission. Tinfoil hats are available on the way out.

      • another dave

        David, you sound like an ignorant jerk. The review says the app needs performance improvements and it doesn't have basic features like lock screen widget and notification controls; so we know the code and the team behind it aren't top tier. It's very possible for a glitch on their end to cause problems via these unnecessary permissions.

        And then... The idea that there would be any kind of public outcry from an app going rogue -- and enough of an outcry to push the developer's hand -- is completely out of touch with reality. How many articles have been published both in tech niches and in mainstream news sources about app insecurities...and what has been the outcome? A ton of articles have been published, and it has largely fallen on deaf ears.

        If you feel fine giving every Tom, Dick, and Harry all the permissions they could ever ask for, go right ahead. People who understand programming, or who have seen the depth of bad management decisions, or who have some sense of principles about these thongs will politely disagree. If you're going to post under an AP staff banner, it would serve you well to learn to politely disagree as well.

        • Linkri

          You sound like a paranoid jerk. I feel bad that you are so easily worried by such meaningless details.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/psycho_maniac_ Jerry Lange

    Even sound cloud has lock screen controls. Wtf!

  • squiddy20

    "The fact that you have to pull up the lower bar in the player to adjust volume isn't so bad in and of itself..." Or you could, you know, just hit up/down on the volume rocker to change the volume. -_-

    "Why can I stream 192Kbps audio with Pandora One on the desktop, but only a maximum of 64Kbps AAC over mobile, regardless of account type or connection?" Not sure of the bit rate, but have you tried going into settings and checking "Higher Quality Audio"? Seems that *might* solve that problem.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      64Kbps is the max - that is "higher quality audio." You think I don't know how to check a settings menu?

      And yes, you could hit the volume rocker, but how does that excuse the difficulty of bringing up the slider? That's completely irrelevant.

      • squiddy20

        You talk of difficulty, and yet the easiest thing to do is just avoid the problem altogether by using the volume rocker. Even if you were on the main music screen and the feature worked properly, would you really use it in lieu of the volume rocker? The fact that you have to pull up the volume bar in-and-of itself kind of defeats the purpose of ease of use when compared to just hitting the volume +/- key. Seems like a no brainer to me.

        As for the higher quality audio, my bad. You didn't mention it the first time I read the article and I now see you've edited the article to reflect this additional info. Wasn't saying you didn't know how to check a settings menu, merely pointing it out because it didn't (at the time) sound like you knew about it. I swear I remember a few updates back, there was a little note about how high the HQ audio was on mobile, and it was a lot higher than 64 Kbps... Maybe it was my imagination...

        • http://twitter.com/ao9news andy o

          There are times where having the volume onscreen is easier, like with certain car docs that make it hard or awkward to use the buttons. Happens with my iPod Touch in my car, but on iOS Pandora does work with lockscreen controls (which includes a volume slider).

          Though, I should say, I use my devices directly into an amplifier (not through a car receiver), so that's why I don't get any other volume control.

  • http://twitter.com/ao9news andy o

    Have you tried it on Android 4.2, if the widget works on the Lock/seucurity screen?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I did. It doesn't.

  • DrMacinyasha

    No lock screen or notification controls, doesn't play well with Bluetooth/universal audio controls, has ads, limited skips, and limited hours?

    Sorry, I'll stick with my old themed version from almost two years ago that at least fixes the latter half of those problems.

  • hniu

    Is there any way to run it in UK?
    I've discovered so much great music when it still was globally available...

  • FKALurch

    I moved the Jango about a year and half ago and have not looked back. Jango is so much better. Love it I can skip an unlimited amount of songs. Sound quality is also better

  • CPC

    Ya I agree just stupid. I could care less about everything else just give me the ability to change the song in my notification bar.

  • Thorn

    I'm guessing they leave it at 64kbps because it keeps most phone users from killing their allotted GBs under recent phone plans. A higher rate would only be beneficial if you had unlimited streaming and no throttling frankly...

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Um, Wi-Fi?

    • Floss

      You can do a shit-ton of streaming at 128 kbps on a standard 2GB plan just fine...

  • Keith Milligan

    "And yes, you could hit the volume rocker, but how does that excuse the difficulty of bringing up the slider? That's completely irrelevant." <-----What's irrelevant is what difference does it make if it's difficult to bring up the volume slider if you can just use your volume buttons to adjust volume???

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