10/31/13: Pandora launches Android tablet app

Brad Hill
October 31, 2013 - 12:30pm

Pandora is making some fanfare over the release of a new Android tablet app, which re-packages Android version 5 for the bigger screen. Version 5 exists for Android phone and Apple phones, with the same essential features as the tablet version, but in a compressed form.

We like music services in tablets -- Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify, iHeart, and many others get lots of tablet time in the RAIN editorial office. We’re not sanguine about the mainstream future of mobile listening on tablets, especially in the car where the convenience of smartphones rules the cockpit. But tablets give app developers enough room to create multiple overlying swipe screens, which comprise the great navigation advantage of larger devices.

The release gives Pandora an opportunity to brag about version-5 features:

  • Informational artist pages with Music Genome characteristics. Those Genome aspects, while just a fraction of a complex music analysis, give an indication of why Pandora selected the music for you to hear.
  • A timeline profile which tracks your actions in the app -- e.g. thumbing up and down, creating new stations, and social actions. We especially love the ability to leave a comment on one’s own feed, to been by all followers.
  • A social feed, similar to spotify’s which reveals what your Pandora friends are listening to.

We notice that although Pandora displays album art of tracks previously played by the current station, you cannot backskip to those tracks, as you can do in the new Rhapsody Android app. (See the RAIN review here.)

Pandora makes a beautifully designed product in our view. The web app has been elegant for years, undimmed through many revisions. Synchronization across all devices works nicely, and the version-5 features are implemented everywhere. We do note that a heavy visual ad load plagues reduces the pleasure of phone access, where the small screen doesn’t give ads any room for discrete placement (and perhaps encourages subscribing to the ad-free version).

Brad Hill
October 31, 2013 - 12:30pm

You can’t have imagined that the Halloween edition of Pureplay of the Day would be cheery. The two stations featured today for your dark listening pleasure reach deep into goth repertoire for their creepy, thrashing, deadening effect.

Abnormally Dead Air is the more merciless of the two, a relentless goth-rock stream of shining darkness from beyond.

Nightbreed Radio isn’t a meadow of tulips either. This morning we got in the Halloween mood early with The Cure, Love Like Blood, and Squishy Squid. But if you can believe in Goth with a lighter heart, Nightbreed Radio is your choice. Tonight at 7pm the Monster Mash program is scheduled until 1am -- that’s GMT, which is several hours ahead of U.S. time zones. Not to worry about your mood music for the evening in the States, though: the Death and Resurrection show starts at 1am GMT to continue the holiday anti-cheer. 

What about Halloween party music, you ask? The feel-good, just-kidding-about-the-blood playlists? Try the in-house and user lists in Spotify. Our unscientific poking around for Halloween sounds that won’t crush your spirit had good results on that platform. Another good bet is Pandora's Spooky Symphonies station for cinematic chills.

Brad Hill
October 31, 2013 - 12:30pm

New York public radio station WNYC has long hosted Jonathan Schwartz, an American Songbook expert who has been called a national treasure in recognition of his vast knowledge of American standards, and his unique personal collection of recordings. Schwartz often demonstrates a seemingly bottomless knowledge of Frank Sinatra’s career. Here at the RAIN editorial office, we often turn to WNYC’s webcast on weekends for a dose of Jonathan Schwartz. Now WNYC’s new Internet station administers that dose at any time.

In an interesting pureplay, WNYC has launched a 24/7 stream called The Jonathan Channel. (Listen here.) Tom Taylor’s newsletter notes that Schwartz recently quit his shift at SiriusXM, so is now exclusively distributed by WNYC -- his weekly shows are broadcast on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. He has been a WNYC host for 14 years, so there is a deep archive of content for The Jonathan Channel to draw from.

There might be a trend afoot with 24/7 specialty stations derived from broadcast. Recently TuneIn announced a full-time rerun channel of public radio’s This American Life, which has an 18-year library.

Brad Hill
October 31, 2013 - 12:30pm

Distribution. For most music services, the important distribution channels outside the computer are mobile and cars.

Developing for mobile means creating apps for the two major device platforms: iOS and Android. In some cases format-specific app designs are made for phones and tablets.

Extending into cars can mean enabling mobile app transfer to a digital dashboard, or forging automaker-specific business deals for placing the music service natively in the car’s audio entertainment system.

Distributing into the television might be lower priority for music services, but when a distribution link makes it easy, there’s no reason not to do it. Google makes it easy to bundle into Chromecast, and Pandora has done it. The Internet radio service joins video platforms Netflix and Hulu as Chromecast options.

Chromecast is a thumb-sized HDMI device that plugs into the TV. It looks like a flash drive, and costs 35 dollars -- one of the most startling bargains in technology, considering its mighty power. Chromecast enables streaming of any Internet content being viewed on any device using the Chrome browser. Chromecast partners (like Pandora, as of now) get a Chromecast icon in their apps, giving the user one-click transfer to the television away from the device’s browser.

Listening to music on the TV might not have mainstream uptake, but in living rooms equipped with home theater sound systems, it could catch on. Pandora is taking the lead here, as it has with in-car distribution.