Draining your bank account or illegally downloading (which we do not recommend at all) are no longer the only two options for listening to your favorite music on-the-go – there are a variety of apps available that allow you to listen to classics and discover new favorites in the process. Apple released iOS 7 last week, and a major part of the update is the new iTunes Radio feature, comparable to apps like Pandora and Spotify. How exactly does it live up to its competitors? What sets these apps apart, and which one fits your musical needs the best? Let’s take a look.
Price: $24.99 per year
Once you update your iPhone to iOS 7, iTunes Radio will automatically appear under the “Music” tab on your device without any additional steps. It’s free for users through ad generation. If you prefer that ads don’t interrupt your solo-karaoke sessions, you can sign up for iTunes Match, which costs $24.99 a year. iTunes Match is the cheapest premium version of the three apps in this article.
- You have the ability to search stations by genre, artist, album or song.
- You can reorder, delete and add new stations any time.
- You can dislike tracks you don’t want to hear again, and “star” tracks you like. Your star tracks will go into a catalog.
- You can sort stations by “Hits,” “Variety” or “Discovery” mode. “Hits” will solely features songs from the top charts, “Discover” will branch out to lesser-known artists you might like, and “Variety” is somewhere in-between. Depending on how you use music apps, this feature can be very helpful.
- If you like a song, you can buy it with one click. It’ll automatically download and appear in your permanent music library.
Selection and quality
iTunes Radio features all of the music available for purchase on iTunes, one of the world’s largest music databases. Of the apps discussed, iTunes has the best rating for performance with 3G, though it works and sounds best with a wired or wireless internet connection.
- If you don’t purchase any songs, you won’t be able to listen to playlists without some sort of internet connection.
- If you don’t purchase songs, you also won’t be able to make custom playlists.
- Because iTunes Radio is so new, there are some bugs that users predict will be fixed in the next version. Reviews report that the app has frozen or quit without warning, or offered completely mismatched music in playlists.
Price: $36 per year
You can download and use the Pandora app for free, but there are frequent ad breaks. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, you can upgrade to Pandora One Premium for $36 a year. Besides being ad-free, Pandora One features a desktop app and access to albums that haven’t yet been released in stores.
- Pandora has been criticized for its 40 hour listening limit in the past, but that limit has recently increased to 320 hours.
- Another new feature is social media integration, with options to “Share” a song on your Facebook wall or Twitter feed, or “Publish” a song to your recent activity.
- Like iTunes Radio, Pandora has the option to buy a song through a link to iTunes or Amazon.
- There are lyrics and album art available for most songs, and a “Why” section to inform you about why this song was chosen for your playlist.
- The Pandora app is available to iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry phones.
Selection and quality
Pandora has a consistently growing library, which currently consists of 900,000 songs. Of the three apps discussed, Pandora has the smallest catalog of music. Pandora has relatively high reviews for sound and app quality.
- You can’t rewind or repeat songs.
- You’re limited to 6 song skips per hour.
- There aren’t enough “niche” playlists for lesser-known artists, genres or movies.
- Even with the premium option, you don’t have access to any music without an internet connection.
Price: $4.99 or $9.99 per month
Much like Pandora, Spotify has a free app available for download, but it features disruptive ad breaks. Unlike Pandora, Spotify has two payable options. For $4.99 a month, you receive unlimited listening. For $9.99 a month, you have access to all the features Spotify offers, ad free.
- Spotify features usual station playlists, but also lets you build custom playlists of songs that can be listened to with or without internet.
- You can connect your Spotify account with Facebook to share playlists with friends.
- Spotify offers unlimited skipping.
- You can buy Spotify giftcards so your family or friends can try out the service.
- You can upload songs and playlists from your computer onto your Spotify to access them from other locations.
Selection and quality
Though Spotify is a relatively young app, it has a huge music library of over 20 million songs! In that aspect, it blows other apps out of the water. Spotify has good sound quality, but particularly disruptive ads when you’re using the free version.
- It has a lot of potential to connect with your friends, but they’re not always easy to find. You can’t use names, your contacts, or email addresses to find friends on Spotify – you need their specific username.
- You can’t purchase songs through Spotify directly or with a link.
- Playlists are only shareable on certain websites and to people who also use Spotify. This feature is less than ideal for companies or artists, as it alienates a portion of the audience.
How we listen to our music is changing, and there are tons of free or affordable options out there. Consider what features are most important to you and test free versions before committing to one music app. Which is your favorite of these three apps? Tell us why in the comments below!