Pandora logo.

Remember Pandora? It was one of the earliest streaming music services, but it worked very differently than what we’re used to nowadays. Well, Pandora is still alive, and it has remained unique in this crowded space. You might like it.

Catch Up With an Old Friend

Pandora officially launched all the way back in 2005. The concept of streaming music over the internet was still very new. Spotify wouldn’t launch for another five years. Pandora was an exciting new service at an exciting time on the internet.

The big selling point of Pandora was a recommendation engine based on the “Music Genome Project.” Essentially, it classifies songs by a number of musical traits. It then uses those traits to fine-tune the “Stations” based on your likes and dislikes.

The idea is you pick a song, artist, or genre to start a new “Station.” The songs in the station are based on your original choice, but they’re not static. As you thumbs up and thumbs down songs, the Station continues to evolve to match your taste.

That core idea is still what drives Pandora today, and the service has held up surprisingly well compared to other streaming services. I’m constantly wondering why no one has copied Pandora’s “I’m tired of this track” feature.

RELATED: How to Train Your Pandora Radio Stations Better

The Leanback Music Service

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As I’ve already mentioned a couple of times, Pandora still has something unique to offer. It really is a completely different experience than Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and many other services.

“Radio” has become a common term on music services, but Pandora does radio much more like real radio than the others. Spotify’s “Radio” feature is essentially just a playlist of related songs and artists. Pandora Stations, on the other hand, are a never-ending stream of music that changes as you customize it.

This makes for a very casual listening experience. It reminds me of watching a live cable TV channel. You simply pick a Station and just let it play until you’re done listening. You don’t have to worry about it ending and having to find something else. Pandora is better than TV, though, because you help decide which show plays next.

Services like Spotify and Apple Music are more like Netflix. There’s a good chance you have something specific in mind when you open them up. Pandora is not as good when it comes to wanting to listen to a specific song or album, which is why it’s great for casual listening.

Is Pandora Still Free?

Pandora plans.

Has all this talk about Pandora got you feeling nostalgic? Maybe you missed the boat, and you’re looking to try it for the first time. Being free was another thing that helped Pandora explode in popularity, but is it still free?

Yup, Pandora is still free! There are some limitations with that, just like there were at launch. First, you have a limited number of skips per day (Pandora does not specify how many). Skips include thumbs-downing songs.

The main thing you’ll notice with a free account is ads. They play every few songs, but sometimes you can listen to longer ads for longer ad-free breaks. Free users can also exchange listening to ads for playing specific songs and albums.

If you like Pandora enough to want to ditch the ads and get unlimited skips, there are two paid plans to choose from. The $5 per month “Plus” plan has ad-free listening, unlimited skips, offline listening, and more. The $10 per month “Premium” plan includes the same things, plus you can make and share playlists.

Music Streaming, Simplified

Look, there’s a reason why Pandora has essentially been forgotten by a large portion of people. Services like Spotify and Apple Music have larger song libraries, include more features, and probably align with how most people like to experience music.

I still think Pandora has its place, and there’s plenty to like about it if you’re a casual music listener. You might be surprised if you give it a shot.

Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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