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With so many similarities, the battle between streaming services comes down to taste.
When it first launched, Spotify had one blistering advantage over competitor Pandora: on-demand listening. And Spotify Premium allows users unlimited on-demand music streaming without any disruptive ads at a low cost. That changed with the debut of Pandora Premium, a full-featured alternative to the black and green streaming giant. Paying Pandora customers are no longer reliant on artist stations to hear their favorite songs. But if both services can stream your favorite songs on-demand, what sets them apart? Here’s everything you need to know about streaming music with Spotify vs Pandora Premium.
Spotify vs Pandora Premium
Spotify Premium cost vs Pandora Premium cost
Whether you choose Spotify or Pandora Premium, you’ll pay the same cost of $9.99 a month, with a 60-day free trial for new users. Or you can save money by purchasing a year’s worth of streaming upfront: Spotify costs $119.99 a year while Pandora offers a slightly cheaper $109.99 a year.
When it comes to Family Plans the same pricing quirks arise. Month to month Family Plans cost the same on both services, $14.99/mo for six accounts. However, Pandora is the only service currently offering a discount for buying a year upfront, for $164.89/year. Paying month to month adds up to at least $179.88 a year for both services. Also, if you’re looking to subscribe to Spotify and Hulu, you can get both services for $12.99 a month. Keep in mind, with all Pandora and Spotify pricing local taxes may apply. When it comes to cost, Pandora is the winner.
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Spotify vs Pandora Premium: How are they the same?
When it comes to basic features, Spotify and Pandora Premium are strikingly similar. Both offer the same basic library of albums and tracks, so you won’t miss out on a new release on one service and not the other. There are no ads, no limits on how many tracks you can skip, and each service learns from your listening habits to make custom playlists.
Premium subscribers also get improved sound quality with their memberships. You’ll want to make sure you check your settings after signing up to make sure this feature is turned on.
Spotify and Pandora Premium also each have full-featured mobile apps that allow you to download your favorite playlists and albums for offline listening. For users still living with stingy data plans, this can be a life-saving feature. Both services also use your listening data to customize playlists based on your tastes. This can be a great way to keep track of what you’re listening to and to discover new artists when you’re hungry for something new.
Spotify vs Pandora Premium: Different features
Of course, while the basics are the same, small variations make all the difference. For instance, Spotify has superior, interacting apps compared to Pandora. If you’re listening to an album on the Spotify app in the car, you can walk into your office and pick up exactly where you left off on your desktop. Spotify merely asks if you want to switch devices when you open the new app.
This also works as a form of controller. You can change the song playing on one device from another app. So if you’re listening to Spotify on your computer, and a song comes on that you want to skip, you can do that from your phone. That’s not possible on Pandora. Pandora also does not have a desktop app, so you’ll need to keep a browser open to listen. Spotify also features a cast library of extra content, including music videos, karaoke tracks, and podcasts. Pandora doesn’t have any of those options.
Some Pandora pros, on the other hand, include better playlists. During the 18 years of its existence, Pandora’s proprietary Music Genome Project has built one of the most extensive music information databases in the world. They’ve been analyzing people’s listening habits so long that the project could vote if it gained sentience. Playlist information considers more than just what artists you like—it takes into account the mood of a song and its themes.
Pandora crafts the best playlists in streaming by weighing what you enjoy the most against the mood of what you’re currently playing. If you only use these services to listen to full records, this won’t matter. However, for playlist enthusiasts, this is an indispensable feature. And if you don’t want Pandora to guess on the fly, you can build your own custom radio stations by selecting your favorite bands. Spotify’s radio feature limits you to radio stations based on one band.
Spotify vs Pandora Premium: Which supports the most devices?
Spotify currently supports the most devices working on Android and iOS, desktops, Amazon Echo, Amazon Fire, PlayStation, Xbox, Sonos, Chromecast, Android Wear, CarPlay, and more.
Pandora Premium, on the other hand, can stream over the web, via iOS, Android, Amazon Fire, Sonos, Android TV, Xbox One, Amazon Fire TV and Google Home. This supported devices list should expand in the future, especially given the success Pandora has found by adding its service to smart devices. Standard Pandora works on over 1,700 different devices. While the logistics of getting Pandora Premium working on each of those devices is probably impossible, it’s a safe bet to assume Pandora will continue their affinity for supporting devices. Currently, Spotify offers more options.
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Spotify vs Pandora Premium: Which service is the winner?
Ultimately, the choice between Pandora and Spotify Premium comes down to which features matter most to you. Spotify has a better app. Features like cross-play make it easy to pick up right where you left off. Being able to control Spotify on another device from your smartphone is an incredible feature, mainly if you listen on your Xbox while gaming. We also like that Spotify Premium has a desktop app, so we don’t have to keep a browser open to run the web player.
Pandora’s playlist quality, however, cannot be undersold. As a music listener with eclectic tastes that swing from death metal to jazz to trap music, Pandora has never gotten confused. Its Music Genome Project may have a silly name, but the results are incredible. I regularly find myself skipping tracks on Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist. That’s never been a problem with Pandora Premium, and they’re just working off information they got from my years of using the radio feature. Spotify has exponentially more data on me, and still regularly disappoints on the playlist front.
So who wins?
It’s a narrow victory, but currently, Spotify slides into the winning space. Just by nature of its more eclectic library and app options, Spotify offers more for roughly the same amount of money. But Pandora is making incredible strides, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see the tables turn in the future. We’ll see what the next year holds.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
John-Michael Bond is a tech reporter and culture writer for Daily Dot. A longtime cord-cutter and early adopter, he's an expert on streaming services (Hulu with Live TV), devices (Roku, Amazon Fire), and anime. A former staff writer for TUAW, he's knowledgeable on all things Apple and Android. You can also also find him regularly performing standup comedy in Los Angeles.