Friday, October 10, 2008

Pandora App 1.2 Update

Pandora recently released their second version of their iPhone app, and many of the concerns I had with the original app have been addressed. I consider the feature set in the same order as I did in my review of the original app.

I was wrong about the original app not buffering songs. Both the original app and the updated version buffer the current song in its entirety as long as the network connection allows it to. Pandora delivers music well into the Oakland tunnel on BART, and there have been several times that a longer song has completed after we've emerged to the other side.

Pandora still does not display the originating station when playing songs via quickmix. I still want this feature. However, you can now edit the list of stations that will be played by quickmix. One minor niggle with this new feature is that it does not load the current selections, and so if you wish to add or subtract a station or two, you have to reselect all of the stations that you want in your quickmix.

The big news is that the individual stations are far more editable than they were in the Sprint version of the mobile player I used prior to the iPhone. The full ASUD (Artist, Songs, thumbs-Up, and thumbs-Down) are fetched when you edit a station, and you can delete any entry and add new artist and song seeds. Adding new seeds turns out to be quite reasonable with the iPhone keypad, and Pandora tries to auto-complete your entries via its search engine. That feature was well beyond my expectations at this point. The only real downside right now is that the lists are only sorted by recency with the least recent on the bottom. Thus, it's really difficult to cull the thumbs-up you've given a particular artist in a station. Nor can you edit any station description you may have written for a station page. Nevertheless, the editing features are a major leap forward.

You still cannot scroll back through previously played songs from the current session as you can in all other versions of the player to provide feedback. Thus you must still react while a song plays to provide feedback. You cannot add songs to either the lists of thumbed-up or thumbed-down stations which might have been a work-around for this issue.

The app does now remember which station you were playing and defaults to the most recently played station (including your quickmix).

The new app has some miscellanious new features as well. There is a new button allowing you to purchase a track from iTunes. I'd still rather buy DRM-free cd's, and so I'll probably never use that feature. You can now access and edit your bookmarks. I used to print out lists of my song bookmarks from my Pandora page when I went music shopping, and now the list is always in my pocket, and so this feature is actually useful to me. Lastly, there is a settings page that gives you the option to lower your sound quality to reduce any skips and hesitations. I find that all the skips and hesitations seem to be iPhone/ATT network problems. Several times a day I must toggle airport mode to restart the 3G. On the worst days I have to go twenty minutes without music while the iPhone tries to link up. Usually, however, it just takes a couple of seconds to reset. None of these issues are Pandora's fault, though, because Safari is equally blocked when the network is having issues. Thus, I keep the audio quality on high and do not have much us for this feature.

A final new "feature" is, inevitably, advertising. A small bar with advertising now appears above the feedback bar blocking out maybe a quarter inch of the album art. I have no objection to this feature. Pandora has kept ads out of the audio stream, and, further, from interfering with any of the controls. That fact is great - particularly in the face of the pressure they are facing from SoundExchange to monetize internet radio in the same fashion as terrestrial radio. I hope that they will be able to continue to hold the line against obtrusive advertising.

I also continue to pray that the royalty negotiations resolve successfully and that Pandora will be able to grow and prosper. The Pandora app 1.2 is another wonderful step forward, and I looking forward to future versions.

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