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Spotify Radio for Android impressions: Pandora, you’re on notice

Spotify Radio for Android screenshots

Today, Spotify updated its Android app to include the Pandora-like “Radio” option that was added to the Spotify iOS app in June. While the layout is a bit different, the Radio feature appears to have all of the functionality you’d expect. Unlike the regular Spotify service on mobile, Radio is also completely free (at least here in the US it is). You just have to create an account and log in.

Pandora is still the big kid on the block, so most of Spotify Radio’s features appear to emulate it. You can create radio stations based on any artist, album, or playlist. Once you create a station, you can listen, skip forward, or give a thumbs up/down to any song.  Rating songs helps Spotify’s algorithm figure out your musical tastes. If you give a song a thumbs up, it will be added to a special playlist so you can find it again later on your desktop computer. Thumbs down a song and it skips to the next song. 

In my initial experience, the playlists Spotify generates aren’t as surprising or unique as Pandora’s, but they do the job better than a lot of other competing services. While Pandora chooses songs by having actual people listen to them and dissect their musical qualities, Spotify uses a more computational approach. At times, it’s hard to notice the difference and those who have grown tired with Pandora’s selections may want to give Spotify Radio a listen.

Because Spotify Radio is basically an added feature of the regular Spotify app, you can also do a lot of things that aren’t possible on Pandora. You can create Radio stations based on any playlist you come across and if you see a song you like, you can add it to a playlist as well, though listening to custom playlists on your phone requires a $10 Spotify subscription. But it’s still useful because Spotify is completely free on Windows and Mac. Songs you save will be available on your desktop. Any songs you give a thumbs up will also appear in a special new playlist on your desktop.

I didn’t hear any ads in our initial listen, but they will be included, much like Pandora, which also has visual ads. Those who pay for a Spotify subscription won’t hear any ads.

Overall, I’m quite impressed with Spotify Radio. It looks better than Pandora and outperforms it with a number of unique features. It will take some time before I can tell how well Spotify adapts to my listening tastes, but Pandora isn’t going anywhere soon. You can download the app (or update) at the Google Play store and read my impressions of the entire Spotify Android app here.