Will iTunes Radio replace Pandora?

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We’re betting half of you have already downloaded Apple’s recent upgrade iOS7 which launched on September 18. We know you may still be bitter about having to get used to the whole new look, not to mention dealing with the battery drainage that comes along with the new operating software. However, Apple developed one new feature that we find particularly intriguing: the iTunes Radio. According to iTunes, their radio is a “freestreaming radio with the best selection music. It builds and brings together stations you’ll love from day one. And the more you listen, the more personalized the stations become. It’s radio re-imagined”(Apple.com). Sounds a lot like Pandora and Rhapsody, right? Apple also announced that by Monday, 5 days after the launch, iTunes Radio has notched 11 million unique listeners. That’s about 4 times the number of unique listeners that Rhapsody captured when launching in 2001. If it continues on this track, iTunes Radio will surpass the current leader of Internet radio, Pandora, in less than 30 days.

Pandora is currently the largest streaming radio service with 64.9 million unique hits in July, compared with Spotify’s 20.2 million, and iHeartRadio’s 14.4 million. If Apple can keep up its momentum, they are predicted to have 66 million unique listeners by next month. The question in the online music world is whether people have already selected the brand they use as their primary service. If this is the case, the numbers may work in their favor: Apple reports that 500 million people worldwide use iTunes as their primary online music software.

So what does this mean for us? Should we follow the crowd and ditch our Pandora and Spotify accounts? The answer is not yet. Apple’s new music service lacks some of the power that has helped Pandora become the leader in Internet radio and it simply just doesn’t have the intelligence that Pandora has accumulated from billions of interactions with listeners who have given a song a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down”.

After giving it a try myself, I found that iTunes Radio missed the mark for me. I tried customizing a station based on Adele and instead of hearing artists with similar vocal range and upbeat tempos, I ended up hearing a lot of top 40 love songs by artists like Kelly Clarkson, Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, Bruno Mars...none of these are very similar to Adele. I also found that it doesn’t provide the listener with lyrics, bios, or any explanation as to why it was chosen. Pandora provides all three of these assets.

That being said, iTunes Radio does allow easy multi-tasking and convenient purchasing options for songs you like. It also has noticeably fewer ads than Pandora and the free version of Spotify.

iTunes Radio definitely has the potential to get better over time. But for now, stick to your Pandora station. Or if you’re smart, you’ll pay that extra $10 for Spotify.

Interested in learning more? Check out the iTunes website.