Faceoff: Spotify vs. Pandora

It’s time for the music showdown. Spotify vs Pandora…


As Pandora is one of the most popular apps on both iOS and Android, it is easy for me to assume that most people have used it.  It’s pretty easy.  Just create a “station” by giving a few songs and/or artists, then personalize it as you listen through thumbs up or down.  Recently, Pandora has had a limit of 40 hours per week of free listening, but they will be lifting that limit on September 1st.  So, whether through your desktop or via your mobile device you will have unlimited listening to your personalized or Pandora created stations.  There are advertisements and after a certain time period you are asked “are you still listening?” In order to avoid the cost of streaming music to an empty room.  There is a limit on the number of songs you can skip, 6 songs per hour or 12 songs per day.

You can subscribe to Pandora One for $3.99/mo or $36/year.  By upgrading you get zero advertisements (audio or visual), custom skins to personalize your own look, ability to play via the desktop instead of the browser, fewer interruptions (are you listening?), and higher audio quality.


While newer to the game, Spotify has really gained strength in the last year.  I use Spotify primarily for custom playlists.  There have been very few times that I have searched a song or artist and not found it.  You can create, share, or subscribe to playlists from your friends or even celebrities.  It’s a great way to share new music with your friends.  Spotify will also combine your personal music collection to what they’ve got.

In general, I would say that Spotify is better at helping you discover new music.  There is a discovery tab that recommends new stuff based on what you’ve been listening to.  They also remind you of music you haven’t listened to in a while (genius).  You can listen either through the desktop app, or if you are at work or on a public computer you can listen through the website.

Spotify also has a radio tab where you can create stations (just like Pandora), or listen to a station based off one of your playlists.  In the United States there is no limit to the amount of music you can listen to.

The mobile app for Spotify is very similar to Pandora if you are using the Free Membership.  You can log in and listen to your stations, Spotify’s stations, or create new stations, all of which will have adds.  This is a new development, as Spotify used to require a membership for any listening at all on your mobile devices.

There are a few subscription options with Spotify. Unlimited for $4.99/month gets you add free listening through on your desktop or laptop.  Premium for $9.99/month let’s you listen add free on all of your devices, and also includes downloading music to your devices for offline listening.

So both of these apps are great.  Both are free to listen to the radio, and both have options for subscriptions.  Pandora is simplistic.  Spotify provides more opportunities for discovery, has social media integration, and allows for personalized playlists.  There has been some debate as to which radio chooses better songs once you have personalized the station, but I have yet to find any significant difference between the two.

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  • Robp

    I used to use Pandora every day at work but now must use Spotify because I’m in the UK now and Pandora isn’t supported here. While I like that I can listen to any album I like on Spotify, I usually use the Radio feature to get more variety and hear new songs. But unfortunately, Spotify’s recommendations aren’t nearly as good as Pandora’s. Also, Spotify doesn’t seem to learn what I like as well as Pandora does. For example, I’ve given thumbs down to several songs from the same artist on Spotify and it keeps playing more songs from the same artist. Overall, I’d go with Pandora.

    • Lizzie Robinson

      Interesting. These past few weeks I have found myself drifting back towards Pandora. I think you are correct in saying Pandora’s recommendations are better. Spotify’s major strength seems to be that you can personalize playlists or discover new music through friends, but Pandora radio is safe and consistent.

    • sweg

      get chrome with media hint extension, you’ll be able to use pandora

      • photoglyph

        Chrome unsupported for OS.

  • SirIntro

    If you have used both, you will always chose Spotify, but most people have just used Pandora and then say “It’s better”.

    • jose

      true, I actually got a free Pandora One subscription but I still prefer Spotify even with the adds

    • photoglyph

      At the moment, Spotify’s subscription fees are slightly more ‘insane’ to me…