As expected, Pandora has launched Pandora Plus, a rebranded and improved version of its $5-a-month Pandora One offering. It also has enhanced its free, ad-supported service, which the majority of its users take advantage of. The release of the updated services marks the beginning of a new era for Pandora, as the company will end 2016 with three tiers of service and an on-demand service to compete against Spotify and Apple Music.
Pandora One, the longstanding premium tier from the online radio service, allowed users to get rid of ads, access higher quality streams, and increased the daily skip limit on songs. Pandora Plus improves on nearly all of that, with unlimited skips and replays, and a new offline mode that will keep the music playing when your connection drops.
The company says its "predictive offline mode" can detect when you lose signal and switch to one of your preferred stations so the music doesn't stop abruptly like it does on every other music streaming service. Pandora says it will automatically save your thumbprint radio station as well as your three most recently listened to stations in case you lose your connection or request offline listening. The app will automatically determine which of the four stations to switch to based on your recent listening, and when your signal drops, it will alert you with an audio message acknowledging that your connection has been lost and that it will switch to an offline station.
Pandora's offline mode is definitely unique, and if it works as advertised I wouldn't be surprised to see its competitors begin to adopt its auto-switching methods to curb the jarring pauses and abrupt end to music playback that going offline can cause.
Starting today, users of Pandora's free version will find an enhanced offering that allows you to skip and replay more songs by opting into a video ad, something that advertisers are obviously excited about. (You may not share in their enthusiasm, but watching a video will give you more skips and replays so it may be worth it.)
Pandora's updated free version will allow you to skip and replay more songs, if you watch an ad
As for Pandora's upcoming $10-a-month subscription service, CEO Tim Westergren says the service will be available "later this year" matching our report from yesterday. "Whether a listener wants to take advantage of our enhanced ad-supported experience, our ground-breaking subscription radio service, or our fully interactive on-demand option coming later this year, we have a solution tailored for you at a price point you can afford," Westergren said in a statement.
In the coming months, Pandora One users will be migrated over to Pandora Plus as the new services roll out gradually to users on iOS and Android. But if you're a Pandora user in Australia and New Zealand, you'll have to wait a bit — the new features won't be available in those markets until 2017.