Photos: Hands-on with Pandora's Internet radio iPhone app

Donald Bell walks you through everything you want to know about the Pandora Internet radio application for the iPhone.

Donald Bell Senior Editor / How To
Donald Bell has spent more than five years as a CNET senior editor, reviewing everything from MP3 players to the first three generations of the Apple iPad. He currently devotes his time to producing How To content for CNET, as well as weekly episodes of CNET's Top 5 video series.
Donald Bell
3 min read
Photo of iPhone using Pandora Internet radio application.
For music lovers, the Pandora internet radio application for the iPhone and iPod Touch is a welcome addition. Donald Bell/CNET Networks

Apple publicly unveiled the Pandora Internet radio iPhone and iPod Touch application during the unveiling of the iTunes App store on Thursday, July 10. Tim Westergren, CEO for Pandora, was kind enough to give me a personal tour of the new application. The following is a synopsis of just about every question I had for Tim. Editors' note: This is not an interview transcript, but a roundup of information on the Pandora iPhone application presented in a FAQ format.

Photo of Pandora iPhone app.
An option key allows you to bookmark artsist or songs, or purchase the current song directly from iTunes. Pandora

How much will iTunes charge for the Pandora application?

It's free.

Will the iPhone version of the Pandora application stream music over the new 3G cellular connection?

Yes. New iPhones can use the Pandora app to stream music over 3G or Wi-Fi. Updated first-gen iPhones can stream over Wi-Fi or Edge, and the iPod Touch will obviously only stream over its Wi-Fi connection

What's the audio quality like?

Pandora's serves its iPod Touch and iPhone audio streams as 64Kbps stereo MP3 files; however, the quality and file format may be retooled once Pandora's tech team has some time to work with the new iPhone's hardware.

How will Pandora make money off a free application?

Pandora may eventually consider placing short audio advertisements in its streams, but, Pandora's first priority is to grow its user base.

Will Pandora stations I've already created using the Web service be available on the iPhone application?

Yes. Any stations, artist bookmarks, and song like/dislike preferences will be identical between the Pandora Web service and the Pandora application.

Photo of Pandora iPhone app.
You can create and save custom stations directly from the Pandora app. Donald Bell/CNET Networks

What can I do with the Pandora application for the iPhone and iPod Touch?

Most of the features of Pandora's Internet radio Web service will be available on its iPhone application as well. People can create radio stations based around artists or songs, bookmark favorite artists or songs, pause and skip tracks, vote on songs, and view descriptions of why a currently playing song was included in your stream. You also have the option to purchase the currently playing song directly over the iTunes Wi-Fi store.

Photo of Pandora iPhone app.
Pandora's intelligent recommendation engine explains song choices. Donald Bell/CNET Networks

Can I stream Pandora wirelessly from my iPhone over Bluetooth?

The iPhone does not currently support streaming stereo audio over its built-in Bluetooth; however, third-party Bluetooth audio adapters are available that fit any minijack audio output.

If I can connect my iPhone to my car stereo and stream Pandora over 3G, why would I listen to music on commercial or satellite radio?

Keep in mind that Pandora is a music-only service, so you'll need to get your talk radio, sports, and traffic reports elsewhere. That said, so long as you have decent 3G reception in your area, streaming Pandora internet radio to your car stereo via your iPhone should work fine.

Photo of Pandora running on iPhone.
Pandora's song voting system has made it to its iPhone app as well. Voting on songs helps fine-tune Pandora's personalized song recommendations. People can also pause and skip tracks. Donald Bell/CNET Networks

Can I wake up to Pandora radio if I dock my iPhone or iPod Touch into an iPod alarm clock?

Not likely, since most alarm clock docks trigger song playback from your music library. Some iPod alarm clock docks include an auxiliary input, however, so if you kept music streaming from Pandora all night (and somehow managed not to run down your battery), then it's possible. Seems like a pain though.

Will Pandora music streams display album art?

Yes, although some music in Pandora's catalog is still without cover art.

Photo of Pandora iPhone app.
The Pandora playback screen looks much like the standard iPod playback screen, complete with cover art. Pandora

Does the Pandora iPhone/iPod Touch application have the same limitations on track skipping as the Web version of the Internet radio station?

Yes. Because of legal restrictions, users cannot skip tracks on Pandora more than six times per hour. Fortunately, Pandora's Music Genome Project is pretty good at coming up with song selections.

Will using the Pandora iPhone application run down my battery quickly?

Yes. Reports so far suggest that the new iPhone's battery performance is at its worst when using its 3G connection. Streaming Pandora content over the iPhone's Wi-Fi connection should produce better battery performance than using 3G.