Pandora limits free mobile streamingStreaming-music services evolve as Pandora brings back listening limits, and highlights from Mobile World Congress include 4G cars, sapphire screens, and new operating systems.
-Times they are a-changin' for streaming music. I'm Bridget Carey and this is your CNET Update. Bad news for Pandora addicts, the free service is now capped at 40 hours a month. So, if you hit 40 hours, you either have to pay 99 cents to keep listening for the rest of the month or pay for a premium account without ads and that costs $4 a month, but there is one way around it. There's no limit if you listen from your computer web browser, so it might not be a problem for people who like to listen at work. Pandora is blaming this change on the increased royalty cost. Spotify is also evolving. The service wants to be more like a social network. Reports say Spotify will have buttons to follow other users and artists. It also updated its iOS app and it announced it'll be available in Ford vehicles with Sync App Link, but you'll need a Spotify premium account with an iPhone to use it. And TuneIn has a new recommendation feature. TuneIn is an app and a website that lets you listen live to radio stations around the world and it also plays some podcast on demand. On the TuneIn home page, there are live tiles that update with songs and shows going on right now based on your favorite genres. The Mobile World Congress, the mother of all mobile trade shows, ramped up in Barcelona and there are a few highlights worth keeping an eye on. General Motors announced that, late next year, GM cars will be mobile hotspots connected on AT&T's 4G LTE network. So, if you have a data plan that works with your smartphone and your tablet, eventually, your car will also be using your data plan. Your next smartphone might have a screen made out of sapphire, but it will be sapphire crystal grown in a lab rather than the gemstones used in jewelry because that would be crazy expensive. But why use sapphire? Because it's the second hardest material next to diamonds and it won't scratch. A company showed off an iPhone with a thin sheet of sapphire adhered on top of the screen and our editor, Jessica Dolcourt, couldn't get it to scratch after smashing it with concrete. This isn't a far out concept. Sapphire is already used in the iPhone camera lens cover. But the biggest buzz at Mobile World Congress came from the new operating systems trying to take on Android. CNET editors awarded the Ubuntu Touch tablet as the best in show and the new Firefox operating system was the runner-up. Ubuntu was unveiled this week. An editor said it had a sleek, elegant interface that makes use of every side of the screen. It puts content and contacts front and center, so you don't have to keep hopping back to a home screen of apps, but it's so new that no phone manufacturer or carrier is behind it yet. Guess we'll have to wait 'till next year. That's your tech news update. For more details on these stories, head to the blogs cnet.com/update. From our studios in New York, I'm Bridget Carey.