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Pandora vs. Last.fm: a brief comparison

So I’ve been toying around with Pandora and Last.fm the last couple of days, trying to decide which service fits my needs better. Here’s a quick rundown of my observations:

Pandora

  • Pro: The service itself is reliable
  • Pro: iPhone app is brilliantly simple
  • Con: Website is hideous
  • Con: Have to pay (only $36/yr though) for a desktop app, which still isn’t native to OSX - it’s an AIR app.

Last.fm

  • Pro: Has a native desktop app
  • Pro: Scrobbling allows me to use my recent iTunes listens to influence recommendations from the service
  • Con: Service seems buggy and unstable at times
  • Con: iPhone app isn’t as intuitive
  • Con: iPhone app doesn’t currently support iOS4 background multitasking (although it probably will in the near future)
  • Con (for me anyway): I don’t care about the “social” aspect of streaming audio. It’s all just superfluous fluff as far as I’m concerned.

My main use for the streaming audio is going to be on my iPhone, so that gives Pandora major brownie points. In fact, my only real problem with Pandora is the lack of a decent desktop-listening experience. As I said, you can’t use the desktop app without signing up for Pandora One and even then you still don’t get a very attractive UI.

For now I’ve settled on Pandora, but I’m not quite ready to sign up for Pandora One yet. In the mean time I’ve used Safari’s “webclip” feature to run the web version of the Pandora interface straight from my dashboard. Now to listen to and interact with Pandora all I have to do is hit my Dashboard button!

Note: When creating your web clip, make sure and click the little “i” button in the widget to flip it over and uncheck “Only play audio in Dashboard” so that you can continue to listen to your stations even when you’re not on the Dashboard.

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