Price: (for 40 hrs./month)
Producer: Pandora Media Inc.
The lowdown: Pandora is an Internet-based radio station that allows each user to customize the music they listen to. The basis is simple: Start with a genre, artist, or song and the system will suggest song after song afterward with the user giving a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to the song. With each answer, the station further customizes itself.
Pros: Pandora has been with Android from the very start. The music streams almost seamlessly over a solid 3G connection and sounds great even out of a phone's speaker. Plug into a stereo system or headphones for near-MP3 quality music -- for free!
The app's controls are pretty simply: Thumbs up, thumbs down, next, play/pause, and stop for songs, as well as an area to choose or make a station. A widget packaged with the app takes up a row on the home screen, but handles all the controls right from there without going back into the app.
Cons: When 3G service is spotty, Pandora can cut out from time to time. Perhaps this is not so much Pandora's fault, but buffering should allow for the song's next few seconds to be saved in case of a signal loss. The widget is great but the inability to change songs from a locked screen hurts -- especially if the listener is driving!
Forty hours a month can also hurt, especially if a user gets addicted to the app. Luckily, members can buy more time on Pandora's website (but that really kills the idea of "a free music app").
The Verdict: The problems are small and could be fixed within a simple update or two. Pandora is one of those rare "must have" apps. Personalized radio at your fingertips is something no Android user should pass up.