pandora

Pandora is a popular music service available in the US, Australia and New Zealand. Since the official app for Windows Phone launched on the store last year, consumers have been able to enjoy an ad-free experience without having to upgrade to a premium subscription.

This commercial-free Pandora experience was down to Microsoft, but now Pandora has announced that advertising will be coming to the Windows Phone platform, unless you have Pandora One.

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There is an official Pandora app for Windows Phone, but before that came out, we relied on third party applications like MetroRadio. Metro Pandora, the SDK that third party applications have relied on has just been pulled due to infringement notice from Pandora. The complaint will go undisputed.

Pandora’s DMCA Notice mentions the unauthorized use of their registered trademarks and API. We can’t blame Pandora for protecting their property.

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Nokia isn’t quite done with their Music service app just yet as today, version 3.11.25.0 has gone live in the Store. Exclusively for Nokia’s Lumia line, the new update brings along with it a handful of major improvements to make us take another look at the service.

The first major change is Nokia Music now supports the ability to ‘like’ specific artists in your library to “further personalize your music experience”. Nokia Music will also 'like' artists based on your playing history and the contents of your music library, which truly is the killer feature many of us have been waiting for. After all, what’s the use of just streaming music with no feedback system? Sure it’s nice, it’s just not compelling.

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While Pandora made a big splash when it came to Windows Phone 8 earlier this year, MetroRadio had been around for much longer offering access to the same service. Back then, it would occasionally break as it used non-standard APIs to access the Pandora library. That has now been fixed, amongst other things, with the latest must-have update.

There are currently two versions of MetroRadio—one free, one paid—and the free one was updated last night with the paid receiving the same update a few weeks ago. It’s not a minor update either, as the app has been completely re-written with a new, simpler UI.

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Pandora music has always been one of those apps that served as a metric for mobile platforms: so long as Windows Phone did not have it, it was behind. Luckily, last October Microsoft finally announced that indeed Pandora was coming to Windows Phone 8 in “early 2013” and a few weeks ago we had hints it was near.

Well, that day is today.

Yes, the official Pandora app for Windows Phone 8 can be downloaded from the Store and is now available in the US, Australia and New Zealand. What’s more, Microsoft carried through on their promise of an ad-free experience throughout the year. Indeed users won’t have to pay a dime to experience the premium Pandora experience on their Windows Phone.

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Windows Phone 8 users should rejoice as evidently the newly updated WhatsApp and Twitter apps are just the beginning. Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore took to Twitter to react to the mostly positive news by teasing  he has a “few more apps on my #WP8 phone that aren’t in the Store”.

Microsoft in the past has had headline grabbing “app pushes” where a near steady cadre of awaited apps were launched on Windows Phone. The last time this happened was soon after Windows Phone 7.5 was launched with nearly 50 high profile apps being released over a span of weeks.

While we’re certainly not anticipating that many apps this time (Microsoft did just hit 130K apps) there are a few big titles that we’re still missing...

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Sonos the popular multi room entertainment system is a great bit of kit but the company has yet to release a official app for Windows Phone. Phonos seeks to fill that gap and allows you to control all the players and music services throughout your home. We previously covered the app and did an interview with the developer a while back if want to read our views on the unofficial solution.

An update to the app to take it version 4 has hit the Windows Phone Store today and brings with it a number of improvements.

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Microsoft has announced that an official Pandora app will be available with Windows Phone 8 devices.  The popular streaming music app will be offered for free for the first year and add free.  This is exciting news and we should see the Pandora app available early 2013.  More details as things develop.

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Slacker Radio has announced plans to arrive on the Xbox 360. The service, which is already available on Windows Phone (see our review), will bring  music and content to Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers. The free radio app will be made available on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace and will pack Kinect features for gestures and voice commands to be supported.

Over 200 music stations are included in the lineup, with the likes of ESPN and ABC News headlining the selection. Each station can be personalised, ensuring a unique and relevant experience is possible for each user. The catalogue of not only music, but comedy, news and sport content makes Slacker Radio a varied experience with a reportedly 10x larger selection than Pandora.

Check out the press release after the break.

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Pandora recently changed their APIs for their service resulting in some significant downtime for unofficial Windows Phone apps. Radio Controlled is right around the corner and now MetroRadio (both free and Pro) are back on the Windows Phone Marketplace in full working condition.

While many will ding Pandora for doing this on purpose to block unofficial apps, the truth is more complicated than that. Windows Phone Central member Jiffy Pop received a detailed letter from Pandora discussing the ins and outs of the API changes. Here's a sample:

"We know that our recent release has broken most unsupported Pandora clients, and we do apologize for the surprise and inconvenience that undoubtedly caused to your listening experience.

At a basic level, third-party applications are violating our Terms of Use and are obviously not authorized to sell (or give away) something that fundamentally derives its value from our product...

We definitely do recognize that our actions limit the options available to well-intentioned listeners who do not want to use any of our endorsed clients, and we're genuinely sorry for the inconvenience this brings to our enthusiastic listeners like yourself! We really appreciate your support of the service and respect the DIY spirit, but our hand has been forced on this issue."

They mention security issues and potential malicious usage of their APIs as reasons for the changes and while they are not purposefully blocking Windows Phone clients, inevitably we're caught up in their API updates as a side effect.

Pandora does note that they still don't have plans for an official Windows Phone client either, so while this back-and-forth may be a pain for developers and listeners, it may be the only way forward for sometime if you're a diehard Pandora fan. Of course there are plenty of alternatives out there as well.

In the meantime, you can pick up MetroRadio 5.0 (free) or MetroRadio Pro 2.0 (no ads) in the Marketplace and be assured they are working now Edit: Pro is updated, the free version is getitng approved as we speak. Sit tight.

   

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Two weeks ago we mentioned how Pandora altered their APIs resulting in all the unofficial Pandora apps for Windows Phone not working. At the time we mentioned that devs should be able to fix the issue with an update to their apps.

Although it's taking a little longer than expected, we're streaming Pandora just fine on Radio Controlled (beta) and we expect the same for the other apps eventually too. The developer of Radio Controlled, Greg Wenograd, let us know about this latest fix:

"This one was a difficult and involved update.  I have a feeling this update will be less impacted by Pandora changes.  If they change anything it will be sooner rather than later and I should be able to get any kinks worked out....If all goes well I will be submitting the final version tomorrow"

So stand by Pandora users as your fix should be coming soon. You can grab Radio Controlled here in the Marketplace and wait for the new, working update to appear in the next few days.

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Pandora have unceremoniously altered their undocumented APi (written up for Windows Phone users by Justin Angel) allowing outside access to their service, rendering unofficial 3rd party apps like MetroRadio, Radio Controlled and WPFandora temporarily useless.

The developer of MetroRadio, Mustafa Taleb, notified us of the situation noting:

"The user can no longer login using the 3rd party applications. Message from Pandora's servers:"org.apache.xmlrpc.XmlRpcException: 000.000.000.000|0|INCOMPATIBLE_VERSION|Pandora does not support your client version."

Possible reason: They changed their encryption keys.

I am currently working on a fix and it should take me no longer than 2 days to update the app, and 5 to publish it."

That's certainly a bummer especially for us who have the MetroRadio Pro app. The good news is devs should be able to once again fix this issue and push out an update. Needless to say, it's a pain and would be easier if (a) Pandora just let 3rd party apps use their service or (b) they had an official app for Windows Phone.

There's no evidence that Pandora are changing these APIs on purpose to block apps but whatever their motivation that is the effect.

We'll keep you posted but in the meantime, you may want to try iHeartRadio which has similar Pandora functions.

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If you like using MetroRadio, the first unofficial Pandora app for Windows Phone, you'll be pleased to know you have a new option: an ad-free version.

The free, ad-supported MetroRadio will of course still be available but if you don't like garish ads in your music streaming, you can now plop down $1.29 for a cleaned up, full screen Pandora-ness. The Pro version also has some of the latest, greatest stuff on board including:

  • Zune-esque screensaver
  • International streaming option (beta)
  • Explicit content filter

We've loaded up the Pro version and really like the look and feel of it. The screensaver, which is coming to the free version soon, is a nice touch and the international streaming option should be useful for those not in the US. Pick up MetroRadio Pro here in the Marketplace.

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It's been awhile since we looked at iHeartRadio, the popular radio app available across devices and for the web. It was in October that the app went to v3.0 and received Mango support and a few days ago, version 4.1 hit the Marketplace bringing a nice make over with some bonus features on board.

Gone is the grey photo background and instead we have just pure black with red text. The UI now is much more minimalist and Metro, giving the app a fresh new bold look which we really like.

But the biggest feature is the addition of "custom radio" which is very similar to Pandora. You choose a station to create based on a song, artist or genre and iHeartRadio will select tunes based off of that criteria. You can then thumbs up/down songs and from that, refine your musical selection. Likewise you can still pull down lyrics, pin the station to your start screen and purchase/download tracks from the Zune Marketplace.

All in all it has been working great on our end and considering it's free, we see no reason not to try it if you like your music on the go. Grab it here in the Marketplace. Thanks, Ronald V., for the heads up Edit: Turns out this isn't available to those in the UK, for whatever reason.

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Windows Phone App Review: WpFandora

WpFandora is a unofficial Pandora client for your Windows Phone. The app comes in two versions, a free ad-supported version and a $2.99 ad free version (WpFandora Pro). The music app is laid out nicely and as long as Pandora doesn't break their public API, the app ran smoothly.

I'm not a big Pandora user but WpFandora came across as a simple, easy way to channel your Pandora stations to your Windows Phone. WpFandora is definitely worth trying if you are looking for a Pandora client for your Windows Phone.

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We reported a few days ago that Pandora once again changed their undocumented APIs thereby breaking Radio Controlled and MetroRadio. Luckily the "fix" was easy and both apps are back, fully working again as far as we can tell. In addition, both have some other fixes and new features on board:

  • Radio Controlled - Hitting version 2.0, this app has received many new features and changes including being more Metro-themed, Last.FM login for "scrobbling" and Driving mode. Driving Mode is perhaps the most exciting as it gives a large, finger-friendly UI for when using the app on the road. It allows you to like/dislike a song, play/stop or to skip. We found this part truly ingenious and tremendously useful. In addition, the new "more Metro" look to the app, artists-as-background and other options make this an awesome update. You can grab Radio Controlled here for free in the Marketplace.
  • MetroRadio - Now on v3.3, this update is mostly bug fixes and to address the API change from Pandora. Those fixes include getting songs, Live Tiles and MetroMP3 search service. That app you can also pick up for free in the Marketplace right here.

It's great to know that so long as Pandora remains obstinate, we have independent developers willing to give us what we want. QR codes after the break...

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Robert Scoble is at it again, name dropping on his interactions with the tech glitterati at CES. Most of his Google+ discussion can be written off as his usual "Why Windows Phone will fail" riff (answer: not enough apps), but in the garrulous post he does bring up an interesting discussion he had with Tom Conrad, the chief technology officer at Pandora.

According to Scoble:

"I walked around the show with the CTO of Pandora. He told me he still isn't willing to support Windows Phone. Why not? We were walking around the new Ford car, which has Pandora support. Pandora was ALL OVER the CES show floor. You could see that a small company still has to decide where to put its development resources. Clearly, after walking the show floor, that's Android and iOS"

It's one thing for Pandora to hold off on Windows Phone in 2010 but to say in 2012 they still have no plans to support Windows Phone is a bit unbelievable. Even more so since we do have third party clients already doing their work (e.g. MetroRadio, Radio Controlled). Of course, we can relish in the thought that developers are making money off of Pandora and they're not seeing a dime from their continued disregard for Windows Phone. Still, that's cold comfort for the platform as a whole.

Source: Google+; Thanks, Amir, for the tip!

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Do you use MetroRadio and/or RadioControlled for your Pandora interaction on Windows Phone? Then you may (or may not) have noticed that those apps have stopped working...again.

Reason? Simple, really. These apps use undocumented APIs to access the Pandora service. Pandora, for whatever reason, changes them on occasion breaking app functionality. Are they doing it on purpose to disrupt these apps? Who knows, maybe or maybe not. What we do know is that it means you'll have to wait till both developers update their apps to fix it and from what we've heard, both devs are hard at work on fixing it.

Until then, MetroRadio is "hidden" from the Marketplace and RadioControlled has submitted their fix (and "future proofed" it against this type of situation occurs again).  Stay tuned though, we'll give you a tour of the new working Radio Controlled soon enough.

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