Spotify vs. Pandora

Music streaming has become extremely popular over the past few years, and the competition is fierce. Spotify and Pandora are both top-rated music streaming services, but their offerings are very different. Pandora has 64.9 million active monthly users, while Spotify has 248 million. Plus, each service has a free version available and offers paid subscriptions for ad-free listening, offline capabilities and various other perks. Not sure which is right for you? Find out how these two big players in the music streaming space stack up against each other.

Compare Spotify vs. Pandora plans

We evaluated Spotify Premium and Pandora Premium in several categories, such as monthly plan pricing, number of songs and free trial length.

Spotify PremiumPandora Premium
Monthly price$9.99/mo.$9.99/mo.
Student plan$4.99/mo.$4.99/mo.
Family plan$14.99/mo.$14.99/mo.
Free trial length3 months60 days
Number of songs50 million+30 million
Free version available?YesYes

Pandora and Spotify cost

Spotify Premium and Pandora Premium both cost $9.99/mo., which is a popular price point across multiple music streaming services that offer a premium tier. Pandora Plus is a tier below Pandora’s premium offer and costs a bit less at $4.99/mo., but it doesn’t have premium features like on-demand songs and offline listening.

Which streaming service has the right experience for you?

With so many great options available, it can be hard to decide what’s right for you. Here’s what to expect from Spotify and Pandora’s premium plans.

User experience

Both Spotify Premium and Pandora Premium have straightforward user experiences. They each have native apps for macOS and Windows. You can download Spotify and Pandora to as many devices as you want, but both only allow you to stream to one device at a time. 

Buttons beside each song on Spotify let you provide instant feedback about what you’re listening to. Pandora has thumbs up and down buttons you can use to tell the algorithm if you like a song or not. 

Spotify’s desktop application also acts as a media player for locally stored audio.

The mobile versions of Spotify and Pandora work in much the same manner as the desktop versions. Spotify Premium is compatible with almost any mainstream device as long as it meets these requirements. You can use Pandora with Android and iOS devices, Google products and many others. Both apps integrate seamlessly with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a variety of other platforms. If you know exactly what you’d like to listen to and just need an easy way to find tunes, Spotify Premium is the way to go. Pandora excels at introducing listeners to new music. Its Music Genome Project uses your song, artist and genre preferences to suggest music you might enjoy.

Personalization

Spotify Premium lets primary account holders control the kinds of content children on their plan can access. 

Pandora doesn’t offer parental controls, but it does allow subscribers to filter out content containing explicit language. The explicit content restriction doesn’t apply to podcasts or playlists. The service only censors its radio stations.

Extras

While both services have comparable content libraries, each has a unique collection of offerings. SiriusXM acquired Pandora in early 2019, giving subscribers access to a selection of SiriusXM content. 

Pandora also has the Pandora Modes feature, that allows you to further customize your listening experience based on artist, trending tracks and other categories. You’ll also find an impressive collection of popular podcasts on Pandora Premium, as well as a standout feature that lets you shuffle all your stations together if you want to go wild. 

Spotify has cool perks too. It has an exclusive deal with Universal Music Group to offer first releases of new music to premium subscribers. Additionally, Spotify gives student premium members free access to the ad-supported version of Hulu and Hulu’s Showtime add-on. 

Spotify has also partnered with Nike Running Club (NRC) to create a wide selection of playlists to keep you motivated during a run. So you can integrate Spotify with your native NRC app for seamless workout entertainment. These workout playlists have music from different genres and specialized content from the popular meditation app Headspace. 

Another one of Spotify’s unique offerings is its wide selection of audiobooks and spoken word tracks. You’ll find classics like Moby Dick, Oliver Twist and Wuthering Heights. It even has audio language lessons in Italian, German, Russian and many other languages.

Disadvantages

Spotify no longer accepts new subscriptions through the iTunes store, Google Play, PayPal or other third-parties.  You can purchase Pandora through one of these third-party vendors, but you might end up paying more. You’ll also have to route all billing issues through the third-party vendor and not Pandora, making issue-resolution slightly more complicated.

The takeaway

Spotify Premium is ideal for users who know exactly what music they want and enjoy having an extensive library of content to search through. If you’re trying to expand your musical horizons, Pandora Premium’s custom radio feature stands out by providing information about the artist with each played song. 

Both apps offer seamless user experiences and generous free trial periods. While Spotify technically has a more extensive library than Pandora, you’re unlikely to notice the difference in mainstream music content. Both Spotify and Pandora allow you to download content to your device for offline listening. 

It’s hard to go wrong with either one of these streaming services—they both have some of the largest content libraries on the market.  If you’re still not sure, you can always take advantage of their free trials before making a final decision.

Colleen Williams

Colleen is a Houston-based writer with a passion for technology. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and loves helping tech startups craft amazing web content. Colleen is also a regular contributor to AfroTech.