iRadio vs Pandora vs Spotify : Music Streaming Showdown

Apple, iTunes, WWDC 2013, iRadioApple unveiled iTunes Radio this week, a free Internet radio service, that, as Apple puts it, “features over 200 stations and an incredible catalog of music from the iTunes Store, combined with features only iTunes can deliver,” at the WWDC 2013.

Though it’s officially   called iTunes Radio, we’ll be calling it iRadio in this comparison piece because the original name is a mouthful.  And yes, we’ll be comparing iRadio to other services to see if it can disrupt the music streaming service market.

  • Features

iRadio: Music discovery based on previous song choices, purchases, and songs related to previous choices, Featured Station curated by Apple, easy to create own stations based on songs, genre, artists, albums you like and edit them while on the go, has Siri integration, exclusive listening to song or album premiers, Play More Songs Like this and Never Play this song features, and Edit Stations.

Pandora: Pandora podcasts, Facebook integration, skipping songs, Radio, built on the  Music Genome Project, which uses a patented mathematical algorithm that scans over 400 musical attributes (like rhythm, tempo, syncopation, key tonality, vocal harmonies, etc.), to create customized “stations” based on a person’s music preference.

Spotify: Catalog, Playlist, integration, Radio, Social media integration, Applications, Search and Discover, Follow and share.

  • Song download

iRadio: Yes

Pandora: Yes

Spotify: Yes

  • Web app

iRadio: No

Pandora: Yes

Spotify: Yes

  • Platforms

iRadio: iOS, Apple TV, Mac and Windows

Pandora:  iOS, Windows Phone Android, BlackBerry, HP webOS (used on the Palm Pre, Palm Pixi, Palm Pre 2, and HP Veer),  media streaming devices, such as the Roku, Reciva-based radios from companies like Grace Digital, Sanyo, and Sangean, Frontier Silicon-based connected audio systems, Slim Devices, Google TV and Sonos products. Has a desktop widget for Windows 7 and Vista, can be played in vehicles, including but not limited to the BMW, Buick, Ford, GMC, Honda, Hyundai, Lexus, Lincoln, Mercedes Benz, MINI, Nissan, Scion, and Toyota with some having voice control features

Spotify: Available for Windows, Mac and Linux, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Phone

  • Fees

iRadio: Free version comes with ads, paid version costs $24.99 per year via iTunes Match

Pandora: Free version comes with add, or a yearly fee of $36 for ad-free listening.

Spotify: Free version comes with ads and has a 10-hour listening limit for listeners in the US and Asia after six months of use.  The Unlimited version costs $4.99 per month, has no ads, no restriction in listening hours but no access to premium features.  And the Premium version costs $9.99 per month, no ads, no listening restrictions and access to all premium features. The premium version also allows listeners to listen to music on any of their devices.  Also, if you want to restrict your music listening, there are Spotify gift cards available at Target available for $10, $30 and $60.

  • Licensing fees

iRadio: Pays 0.16 cents per stream royalty, and pays more to have the service available in globally.

Pandora: Pays 0.12 cents per stream royalty for its for its free, ad-supported service under the Webcaster Settlement Act of 2009, and 0.22 cents per stream for listening activity on its paid, subscription service.

Spotify: No data available

  • Operations

iRadio: Globally, as it acquired direct licences with right owners

Pandora: Available in US, Australia and New Zealand

Spotify: Available in Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States

Can iRadio compete?


When you look at the price, iRadio is cheaper than Pandora and Spotify.  But Spotify has a monthly option whereas iRadio and Pandora charge annually, so that’s a plus for people who aren’t sure about music subscription services and just want to try out the premium features before committing to a full 12 months.

Also, since iTunes is available in numerous countries, and Apple acquired international licenses, iRadio will ultimately be available to more people in more countries, unlike Pandora and Spotify who both have limited availability.  It’s not surprising that Apple launched iRadio globally as it is its greatest edge amongst competitors.

The downside is, iRadio is only available for iOS, Apple TV, Mac and PC users.  So if you’re an Android user, you’ll have to settle for Pandora or Spotify or other streaming services – just remember that most of them aren’t available globally.  This is where a web version of iRadio would come in handy for Apple.

So can iRadio disrupt the music streaming market?  Yes, it has the potential to do that.  And with licensing agreements on the plate, listeners have more music to choose from, and at cheaper prices than Spotify.