The newest version of Pandora Radio for Android shows off an updated user interface, with tabbed navigation at the top and a search bar sitting front and center. But this new finish isn't for looks alone, as the app adds more social features and brings user profiles to mobile for the first time. Meanwhile, the Now Playing screen remains pretty consistent, with album art as the focal point and basic playback controls sitting conveniently at the bottom of the screen.
Just like the bigger Web-based version of Pandora, the Android app lets you tap into an incredible library of music to create stations based on artists or songs, browse through genre-based stations, or fire up a shuffled playlist based on your listening history. If you're already a Pandora listener, you can enter your existing log-in credentials, or you can create a new account right from the app.
As you listen, Pandora lets you rate tracks up or down, or skip tracks at will. Your ratings here will help Pandora home in on exactly the types of music you like, so it's important to be an active listener. This ability to "understand" your musical taste is really the service's biggest strength. On the other hand, if you're a lazier listener, then you can just as easily let Pandora do all of the programming on its own. Just don't expect it to get much better at doing its job. If you hear something you like, you can bookmark the track or artist for future reference. You can even purchase some tracks right from the app.
In Pandora version 4.0, sharing has been dramatically improved. Now, you can share what you're listening to via e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook. Otherwise, you can simply post your track to your Pandora profile, a feature that makes its first appearance in this newest version of the app. Pandora profiles keep track of songs you Bookmark and Like. What's more, they add another social element to the listening experience, as they enable other users to see what you're listening to (if you make your profile public), and you to see what they're listening to. You can even "follow" other users and get updates when they do things like create new stations. Altogether, it's a fantastic way of discovering new music. Another addition to 4.0 is the Add Variety feature, which previous versions were sorely missing.
If you're not a Pandora One subscriber, then be prepared for a lot of display ads. Some are smaller leaderboard-style ads near the bottom of the screen, while others are huge pop-ups that almost completely cover the album art. Fortunately, you can close the larger ads with a quick tap. If you usually just fire up a station and put your phone in your pocket, though, then the visual ads probably aren't too big a deal.
Overall, the newest version of Pandora offers a phenomenal listening experience. Its user interface is slick and the way it gets to "know" your musical taste is impressive. What's more, it features some dramatically improved sharing features, the added power to edit stations, and for the first time, access to Pandora profiles.