iTunes Radio Now Available, Pandora Starts Worrying

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itunesradioPhoto: Courtesy Apple.

Yesterday, Apple released its long-awaited mobile operating system upgrade, iOS 7. With it came a strikingly flat design, parallax effects, and a host of new goodies that you may or may not ever need. There's AirDrop for simple file-sharing, a new way to sort your photo collection, a smarter approach to multitasking, and improved camera software. But there's one more thing, too. Alongside iOS 7 is the new iTunes update and its potentially Pandora-killing iTunes Radio service. And unlike Apple's failed Ping service, this one actually seems like it could take off.

iTunes Radio is free and ad-supported, but those ads aren't cheap. With a reported $1 million minimum buy-in, only blue chip corporations will be shelling out any time soon. (So, don't expect ads for Russian phone sex lines or for independent non-profits either.) iTunes Match subscribers, however, may be able to bypass ads, which is a good thing for those users more committed to buying music than just streaming it. Unlike Pandora, iTunes Radio offers users the ability to buy the songs they're listening to directly, without going through a third party.

And what's it like to use? The easiest way to dig in is through one of Apple's featured stations organized by artist (Miles Davis, Bruno Mars, you name it) and "DJ sets" by stars like Katy Perry. There are also the standard genre stations, too. You can, of course, create your own station, just as you would with Pandora. But much like Pandora, you can only skip six songs per hour; luckily, however, that's number's only limited to a given station, not all of your stations at once.

The history feature is a nice addition, too. In case you decide that you love a song you listened to 15 minutes ago, you can go over your song history and purchase directly from it. If you're unsure about whether or not you want to pony up at that moment, you can add the song to your Wish List for pondering later.

One especially key difference with iTunes Radio is that while it does give you the option to like or dislike a given track on a radio station, the options it provides are a little more concrete: "Play more like this" and "Never play this song." Goodbye, "Wrecking Ball." (Forbes)