Pandora Background Listening for iPhone OS 4

Back in the summer of 2008, Pandora had over 10 million listeners on the web and we were growing at a pretty good clip. Then in July we released Pandora for iPhone and everything changed. Suddenly, people could take Pandora with them: into the gym, the car, the living room, the kitchen, outside while jogging… the list goes on. Pandora truly became an anytime, anywhere phenomenon and as a result the use of Pandora accelerated dramatically. Less than two years later, we have over 50 million listeners and mobile listening accounts for more than 40% of the hours we stream.

In the years that followed, we brought Pandora to more and more environments with the goal of being everywhere our listeners wanted us to be: on Blackberries and Androids, Blu-Rays and TVs.

However, there was still one thing missing for our iPhone users: background listening. That’s all about to change.

Some weeks ago Apple invited us to a secret meeting where they revealed that background applications were coming to the iPhone OS 4 and that they’d like to use Pandora to show off these new capabilities at their big iPhone OS 4 product unveiling. Under the new operating system, Pandora will stream in the background while you use your iPhone to browse the web, read an e-book or play a game.

Participating in Apple’s launch event meant sending an engineer to Apple to update our software for OS 4 (this took about a day) and many, many, many (many) hours of presentation preparation so that we’d be ready to share the stage with Steve Jobs. This of course was all done with the utmost secrecy. Just a tiny handful of people even inside Pandora knew what we were doing.

Getting to participate in one of these Apple events has been a kind of lifelong dream for me. The Apple folks are masters of these types of presentations and it was an incredible experience to get to experience it from the inside. As our Founder Tim and I stood on stage presenting, there was a moment about halfway through where my nerves calmed enough (The software was going to work! It was going to be ok!) that I could just enjoy the moment and just take it all in. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

Apple released the iPhone OS 4 Developer Preview this week so that engineers can start updating their applications in anticipation of the launch of the new OS sometime this summer. We’re incredibly excited to enable background listening on the iPhone (and ultimately on the iPad too) — we’ll be ready just as soon as Apple ships the new OS.


Tom Conrad

CTO and EVP of Product

70 thoughts on “Pandora Background Listening for iPhone OS 4

  1. I’m glad to hear this. Im currently running pandora on my iphone and loving it. I was wondering if you were going to have this available on the tmobile htc hd2 as well? Thank You.

  2. So excited about this!
    Is there a way to beta test this app? Would love to help out if so.

  3. This is great news, and Pandora is the perfect app to demonstrate it.
    The blog text carefully refers to “background listening” while the press is reporting that version 4.0 of the iPhone software supports multitasking. I wonder if this is true n-way multitasking or something less.
    It’s also interesting that Pandora says that background listening will be out for the iPhone and soon thereafter for the iPad. Does this mean that new OS versions will come out for the iPhone first and later for the iPad? Or will they sync someday?

  4. I think it’s spectacular that Pandora were invited to participate by Apple. It’s an ideal app to launch that service, and having just begun my own journey into mobile Pandora, I have to say I’m really excited to see this happen.
    One question, though: what else would I want to do *besides* listen to Pandora?

  5. Hi guys,
    One thing that would make Pandora even better is the ability to have it continually play when other apps are running on the iphone. If I need to check my calendar or email quickly, Pandora stops and then I have to reopen the app. Is there a possible solution? Thank you and loving Pandora!

  6. im 13 and lovin it i learned about it from a teacher and i cant go a day without it i am so happy i can listen to it everwhere i learn new bands

  7. That’s great, but I’ve been listening to Pandora in the background of my iPhone using Backgrounder for months now. It is a wonderful thing and nice to see Apple adopting a feature that should have been a no brainer 3 iphone models ago…

  8. @Johann, read the post. It answers your question right there.
    I can’t believe some people fail to read things like this.

  9. im glad i didnt get an iphone then. my blackberry lets me do EVERYTHING and the whole time, pandora is playing in the background. it only cuts out when the phone rings. . . . such an inconvenience that someone calls me on my cell phone. . ha ha ha.

  10. Hey there, I saw your presentation, and it looks fantastic. I’m currently running the Iphone 4 beta software, is there anyway to get your updated app before the official launch? I’m a sad panda with a cool new multitasking tool with nothing to multitask!

  11. That’s awesome! You guys continue to evolve what online radio is and what it is suppose to be. Keep up the great work!

  12. This was the very first app I downloaded when I got my Droid. You guys have opened me up to a few new artists that I’ve never heard of before & I thank you for that

  13. Ex 365 user.
    I was using live 365, but the commercials were really really killing me. The sponsored commercials are far longer than the free version of pandora, and the 365 promotions are completely out of control. I mean literally every couple songs you have to listen to them ask you to upgrade.
    Plus 365 is a lot more expensive than pandoara.
    But the main reason I got my paid subscription, is because pandoara free gave me a ton of free music, i had a few accounts, and i listed for like a month, … and instead of getting annoyed like with 365, I found it pretty amazing.
    Love the death metal station!
    The post punk station needs work.
    Wish the music categories were a little more broken down like death, black, speed, classic metal. Don’t know why doom is mixed with stoner. They really don’t go well together.
    … wish users had the option to deselect song criteria. Kinda like netflix does where you can pick “types of movies and mix and match qualities.” for example demanding instrumentals or minor tones.
    The sound quality is also good.
    The pandora site needs an upgrade, its kinda lame. Its sorta buggy, slow and doesn’t really do anything useful.
    Also, I saw pandora provides refunds to non-us users who cannot get on, pro rated.
    The quality and fairness of the service is what makes it successful.

  14. Thank you so much for your service. This is heaven for me. Several years ago most of my CD’s were stolen and it was before I got my Mac so my music wasn’t loaded onto my computer. You let me listen to all my favorite music while I slowly rebuild my personal collection. Also the way you designed the software, you remind me of so much music that I forgot I loved. I will end up repurchasing not only all the music I lost but much more now because you will remind me of artists and songs I hadn’t gotten around to collecting yet.
    Thanks again so much for what you have created. I have been telling everybody about you but all my friends seem to be aware of you already. I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes. I’m a relatively old Rock Chick (45) and I know that I will never know as much about the current technology as my young cousins, nieces and former students. But maybe Pandora will help me catch up.
    Valerie Joseph

  15. Are you going to add to the genre list? Some others I would like to see are : CELTIC, KLEZMER, BLUEGRASS. Meanwhile, thankyou for the opportunity to discover new musicians.

  16. OK, i really want to say how AWESOME the whole Pandora Radio experience has been for me. How in the hell are you guys so good at figuring out what i like? seriously! they know better than I do! Just wanted to thank you for that right there, Pandora. Kudos.
    Love their current app for the iphone too!
    sorry. come on, if you’ve tried this service you know you want to leave a comment thanking them as well.

  17. Ton,
    You da’ man. Keep up the good work. Thanks for keeping your product innovative.

  18. HTC HD2 second best selling cell in the US and you like most other companies are riding the Apple. One more product for Apple users; new ones at that (iPad) and you have only 4 or 5 Windows Mobile devices listed. I have down loaded hack after hack for my phone to use apps and everyone thinks the biggest joke has to be the one for Pandora, why ignore WM users any longer? Why I refuse to buy the service you ask, no need to be laughed at by my little cousin who uses her iTouch (thanks for that, really.)

  19. umm Misfit info is wrong, They are not from 1977-1983…its 1977 to present just saw them play they still rock and are still awesome!! please update!

  20. Can you give us some more visibility into when support for different AT&T phones will come on line?

  21. Not about the OS thing but only place I saw you could get you a message. Genre could use a comedy section!!!!!

  22. A friend recently recommended Pandora and I think I just might have fallen in love! I’m not at all techie or up to date with techie things so I caught on a little late if you’ve been around for a couple of years but I’m making up for it quickly.
    A couple of things that would add to what you’ve got going here would be 1) the ability to set up stations based on key song themes, similar to iTunes genius, and 2)the ability to have a radio station solely devoted to songs from a certain decade or year. Even without those features, I’m still enjoying my time on Pandora.
    Thanks for adding to my musical tastes!

  23. Is there a way to report errors?
    I was listening to Crosby Stills Nash and Young, the song was Heplessly Hoping, but the lyrics provided (although labeled Helplessly Hoping) were actually to the song Helpless.

  24. So sad I cannot get Pandora on my phone! Have Alltel and Palm Treo 755p Smart phone. Says it gets radio, but I’ve yet to have that work. Lovin’ Pandora! Thanks

  25. Tim,
    what a TREAT! this app absolutely rocks! Only one complaint. I love Bob Dylan station. I like almost all the music, except Neil Young! I don’t like Neil Young, if I wanted to hear Neil Young station, I would type it in to listen. That’s the only tine I’m hitting fast forward or thumbs down. Other than that issue. It’s great!

  26. Not sure why Pandora cannot provide background listening on the iPhone 3GS. It’s not like it’s impossible. Varios radio atation apps, MLB At Bat and ESPN Radio all offer background listening, currently.
    I love Pandora but I’m honestly not impressed…

  27. I love Pandora! Please add more Samsung Phones, I want to take Pandora with me when I run and ride horses!

  28. I just love Pandora and want to thank you for this amazing gift.
    When I can have it playing in the background while I run so that I can
    use my iPhone as my GPS, my life will be just a little sweeter.
    You are all the best. Thanks for bringing your awesome vision to
    life and partnering with Apple to make it even better for the end users.
    Love it all. :)

  29. Thanks, I so new at this but it was one of the first Apps I downloaded at the instance of my iPhone friends. I’m looking forward to play around with it.

  30. Brand new user…like May 3, 2010. This is just super. discovered it on my Roku device I had originally purchased for Netflix.
    I have much to learn about its use and how to program exactly what I want to listen to in contrast to listening to an entire album for instance.
    The clarity, even on my TV is just marvelous.
    Thank you

  31. Wow, background listening? LOL, actually a useful thing indeed. A lot better than Samsungs new phone which is like comparing it to bad acne if you know what I mean! All joking aside this is cool as heck :)

  32. Hi!
    What am I doing wrong?
    Looged on
    Created an account. Bookmarked over 20 tunes.
    Vut when i click on “Good Tunes” (what I thought I labeled it(…it just plays random oldies tunes and NOT my saved bookmarks. How other click on whatever and hear/play my bookmarked tunes? Thanks!!!

  33. I found out about you from a stranger (friend!) that I met around the pool on a recent trip to Phoenix. What at great find! This is a fabulous thing and I am loving every minute of my first experience.
    All the better that you are happy to be Apple friendly.

  34. I really want an application for the LG Xenon. I have one and I love Pandora, but I can’t use it on my phone and I am rarely at home. Is there a plan to create an application for this phone? I use AT&T for my cell phone service, and some of my older phones are able to use Pandora, but not my newest one.

  35. That is truely awesome!! But I have an iPod so is there any way that you might make the background music for iPods also?? I’m a user and I love it, but it would be sooo much better if you did this. Thank You!!

  36. This may be OT, but on the Pandora android app, you can create a station, but then it seems you can’t add artists to it to get a little more variety, like you can on the web (which is what I did, went to my laptop and added artists) – is there a way to do this on my phone too?

  37. So our neighbors introduced us to Pandora last night…OMG, you are wonderful! I was, state WAS, an XM satellite radio devotee, and had even bought an ancient boombox to fit my outdated XM receiver for work- I don’t need those antiquated things anymore! Went out and bought an iPhone compatible docking station with speakers (work won’t let us stream internet) and now I listen to great music picked especially for me!!! Now I’m off to research purchasing a docking station for my car. I LOVE YOU PANDORA!

  38. I love Pandora and was wondering why I couldn’t listen to music on my Iphone when I did other things. I wish this was ready now!

  39. Honestly I don’t give a flying f#$@ about making Pandora “social”. Social is a way over-hyped buzzword right now. When people stop drinking this latest iteration of Kool-Aid, then what will Pandora be left with? Hopefully a sound core app.
    Focus on the core functionality and a friendlier UI before worrying about this trivial fad crap (note: Flash absolutely sucks as a UI, isolate Flash for the things it does well and do everything else without Flash).
    You remember over a year ago when you emailed us to brag about the new genres you were adding? Where are they???????? Where are basics like Indian classical music, Chinese classical music, and Japanese classical music? The current genre stations are the same ones I’ve seen on Pandora since the beginning. I still have to use other services to fulfill these desires. Shame on you for focusing on social bullshit when you never fulfilled the musical promises you made!

  40. @ Derrick
    Re: world stations. It takes a long while to build up a collection large enough to populate a station. We usually want to have about 3000 analyzed songs before we’ll release a station. Considering that each song takes 15+ minutes to analyze, it is a meticulous process. Each different language and musical style requires a different analytical approach too. For a glimpse into this process, check out this article:
    The Indian classical stations are actually available in Pandora. Create stations from your favorite artists. Some of mine are: Asha Bhosle, Ravi Shankar, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
    We’re working on adding more! Please be patient with us. We’re analyzing as fast we can.
    Listener Advocate @ Pandora

  41. Two ?’s
    Anyway to beta the new pandora since I am already running 4.0?
    and second, how can I use Pandora over my airtunes express setup for other speakers?