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 posting this here because it’s the most recent blog entry related to Pandora mobile.
    I use the Pandora app on my Droid, love it. The only thing is, I can’t scrobble my plays to like I can on my Desktop (where I use the “ Firefox Extension” to do so). I figured maybe I could use the extension on the “Fennec” browser (which is essentially Firefox mobile), but I couldn’t get it to install…and when I visit, it says “go get the app”.
    So…do you think you guys may ever integrate a scrobbling ability to your mobile apps? I’d rather have that than the creepy Facebook integration…and look at the Audiosurf game, you can even scrobble your plays from there…seems like Pandora is the only cool kid that doesn’t support :-x
    Regardless, thanks for everything Pandora I <3 u

  2. Hi, given AT&T’s new 2GB data usage limit, do you have any sense how much data the Pandora service uses when you stream music over their 3G network? I am getting worried that my constant streaming of Pandora is going to get quite costly for me. Hope someone can help.

  3. I’ve installed iOS 4 and have the latest Pandora but can’t for the life of me figure out how to background the music. If I hit the home button, the music stops even though Pandora is listed as still running if I double-tap the home button. When I relaunch Pandora it does pick up where it left off.
    How do I get music to play in background? Thanks.

  4. @Weave June 22, 2010 2:27 AM: you probably need to upgrade the Pandora app on your iPhone. I had the same problem you described. I connected my iPhone to my Mac, launched iTunes, clicked on “Apps” in the left sidebar, and then chose to Install All Free Updates. The current version of Pandora when viewed in the Pandora app on the iPhone is 3.1.1 (67816). You can find this by clicking the “Settings” tab.
    Hope this helps.

  5. I am having the same issue as Weave. The double-tap on the home button does, indeed bring up running apps (Mail, for example), but if I switch to mail Pandora is paused/stopped.
    Anyone have the magic bullet for enabling this?

  6. Hang on. There’s an update to Pandora in the App Store that lists the multitasking as a new feature…updating now!!!

  7. Same problem as AJ and Weave. I cannot listen to Pandora while using FB or texting. Same with iTunes. I used to be able to stream a podcast in iTunes while texting or FBing. Not anymore since upgrading to iOS4. Any ideas?

  8. I have an iphone 4 and I’m unable to get pandora to play smoothly when higher quality audio is enabled. I’m on 3G and I have full bars. I’m just outside NYC. At best I can get maybe 30 seconds of playback before it dies. Is there a way to improve the buffer? I planned to use it in my car connected to my stereo. The lower quality stream sounds terrible. It’s serviceable when listening with headphones, but not with a decent car audio system. At least with slacker radio i can cache my stations. I don’t have any background apps running either when I try it.

  9. I have the HP iPAQ Glisten from AT&T and would love to be able to listen to Pandora on it but it is not currently supported. How could I get this to happen?

  10. I have a Gen2 iPod Touch. I have been using Pandora via Wifi for quite awhile now with no issues. I just upgraded to iOS 4.0. Since the upgrade I struggle with frequent skipping. Most of the time once it starts skipping it gets stuck skipping constantly until I stop and restart Pandora.
    Anyone else seeing this issue?

  11. I love your app on my Iphone.I recently upgraded my 3G to OS4 and now it wont play when I plug into my Logiteck Pur-Fi Anywhere 2. It had no problem befor. Have you hear this from anyone else? Is there a fix?

  12. I think another great enhancement to this already fantastic app would be to have a timer feature on here. I love to listen to my music at night but tend to wake up to the music still playing. It could be nice if we had a way to say set it to turn off after a specific amount of inactivity. My slacker portable player has that but since getting the iPhone I use this a lot more.

  13. Love Pandora. Would be great to see functionality added so that it could be controlled through the iPod pin connector. I dock my iPhone in my BMW’s iPod dock but cant control Pandora through my in-dash stereo system, so it makes it very inconvenient. Would definitely upgrade to Pandora One if that functionality was added

  14. i can’t believe this works so well!!! pandora has given me the music that i knew i wanted to hear but also music that i like but have only heard once in other settings and immediatly dissmissed it. thank you pandora!!!!

  15. Can someone tell me why I can’t do the background listening? Everytime I change to something else the music shuts off. It works with Sirius/XM and I saw the demo for Pandora to do it, even though it looks different. Please dont tell me this is something only in the paid version. I have the new iphone 4 and have Pandora version 3.1.3. Thanks

  16. I have the same problem as Chuk: “I have a Gen2 iPod Touch. I have been using Pandora via Wifi for quite awhile now with no issues. I just upgraded to iOS 4.0. Since the upgrade I struggle with frequent skipping. Most of the time once it starts skipping it gets stuck skipping constantly until I stop and restart Pandora.
    Anyone else seeing this issue?”
    I updated to 4.1 yesterday, same issue.
    Thanks, Bryan

  17. I like to listent to Pandora Radio in the library on my iphone, but I cannot stop the phone from ringing as it overrides the vibrate using earbuds. Any solution thru PR settings or IPhone? Bill