Pandora’s new native Mac app streams music, not podcasts

Pandora is rolling out new desktop apps for its streaming music listeners, starting with Mac. This morning, the company announced the launch of a native desktop app for Mac, with a Windows version to soon follow. The app supports keyboard controls, on-screen notifications for the music currently playing and a way to control Pandora’s new “Modes” feature for customizing the music you hear on your Pandora stations.

Introduced just a couple of months ago, Pandora Modes switches up the classic listening experience¬†by letting you tweak your stations to favor deep cuts, or crowd favorites, new releases, specific artists and more. The idea is to give users more control over how Pandora’s customization algorithms work, without requiring users build out their own playlists to get the same experience.

On the desktop app, switching modes is easy. From the Now Playing screen, you just click on one of the various options to tune your station, as you currently do on mobile.

Meanwhile, to use the keyboard controls feature, you need to enable Accessibility permissions in the Mac’s settings. You can then use your Mac keyboard to do things like play, pause, replay, skip, shuffle or thumbs up or down the songs. These are the same set of controls that are available from the web, and are detailed in one of the app’s menus. They work when the app is in the foreground only.

As your songs play, notifications appear on the screen when the app that details the song title, artist and album for whatever music is currently playing.

Overall, there’s nothing all that remarkable about the Pandora desktop — it’s a clean, simply designed native app that makes Pandora easier to use. But many people today prefer a native desktop app to a web browser experience — especially for features like the notifications, keyboard controls and because you don’t have to dig around through a bunch of browser tabs to find Pandora as you work on other things in your browser.

However, as a Mac app for streaming music, it begs comparisons to Apple’s iTunes. It offers a much different experience, with the latter also including a music library and download store, but a more limited radio experience that lacks the tuning offered by “Modes.” Pandora has also been integrating with parent company SiriusXM — both services include the data-powered Pandora NOW station, for example, and now Pandora Stories includes those from SiriusXM guests.

What is missing from the desktop app, however, are podcasts.

For Apple, Spotify, Pandora and others, podcasts have been a large and growing focus in recent months. Pandora launched a Podcast Genome Project, and today even features a number of podcasts sourced from SiriusXM’s talk shows. But these and others weren’t available when we searched. They’re also not showing above the “Featured Playlists” section in Browse, as they do on mobile. (Pandora says podcasts are “currently mobile only,” but didn’t offer more details.)

The company previously offered a Mac app that launched with Pandora One in 2009, but the app was discontinued in 2018.

Pandora says a Windows desktop app will also come soon, but didn’t provide an ETA.