How Much Data Does the Pandora Radio Application Use on an iPhone?
By John Lister
Pandora is a streaming music service available online and through applications for smartphones including the iPhone. In the weekend after the Pandora iPhone app launched, iPhone users listened to a total of 3.3 million tracks. Using Pandora over Wi-Fi or 3G connections uses data -- exactly how much may be important for people on service plans with data limits to know..
Pandora's iPhone app works entirely through data streaming, using either a Wi-Fi or a cellular data connection. Unlike some rival services such as Spotify, Pandora does not allow you to store songs on your computer, even temporarily. This means any listening over 3G or 4G counts towards your monthly cellular data use.
The free edition of Pandora can stream music over the Web at a bitrate of 128 Kpbs or 57.6MB per hour. This could mount up to a significant usage each month. For example, if you listed to Pandora for one hour each weekday while commuting, you would use at least 1.1GB over a month containing 20 workdays. This usage alone would put you over the limit on some data plans.
Although 128 Kbps is the default rate of Wi-Fi, Pandora's iPhone app allows you to choose between 64 Kbps and 128 Kbps when using a cellular connection. The default setting is 64 Kbps. This halves the data use to 28.8MB per hour. In our 1 hour per day for 20 days per month example, data use would reduce to just over 500MB.
The premium edition of Pandora, which removes advertisements, also offers a higher bit-rate for better quality music that streams at 192 Kbps. This equates to 86.4MB per hour or 1.78GB in our 1 hour for 20-day example. This would likely be a problem for phones with a 2GB monthly data allowance.
Using Wi-Fi wherever possible reduces data use. Pandora recommends pausing the application when you are not listening to music, rather than merely muting the volume. This is particularly important if you are running the application in the background.
A professional writer since 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, John Lister ran the press department for the Plain English Campaign until 2005. He then worked as a freelance writer with credits including national newspapers, magazines and online work. He specializes in technology and communications.