With the announcement of Samsung’s Milk Music app for Galaxy devices, it’s time to take a look at how the Internet radio service stacks up against the biggest player in the game: Pandora. Milk Music offers a completely free and ad-free music experience without making you get a user account.
In the past, we’ve taken a look at some of the best mobile music apps out there, but Milk Music deserves a real chance here. With Internet radio experiencing a huge boom and tons of companies getting involved, is it even possible for Samsung to succeed in this field?
Hardware makers aren’t known for their high quality apps, but Milk Music just might be different.
Should You Consider Using Milk Music?
Both Pandora and Milk have their advantages, and before we delve into the specifics, let’s just cover some of the main features of both.
- Annoying ads, or $3.99 price
- Requires user account
- Available on a wide range of devices and platforms
- Available in Australia and New Zealand
- Has numerous features including alarm clock, social sharing, artist bios, lyrics, and the ability to personalize stations by liking or disliking songs
- Comparatively drab interface
- Smaller collection of music
- No actionable notifications
- Free and ad-free
- User account not required
- Only available on Galaxy devices
- Only available in the US
- Unique dial interface
- Large collection of music
- Actionable notifications
Still interested? Then read on to learn more about how Milk and Pandora compare.
If you can’t use it, it doesn’t do much good for you. Unfortunately, Milk Music’s largest drawback (besides the most poorly thought out name in existence) is that it is only available in the US and only for Samsung Galaxy devices. That means no Web or iOS versions, sadly.
Pandora, on the other hand, is available on nearly everything in existence; I’m surprised my microwave doesn’t have it. It’s on the Web, Android, iOS, Blackberry, and even WebOS. You can also access it on Smart TVs and game consoles by going to tv.pandora.com, and many media devices, like the Roku set-top box, have native apps for it.
However, despite its bevy of platforms, Pandora is still only available in the US, Australia, and New Zealand.
You can get around these country restrictions, though. For Pandora on the Web, the region-unblocking Chrome extension Hola Unblocker is my recommendation. On Android, you may want to try one of these great VPN apps to pretend you’re in the US.
Winner: Pandora, for being available in more regions and on a wider range of platforms.
I had never had a problem with Pandora’s interface in the past, but that was before I saw Milk Music. Samsung has taken a departure from their usual cartoon-like design philosophy seen in TouchWiz and instead applied a very minimalist, clean look to Milk Music.
A blurred image fills the background when the dial is present and comes into focus when the dial fades away. Three semi-transparent buttons line the bottom, and options are hidden away off to the right by a small button.
In comparison, Pandora looks cluttered, busy, and uninspired. A thick bar with options lines the bottom, and a mostly empty bar lines the top as well, confining the album art to a small square in the middle, covered partially by an ad.
Options are accessed by tapping the top right or swiping in from the right; confusingly, however, the stations and other options are accessed by tapping the top left but not by swiping in from the left. Then, to get back to the main screen, you have to tap the Play symbol in the upper right.
The process for choosing a station is quite different in both apps. Pandora’s involves creating a station from a particular artist or genre by typing it in, and your stations then appear in a list. Milk on the other hand is designed around a central dial, moving your finger around the outside will scroll quickly through genres while moving your finger around the inside will scroll slowly for finding specifics within a genre.
Pandora’s method can be useful, but Milk’s method is much more fun and simple. You can switch between channels so much more quickly on Milk, and it’s significantly easier to access: just tap the screen and the dial appears. Plus, you can create stations centered around specific artists on Milk as well by tapping the list of genres in the top left.
Swiping in from the right in both apps will bring up the options menus where you can see the stark contrast in design.
Milk clearly wins in the notification department as well. Pandora has yet to make use of the actionable notifications available since Android 4.2, whereas Milk has pause, next, and exit buttons, as well as the album art and name of the station.
Winner: Milk Music, for a cleaner, simpler, and more functional design.
Milk Music is actually powered by Slacker, a separate Internet radio service that we have reviewed favorably. Slacker has bragged in the past that they have over 13 million songs, while the most recent numbers from Pandora suggest that they have around 900,000 songs.
In addition to having more music, Milk also is better in terms of music discovery. By scrolling through the dial, you’ll inadvertently run into genres and songs that you never thought you would like. After a few days of using Milk, I’ve already discovered more new music than I ever had on Pandora, not to mention that Milk Music has a much wider range of content to begin with.
Internet radio services generally have to limit the amount of skips you can use as a part of their licensing agreements, and Pandora and Milk both limit your skips to 6 per station per hour.
Winner: Milk Music, for having more content and better new music discovery.
Pandora has a lot of cool features as well as a relatively new alarm clock feature that will wake you up to your favorite station. You can also view author bios and lyrics for a large number of songs by tapping on the album art from the main screen.
On Pandora, your profile tracks your bookmarks and likes and can be linked with your Facebook profile for connecting with your friends. You can even follow people or be followed by people, bringing Pandora into social network territory.
Pandora also has the option to buy the song you’re listening to, but it will redirect you to Amazon for the purchase. The ability to like and dislike songs is also unique to Pandora, although you can favorite songs on Milk or tell Milk to “never play song.”
The dial on Milk is customizable in that you can choose 9 genres to be included on the dial, but you can’t change the order in which they are arranged, which is a bit annoying.
If you’d rather ignore the dial, you can also choose your station from the drop-down menu in the top left, and you can create stations from here.
Fine-tuning is one of the best features about Milk. Swiping up from the bottom on the main screen will bring up options for fine tuning. You can adjust the amount of popular, new, or favorited music that is played, making this an incredibly useful feature for discovery new artists or simply listening to your most popular favorites.
Still, Milk eschews features in favor of simplicity, allowing Pandora to take the lead here.
Winner: Pandora, for being the most feature-packed.
Advertisements And Price
Milk Music, for the time being, is completely free and ad-free, but Samsung has said that it will only be ad-free for a limited time. Regardless, if you’re in the US and have a Galaxy device, there’s really no reason not to give Milk Music a try.
There aren’t currently any paid tiers for Milk, but I would expect to see some appear in the future when ads are introduced. You don’t even need a Samsung account to get started, although it does allow you to listen to explicit content and sync your content.
Pandora requires an account to use the app and it has ads that will play in between every few songs, which is tolerable, but the pop-up ads that obscure the album art can get pretty annoying. Thankfully, there is a paid option called Pandora One available for $3.99 a month that gets rid of ads, gives you higher quality audio, access to the desktop application, fewer “are you listening?” interruptions, and custom skins for the Web version.
Winner: Milk Music, at least while it remains an ad-free service.
Milk Music beats out Pandora 3-2.
Specifically on Android, Milk Music takes the cake. Pandora may have more features and be available on more platforms, but Milk dominants the actual user experience with a gorgeous design, tons of music, and no ads.
Which of these is your favorite? Or do you know of another Internet radio app for Android that’s even better? Let us know in the comments.