Spotify is testing a lot of things right now. In the last month alone, the company has revealed its long-rumored in-car device, curated podcast playlists and a standalone Stations app. Heck, those last two were announced in the same week. “We’re always testing new products and features to create better listening experiences for our users,” a Spotify spokesperson told me multiple times this week, and the company’s busy spring certainly supports that. Unfortunately, most users will never get to participate, except in the case of Spotify’s experimental Stations app.
After a test in Australia on both Android and iOS, Spotify made its Pandora-esque Stations app available in the US this week. The premise is simple: Lightweight software that breaks out Spotify’s radio feature into a standalone app for easy access. Basically, it allows you quickly fire up a music shuffle with minimal taps, instead of having to hunt through the full version to get to it. Until you use it, Stations sounds like if could be just more clutter on your phone, but I promise you it’s surprisingly useful.
Inside the main Spotify app, Stations is one of eight options on the main menu. If you’re not familiar, Stations is what the company calls its artist- and genre-focused radio channels. I’ll be the first to admit I forget it exists until I finish an album and a mix based on that artist kicks in. It’s just not a feature I think about much, mostly because of how I typically listen to music. However, when you just want a mix of one artist’s tunes, or exploring a genre based on one or more artists, Stations is your ticket. And yes, it’s exactly like Pandora. Or at least, it’s exactly like what Pandora used to be before it transformed into a full-on streaming service.
When you fire up Stations for the first time, all you have to do is link your Spotify account and you’re in business. You need a Spotify log-in, but you don’t need a paid subscription. If you do pay up, you won’t hear any ads, just like the full version. The app already gives you a few channels based on artists and genres you listen to often from the start. For me specifically, it was Favorites, “Fresh Indie,” (a genre station) and two artist stations for Com Truise and Steve Hauschildt. You can also add the popular Discover Weekly mix as a station. It isn’t a playlist you can skip around like the main app, but it is the same collection of songs that Spotify has picked for you during a given week. It was nice to already have all of those mixes ready for me so I could start listening immediately. Ditto that they are specifically catered to my tastes. Personalization is something Spotify prides itself on, so this isn’t a huge surprise.