Pandora, Windows Mobile and AT&T

Last week wrapped up with Pandora announcing the release of Windows Mobile client. Everybody cheered – but for less than a day. As it turned out, there’s always a fly in the ointment. The cost of fun is $8.99 per month in addition to any data plan you already have. Even if it’s an unlimited one, like mine.

Outraged just like anyone else, I immediately shot off an e-mail to Pandora’s support.

Hello,
I am a very dedicated Pandora listener. Aside from enjoying Pandora from my desktop I had encouraged a number of people to try Pandora for iPhone – every time with huge success.

Now, I myself is not an iPhone user – for number of reasons I cannot use iPhone for everyday tasks. It doesn’t mean I have extra money in my pocket, it just means that I use devices that benefit me the most.

When I have heard about the discriminatory policy that Windows mobile users must she’ll out extra money for same service everyone else enjoys for free I felt somewhat betrayed. Definitely upset. Outraged.

However, before jumping to any decisions, I’d like to hear from you the reasons behind such discrimination and, if there are any plans to rectify the situation.

Surprisingly, just a few hours later (that is – 3AM Friday night) I got a response.

Thanks for writing us, and thanks for recommending Pandora on the iPhone to your friends! We were very happy Apple allowed us to offer Pandora for free.

Getting a mobile device to support Pandora is, to a very large degree, up to our potential cellular and platform partners.

Currently there are four WinMo devices which, just like the iPhone, support Pandora for free (advertising-supported). Two on Sprint, and two on Verizon.

We’re very happy we were able to work with these partners to reach this agreement.

It’s up to other carriers how to set the pricing and availability of our service on their network and associated devices.

Best wishes,
–Ian
Pandora Listener Support

If all the above is true it means that AT&T effectively taxing everyone who’s not an iPhone user for using data plan they already paying for. Why this is happening – because AT&T thinks they’ve got it all and can get away with anything they want or because of some other reason – I don’t know. There’s a thread on AT&T’s forums, but no official response has been issued yet.

Pandora’s blog has it this way (in response to comments of disappointed users):

…we share your desire to see Pandora be made available for free on our AT&T implementations. In the mobile world, the carrier has all of the pricing power. If you try to go around their wishes they can, and will, block traffic to your application. Our strong preference is for Pandora to be available ad-supported free everywhere and we’ll continue to work with AT&T in the hopes that they’ll come around to the same view for the Windows Mobile phones on their network.

On the other hand, the Pandora application is available from PPCGeeks forum. I swapped SIM card from AT&T Tilt into Samsung Blackjack and testing the app right now. So far the quality is decent (close to FM radio) (as I am sitting home within stable 3G zone) and delay between songs (while the buffering occurs) is acceptable.

In any case, there remains less and less competition in mobile markets and providers are pulling all sorts of unfair deals knowing that customers will either eat it or not, but there’s really no serious alternative between AT&T and Verizon (Sprint and T-Mobile are really not in the same field).