Why it matters: As a Spotify subscriber and Apple Watch owner, I am disappointed that there is no way for me to listen to my playlists without being linked to my iPhone. Spotify promised that it would bring me an offline mode, at least. But nada. Now Pandora's watchOS app, which has had an offline mode for a while, can stream straight from the watch, making me question whether I should switch services.
Pandora has one-upped Spotify with its updated Apple Watch app. The streaming music service quietly released version 2002.1 of its watchOS player, making it completely standalone. That means you can stream music straight from your Apple Watch without having it tethered to your iPhone.
The feature is available for Pandora Premium users. Of course, you also need a WiFi connection unless your Apple Watch is a cellular model.
Prior to version 2002.1, the only way to listen to Pandora music untethered was to download it to the watch. Storage space is ample on newer Apple Watches — 16GB and 32GB for Series 4 and Series 5 respectively — but is still limited depending on how much of that storage is used by the OS and other apps.
Offering standalone streaming opens up the entire Pandora catalog of music and the option of leaving your phone at home. The only other company that provides this feature is Apple itself for Apple Music subscribers. Not even Spotify can do this, even though it should.
Spotify announced its Apple Watch app back in 2018, promising that an offline mode was coming. To this day, the app has neither an offline or a streaming option. The only way to play Spotify music on the Apple Watch untethered is a workaround involving downloading them, converting them to MP3s, then syncing them. So its watch app remains nothing more than a remote for the iPhone's Spotify player.
In the streaming music wars, Spotify and Apple have been battling the harshest and have received the lion's share of the headlines. Pandora's quiet little update might just be its first volley in the war and a significant one at that. The company's Apple Watch app has clearly surpassed Spotify's in terms of functionality.