Pandora, Slacker Up Their Game on Day of iTunes Radio Launch

Screenshots of Slacker's update for iOS 7, which features playlists for activities "from whiskey heartbreak to singing in the shower." 

Pandora and Slacker both announced new features to their services Wednesday, the same day that Apple is scheduled to press play on its iTunes Radio service as part of the release of its iOS 7 operating system.

Pandora, whose 72 million monthly listeners make it the current Internet radio king, released a rebuilt version of its app for Apple iPad tablets. Now, instead of a sized up version of its mobile app, Pandora's tablet app comes with the bells and whistles that users of its desktop version are accustomed to having, including the ability to read more atrist information, explore related and similar artists, browse curated genre stations, follow other Pandora listeners and create more complex custom stations based on multiple influences, said Tom Conrad, Pandora's Chief Technology Officer and head of product. Pandora plans to launch a similar version for Android tablets this fall, Conrad said.

The Oakland, Calif., company also unveiled a new logo and look for its apps. The designs echo iOS 7's muted color palette, emphasis on typography and flatter feel.

Meanwhile, Slacker also released an update of its iOS app, adding an activity-based feature called "My Vibe" that serves up playlists based on what the listener is doing. Similar to Songza, the new Slacker feature has "hundreds" of playlists put together by its staff of "human music experts" to go with different occassions, from "whiskey and heartbreak" to "singing in the shower," presumably with your iPhone in a waterproof case. 

"Because music licensing is non-exclusive, services all have access to the same ingredients," said John Hayase, Slacker's new Chief Product Officer. "The differentiation is in the delivery and design." 

With Apple now entering the fray with its own streaming radio service Wednesday, all players in the field are working hard to up their game. Rdio this week announced a deal with Cumulus Media, a radio giant that operates 525 stations, that will let Rdio offer a free version of its on-demand service, subsidized by ads sold by Cumulus.

Pandora's Conrad says competition is not new to the 9-year-old music company. 

"We’ve never wanted for competition," said Conrad. "Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL were dominant in the early years when we launched. Over the years, it’s been iMeem, MySpace, More recently, there's Clear Channel's iHeartRadio and Spotify, which added a radio feature. So being faced with competition is not a new experience for us. As radio gets redefined by technology, I’m not surprised that Apple, Clear Channel and others now see the same opportunity that we saw so many years ago."