Pandora launches new 'Plus' tier, promises on-demand streaming by end of 2016

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Pandora on Thursday announced "Pandora Plus," a revamping of its $4.99 Pandora One plan, while also making changes to its free tier and confirming it will offer on-demand streaming later in 2016, in a bid to compete with Apple Music and Spotify.

In addition to removing ads and providing higher-quality audio, Plus allows for unlimited skipping and replays, going beyond the extra skips offered by One. Perhaps the most important upgrade, however, is a "predictive offline mode."

For Plus listeners the service's mobile app will automatically cache Thumbprint Radio stations, as well as the last three stations a person listened to, in case an internet connection drops out. Based on recent plays, the app will pick which of the stations it thinks is best to keep music going.

People on the company's free ad-based plan can now choose to watch a video spot, which will let them skip and replay more tracks.

The on-demand plan is coming "later this year," Pandora CEO Tim Westergren told The Verge. Last month a report indicated that Pandora was finalizing deals and planning to launch a service costing about $10 per month, possibly as soon as September. While Pandora is still a leading music service with about 80 million listeners, its lack of on-demand content has prevented it from directly challenging the likes of Apple Music.

Pandora One subscribers will be gradually migrated to Plus over the next few months — people in Australia and New Zealand are slated to get the plan sometime in 2017.