Yesterday the Xbox One got a Pandora app. It's the first time Pandora has appeared on a game console, and it's a really nice addition to the Xbox One ecosystem. You can read more about it, and a few other apps launching this week (Vevo, Bravo Now, Telemundo Now and Popcornflix), on Xbox Wire.
I'm really excited by how quickly Microsoft is rolling out new entertainment apps to the Xbox One. But there's just one drawback to the Pandora app; you have to see it to hear it. Just to be clear, this isn't a limitation of the app, it's a limitation of the Xbox One OS. The same drawback applies to Xbox Music, and in fact every other app as well.
In other words if you want to listen to Pandora you either fire up the app full screen, or run it 'snapped.' When you're using the Xbox One's snap feature about 20% of the right side of your TV screen is devoted to a narrow window. If you put Pandora in your snapped window you can play a game in the main window and listen to Pandora music instead of whatever music the game comes with. This is something a lot of us want to be able to do.
Snap is a great feature and a great differentiator from the Playstation 4, but it doesn't go far enough. Once I have a Pandora station playing, I don't need to see the app until I want to change stations. So why do I have to devote so much of my screen to it?
What I want Microsoft to add is a "collapse" option for snap. The way I imagine it working is that when you collapse the snap window, it just slides closed and the main window expands to use all of your TV screen once again, but the snapped app keeps running as if it were still visible. When you need to access the snapped app again, you'd expand snap and it would re-appear, with the main window shrinking again.
Before going any further I should admit I don't know exactly what is going on in the background with snapped apps. I know that if I snap Achievements, then unsnap, play a game for a while and snap Achievements again, the Achievements app doesn't have to reload; it returns right as I last left it. So I'm assuming that when you unsnap an app it is just suspended rather than unloaded.
So the difference between unsnapping an app and collapsing an app is that when you collapsed it, the app wouldn't get suspended. It'd keep running in the background, including generating audio. We just wouldn't be able to see it any more.
This would be great for music apps, including Pandora, but it might be handy for other snapped apps. If you're watching a football game on TV in a snapped window and it's halftime, you could collapse the TV app and just listen to what is going on while playing a game full screen until you hear that the second half is starting.
Maybe I'm over-thinking this, but what I'm sure of is that the Xbox One ecosystem would be much improved if there was some way we could listen to Pandora, Xbox Music, YouTube playlists, or even the Xbox One Media player without devoting 20% of our screen real estate to a snapped window.
Microsoft is doing a great job of constantly improving the Xbox One and I hope they're thinking of ways of improving the audio experience. If you think my 'collapse' idea is half-baked (and I admit I haven't spent a lot of time thinking through potential drawbacks) let me know in the comments. How would you like to see audio apps handled, or do you think they're fine as they are?