ITunes Radio picks songs using input from recording labels, third-party metadata services like Gracenote and Apple's own editorial choices. But it doesn't show you lyrics, bios or explain why a song was chosen.
There are reasons to appreciate iTunes Radio, however.
ITunes Radio gets first-class treatment in iOS 7's new Control Center. This set of handy functions can be accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen no matter where you are in the device. It also appears on the lock screen. Along with typical media controls such as play/pause, volume and skip, iTunes Radio adds a little star where the "back" button usually is. That pops up a separate menu where you can tap "play more like this," ''never play this song," or "add to iTunes wish list" so you can fine-tune your station while doing other things like playing "Zynga Poker."
A swipe down, or one press of the home button, gets you back to what you were doing.
In Control Center, Pandora has a back button that doesn't do anything, and you can't thumb up or down without going back into Pandora's app itself.
ITunes Radio makes it really easy to buy songs you like from iTunes. If you're in the app, a box in the upper right corner shows the price of the song. Tap it twice. You might also need to enter your iTunes password.
The app keeps a running history of what you've listened to. You can get 90-second previews to remind you what you've heard, also with the ability to buy right there. A separate tab shows which songs you've specifically added to your wish list.
Pandora also has a history, but not song previews. Buying a song through iTunes takes a few more taps than in iTunes Radio. It's marginally more difficult to get back to Pandora after purchasing, by double clicking the home button and selecting it from the range of apps that are displayed.
ITunes Radio has noticeably fewer ads than Pandora, and there are no stand-alone graphical ads. Most ads featured someone speaking in a neutral voice about an artist or album that you can purchase on iTunes, sometimes accompanied by a graphic or photo. I imagine Apple is just getting started selling ads, and ones for products and services beyond music will come soon enough.
By comparison, Pandora is slathered with ads. If you're looking at the app, the bottom part of the screen is almost always covered with an ad that you can get rid of by clicking the small "x." I've seen video ads and heard audio ads. The audio ads in particular sound like traditional radio spots and can be jarring.
Either way, you can pay to get rid of ads completely - by signing up for Apple's $25-a-year iTunes Match service or Pandora's $36-a-year Pandora One.
iTunes Radio is a contender in Internet radio by dint of being featured prominently in iOS 7. The Music app is at the bottom right on each home screen. You simply need to go there and choose "Radio." It's also reachable from the home page of the iTunes Store on the desktop app.
Apple's new music feature does a serviceable job of generating songs in a lean-back listening format. However, it is a step or two behind Pandora in fine-tuning your playlist.
The last thing I'll say in this regard: iTunes Radio has a slider function that allows you to adjust your station to favor "hits," ''variety" or "discovery." I noticed no discernible impact on what was played.ITunes Radio could get better over time. But I wouldn't get rid of Pandora. Not yet.