Spotify reveals Car Thing, its first hardware device

14 Apr 2021

Image: Spotify

The lightweight music player for cars is intended to gather more insights on how users listen on the platform while driving.

Spotify is dipping its toes into the hardware game with a free device for playing music in cars.

The imaginatively titled Car Thing is initially being offered for free to the music streamer’s premium subscribers in the US, but they still have to pay for shipping.

The lightweight device, which is controlled by voice, touchscreen and a knob controller, sits on a driver’s dashboard to allow for control of music or podcasts mid-journey.

The company first started testing the device in 2019 as a means to collect information on drivers’ listening habits.

According to the company, Car Thing is a bridge device for older cars that don’t have the latest software display systems like Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Users need to be able to play audio from their phone through the car speakers via Bluetooth, aux or USB cable.

Car Thing still feels like a very experimental product and it’s unclear if Spotify will start charging for the device or rolling it out in other regions. But it appears unlikely that the company is about to make a big play for consumer devices.

“Our focus remains on becoming the world’s number one audio platform –not on creating hardware – but we developed Car Thing because we saw a need from our users, many of whom were missing out on a seamless and personalised in-car listening experience,” the company said.

Data from Car Thing will inform Spotify on what people are listening to while driving, whether it’s a commute or a long road trip. It is data that will be fed into the algorithm pot for recommendations and tweaks to the user experience.

Car Thing notably uses voice controls and may also provide another means for Spotify to further test its ‘Hey Spotify’ voice command feature that expands on voice search for a fully hands-free experience.

Earlier this month, GSM Arena reported that the mobile version of the feature was being rolled out to more Android users.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin