Editor’s take: Spotify’s in-car smart assistant hardware has graduated from a limited-release device designed to help the company learn about listening habits in vehicles to a limited-release consumer product. Spotify still insists it is focused on becoming the world’s top audio platform rather than producing hardware, but a successful run with Car Thing could change the company’s tune.
Dubbed Car Thing, the smart player is essentially a mini infotainment system for your vehicle, although Spotify is quick to note that it is not meant to compete with such systems. Instead, the company said it noticed that many of its users were “missing out on a seamless and personalized in-car listening experience.”
Indeed, if you’re driving an older vehicle, your stereo likely isn’t equipped with the sort of functionality that Car Thing can deliver.
Front and center is a touchscreen display that shows what’s playing and what’s in your queue along with basic controls. Users can interact with Car Thing using voice commands, by swiping the screen, rotating the dial or pressing one of four pre-set buttons across the top of the unit.
The hardware matches images that were found buried in Spotify’s app earlier this month and is similar in concept to the device Spotify first announced back in 2019. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was a satellite radio receiver from years ago.
Spotify is launching Car Thing on a limited, invite-only basis in the US. Those with a Spotify Premium account can join the wait list to receive one at no cost (Spotify is waiving the $79.99 MSRP, but you’ll still have to pay $6.99 for shipping and handling).