A Spotify Smart Speaker May Be Coming for the Car
Reddit and Twitter had some interesting posts last week related to Spotify’s upcoming event on April 24th where the company is widely expected to announced a voice controlled device. Past job postings, the testing of voice interaction on the Spotify mobile app and the pending media event all point toward a device announcement. Then there is this image that was apparently sent to more than one Spotify subscriber as an in-app advertisement.
What we see on the left is a small device designed to be appended to a car’s center console of the dashboard. It has physical buttons that appear to be for “shuffle” and “go to the beginning of the song.” It is presumably voice activated because there is a speaking bubble asking to play “discover weekly.” There is a green ring that could indicate the device is listening for a voice command. There may be a small screen on the device given that it appears to be showing “Discover Weekly” is what is playing and there may even be dynamic sound bars toward the bottom.
It has the appearance of a sophisticated device, maybe too sophisticated given its diminutive size. However, the other aspects of the advertisement look legitimate. We can see that Spotify is promoting pre-orders and a $12.99 per month fee. That is higher than Spotify’s current monthly fee, but the device is included with the subscription. And, several people on Reddit and Twitter have confirmed they also received the offer. Chris Welch from The Verge did some digging and concluded:
In every case where it appeared, the prompt only came up once and never returned. Sightings of it basically vanished after February. Still, the number of people who received this message tells me that the image is legitimate and was accidentally sent out far ahead of schedule by Spotify. There’s nothing to suggest it will launch at this month’s event, however.
There is also the interesting point that some people may have received an offer for $14.99 per month. This tweet from @DoccRobb7 refers to the higher price point and a comment from Spotify suggesting it might have been a test message.
.@Spotify Today when opening spotify I got an offer to preorder a device to put in my vehicle that would play spotify in my car and had amazon Alexa included and the 4g to run it included for $14.99/mo. Now i can’t find the ad anywhere! Are my googling skills failing me?
— Doc (@DoccRobb7) February 4, 2018
Hey there! You might’ve received a test message. We’re always testing things in order to improve Spotify. There’s more info here: http://t.co/uon71wdZQZ /PL
— SpotifyCares (@SpotifyCares) February 4, 2018
Another Redditor relayed that the offer said it included “4g built-in” which would mean that it could operate without connectivity to a mobile device. That same post below shows that when the person attempted to click through to the pre-order but the page didn’t have any information.
One technique that many tech companies employ before a formal product launch is sending out promotions to users at different price points. The company then measures whether the adoption rate differs by price and can use that data to set a price most likely to succeed with consumers while maximizing revenue. This very well could be what Spotify was testing.
The Rise of Vertical Voice Assistants
You may be thinking that the device looks a lot like the Garmin Speak which was released in October 2017. Garmin’s device is also circular and designed to be added to the car. However, in that case it brings Alexa functionality to the car and adds Garmin navigation controls. If the @DoccRobb7 is correct, his offer also included Alexa functionality. This could be an interesting strategy for companies that would like to roll out voice assistants, but have a fairly narrow feature focus. Garmin has navigation capabilities and Spotify streams music. Both companies can optimize their respective devices for a specific domain where they have credibility and customers and then add Alexa or Google Assistant to include a broader list of features. This could lead to an acceleration of general voice assistant integration with vertical voice assistants.
One interesting angle of this is that Amazon already claimed the obvious name for the Spotify device. Amazon released the Echo Spot in September 2017. I am sure Spotify was disappointed to lose out on that obvious name by being a little too late to market.
Spotify was kept off of Apple HomePod and both Google and Amazon have competing music services. So, introducing its own device may well be the best strategy to ensure Spotify has distribution through voice-activated devices in the future. April 24th should be an interesting event for the voice industry and may provide insight into how the market for vertical voice assistants will develop.