Spotify ‘Car Thing’ Media Player Hits the Road in Limited Release
Spotify has started shipping its long-rumored automotive audio player to a select group of Spotify Premium subscribers. The Spotify Car Thing is a touchscreen operated through the new Spotify voice assistant and the built-in joystick that drivers can mount in their car. Spotify designed the Car Thing to streamline driver access to the streaming service over the last few years, despite the whiff of last-minute panic around the name.
Car Thing Listening
The Spotify Car Thing is essentially a touchscreen and control dial accompanied by four buttons on top that can be assigned to specific playlists, podcasts, or music channels. Mounted on a vent or dashboard, the Car Thing connects to the internet through a smartphone, as the Amazon Echo Auto does with Alexa. The “Hey Spotify” wake word lets users ask the voice assistant to find and play specific music or podcasts. The dial and touchscreen can also be used to navigate through Spotify’s platform to find content, though that might not be better for passengers than drivers to use while the car is moving. The device is free right now to Premium subscribers in the U.S., maybe because it’s still a somewhat experimental product. Not every subscriber can get one immediately, but those interested can sign up on a waiting list for the next available Car Thing.
“No matter where you’re headed, Spotify is the perfect companion in the car, thanks to the many ways to listen to Spotify and our curated playlists, like Daily Drive and Songs to Sing in the Car,” Spotify explained in announcing the device. “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 personalized in-car listening experience. No matter the year or model of your vehicle, we feel everyone should have a superior listening experience. With Car Thing, we’ll now be bringing our entire catalogue of music and podcasts to a wider range of users across an even wider range of vehicles.”
The Car Thing is just the latest eye-catching move by Spotify amid a recent flurry. The general release of the voice assistant wake word is almost certainly connected to plans for the Car Thing, but the streaming platform has larger ambitions. Spotify’s new patent for AI that can suggest songs based on vocal emotion detection by Spotify’s speech recognition engine has obvious benefits for people listening to music in the car. Spotify’s new social audio plans after acquiring Locker Room parent company Betty Labs would also benefit. Since, according to an AAA survey, Americans spend more than 70 billion hours a year in the car, a hands-free device that can access the interactive live events Spotify may start hosting is a good way to make it easier for people to attend. The Car Thing is not going to replace native infotainment systems in cars built on platforms provided by the likes of SoundHound, Cerence, Amazon, or Google, but it might smooth the way for Spotify fans to keep streaming when they get behind the wheel.
“The limited release of Car Thing is not meant to compete with in-car infotainment systems,” Spotify wrote. “Instead, it’s another step in our larger ubiquity strategy—creating a truly frictionless audio experience for our users, wherever they are and however they choose to listen.”