Spotify is a music streaming company, but it’s dipping its proverbial toes into hardware with the “Car Thing.” Spotify didn’t bother to give its first piece of hardware a proper name because it’s not selling it. This voice-activated automotive accessory aims to make Spotify easier to use in your car, but the company will only provide them to a small number of Spotify Premium subscribers.
The Car Thing plugs into the 12-volt outlet in your car for power. It doesn’t have its own data connection, so it needs a Bluetooth connection to your phone. It also pairs with your vehicle over Bluetooth to pass the audio over to the sound system. You could, of course, tether a phone directly to your car for Spotify streaming. So, why have another device in the middle? Spotify doesn’t seem entirely sure yet, but it’s hoping to gather data about how people use Spotify in their cars to make the Car Thing more useful.
Users can activate the Car Thing at any time by saying “Hey Spotify,” and then tell it what you want to hear. Car Thing has a small round display on the left that looks like the “flat tire” display on some older Android smartwatches. The screen displays what you’re currently listening to in the app. On the opposite side are a pair of microphones and four buttons that can launch playlist presets. The device pairs with your Spotify account, allowing limited customization.
Spotify’s intentions here are incredibly murky. It has reportedly been working on the Car Thing for some time, but it also says in the blog post that Spotify does not want to be a hardware company. So, is the Car Thing just a vehicle to collect data on users while providing very minimal benefits? Spotify also says it might even make other voice assistant devices like a “Home Thing.”
The Home Thing test will begin in the coming weeks, but it’s limited to the US. There’s no way to purchase or request a Car Thing. Spotify will reach out to subscribers and offer the device for free.
Voice assistants are all around us, and most of them offer some level of integration with Spotify. If the company intends to make its own assistant and pack it inside hardware, it’s going to face a saturated market. Perhaps the Car Thing and any other “things” make sense as freebies aimed at collecting data to improve the overall Spotify service.
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