- spotify has released the car thing, a compact smart player that acts as a remote for streaming spotify content from a smartphone while in the car.
- the car thing is intended to be a streaming solution for cars that lack robust infotainment systems and can be operated with knobs, touchscreen, or voice controls.
- the car thing is becoming available in limited release; spotify premium users will be invited to receive. those who do will only pay for shipping.
spotify today introduced the car thing, giving the streaming service its own hardware for the first time. the car thing—which, in essence, aptly describes what it is—acts as a sort of remote for the spotify app while your phone streams spotify content to your car. cars with apple carplay or android auto capability don't need this, but people whose vehicles don't have a robust infotainment system will appreciate it.
in order to use the car thing, you need two things: a connection from your phone to your car's audio system, such as with a bluetooth or an auxiliary cord, and a data connection for your phone. once your phone is connected to the audio system, the car thing takes it from there, controlling what spotify content you stream to your car from your phone. while using spotify, the car thing displays what you’re listening to and lets you choose other content available on the platform through a streamlined interface intended to be used in a car.
the car thing is fairly simple: an oversize knob allows a user to scroll through content and select songs, while a single button below it acts as a back button. four buttons sit on the top of the car thing, which are shortcuts to pre-saved favorites for easy access to playlists, podcasts, or other content available on spotify. it can also be controlled via your voice: a simply "hey spotify" lets users skip songs, go to new playlists, search podcasts, and so on.
spotify sends users multiple car mounts for the car thing, including one which can just stick onto a dashboard, or others that use vents or a cd slot, to make the screen viewable to the driver. a phone with a mobile data connection is needed in order to operate the car thing, but the interface allows users to see which content has been downloaded, in case users want to conserve data use.
it is intended as an alternative to a phone as the car thing’s interface is "more optimized for the car," andreas cedborg, the head of hardware products at spotify, said in a call with media. and while at launch the car thing is only enabled to control spotify, cedborg did say that it will be regularly updated, and in response to whether functionality like waze will be added, he said the company is "pretty aware of what people want to have in a car, so let’s see what the future gives us."
the car thing will start with a limited release, which means that only a select spotify premium users will be invited to receive one. users can add themselves to a waitlist, and if selected, they’ll only be charged for shipping. later, if spotify determines that it wants to fully release the car thing, the streaming service indicated it will charge about $80 for it.
spotify sent advance copies of the car thing to members of media. after a few days of use, it proved to be more convenient than a smartphone to use for music streaming while driving. in particular, the large knob and accessibility of the unit, when compared with a smartphone, were much less distracting. it was also a nice change of pace to continuously see which song was being played.
yes, a phone does everything the car thing does, but as cedborg noted, is certainly less streamlined. integrating other apps such as waze into the car thing would allow it to nearly replace the need for using one's phone while driving and could make it a significantly cheaper alternative to the traditional after-market infotainment units available now.