Spotify's Voice-Controlled 'Car Thing' Launches as a Limited Release

Illustration for article titled Spotify's Voice-Controlled 'Car Thing' Launches as a Limited Release
Image: Spotify

Spotify’s touchscreen and voice-activated car gadget is finally here as a limited release to some eligible users in the U.S.—but good luck getting one.

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Hints that Car Thing was on the way had surfaced recently both in FCC filings as well as iOS code. Now, the company has officially unveiled its Spotify-specific knobbed screen for accessing playlists and podcasts on the go. While Spotify explicitly stated that it is focused on its streaming service as opposed to becoming a hardware company, it added that it created the gadget “because we saw a need from our users, many of whom were missing out on a seamless and personalized in-car listening experience.”

The device is compatible with vehicles regardless of make or model and will display a home screen, voice-controlled search function, and a Your Library tab. Much like other voice-activated smart devices, hands-free navigation works by prompting “Hey Spotify,” before asking for a playlist, podcast, song, or artist. Spotify says that four mics that line the top of the device ensure the device can hear voice commands even with the windows down or the volume turned up.

While the gadget has a touchscreen, a dial offers another way to navigate playlists and audio as well as play, pause, and select audio from the menu. As far as the touchscreen goes, Spotify says the device works by allowing you to swipe to search. Lastly, the device includes four preset buttons for navigating podcasts or music quickly and can later be reprogrammed. You will, however, need a smartphone that supports Bluetooth.

Based on a hands-on with the device published by the Verge, it sounds like there’s no actual speaker included on the device. Instead, Car Thing can either play music through a car’s speakers when a smartphone is paired via Bluetooth or with an auxiliary cable. The Verge added that Car Thing ships with three mounting accessories for connecting it to a vent, the dashboard, or the CD player.

Spotify says that the device is available to “select” Premium subscribers at no cost aside from shipping. Sadly, the company says that Car Thing’s limited rollout is offered on an invite-only basis. If you’d like to try to snag one yourself, though, you can sign up to be waitlisted right here.

DISCUSSION

vocalshrapnel
vocalshrapnel

Car Thing requires that you maintain a paid Spotify Premium subscription directly via Spotify and a smartphone with WiFi or mobile data connection. Eligible paying subscribers only. One Car Thing per eligible subscriber, while supplies last.

So that answers my main question. Why use this if you’re just pulling data from the phone that you have to have on you that already has spotify on it? I could only see this as being useful if it had better voice search capabilities than what comes with your phone (and honestly siri is pretty shitty for spotify voice commands), or if it somehow allowed you to skirt distracted driving laws by saying it’s not a phone so it’s ok to use while driving? which is questionable.