Spotify’s standalone smart player for cars is ready to hit the road. Following years of planing and testing, the company’s whimsically-named Car Thing is now available to any U.S. premium subscriber who wants to buy one for $89.99.
Car Thing marks Spotify’s first hardware product and features a 4-inch touch screen, a large spin dial and buttons galore on a “sturdy unibody” with “matte-textured rubber details” throughout. In terms of real estate, Car Thing is 5-inches wide, 3-inches high and an inch think. It weighs in at three ounces and can mount to a dashboard (sticky), air vent (using grips) or a CD player (slot needs to be empty). The gadget stays put in said mounts using magnets and can easily be removed and taken with you (or hidden).
Users can control what’s playing by using the touch screen, the dial or Spotify’s “Hey Spotify” voice control mode. With voice control — which works through several microphones on Car Thing — users can ask Car Thing to play songs, albums, podcasts, playlists, genres, moods and more, as well as to “like” songs. Users can also save their favorite music and podcasts to four available preset slots, then ask Car Thing to play them by clicking or calling out the preset by number.
The company said the device’s microphones feature noise suppression technology to help tune out the sounds of the road — and an “adaptive interference cancellation technology” that helps the Thing prioritize your voice over all other sounds and voices.
To make the Thing work, you’ll need to connect it to your car stereo using bluetooth or cables. The device also needs to be connected to a 12V power outlet nearby. It accesses the internet (and Spotify’s vast catalog of audio) via your nearby phone through a bluetooth connection. Car Thing only works with Spotify Premium accounts, so freemium users would need to upgrade to get the Thing up and running.
In testing since 2019, Spotify began rolling out the device to an invite-only group of subscribers beginning last April before opening it up for limited release in October. Since April it has grown in size (then: 4.5-inch by 2.5-inch) and price (in October it was $79.99), but its mandate remains the same: appeal to car owners whose ride lacks built-in infotainment systems.
“During our exploration phase, we discovered a lot about how people listen in the car, and for many users, how Car Thing can help improve that experience,” Spotify said in its announcement on Tuesday. “We learned two major things from device owners: First, users were listening to Spotify in the car more than they had before. Second, Car Thing made it simpler to play exactly what they wanted, thanks to both the product interface (which they enjoy more than their previous in-car media) and the ease of using “Hey Spotify” to control what they wanted to listen to.”
Spotify said future updates to Car Thing — aside from rolling it out to non-U.S. subscribers — include adding a Night Mode feature and Add to Queue command so that users can organize their faves by simply using their voice. “This exploration and innovation is part of our ongoing commitment to building a truly frictionless experience for users across devices—in the car, at home, or on the go,” the company said.
Spotify’s entire catalog of 82 million tracks, including more than 3.6 million podcast titles, is available on Car Thing.