Spotify premium account holders can now sign up to test drive The Car Thing, Spotify’s solution to simplifying the streaming experience. This is the first hardware device Spotify has brought to market and the company hails it as a step toward becoming the world’s leading audio streaming service. The device is designed to do one thing- stream Spotify content, and the device is aimed squarely at the company’s most important users- those with a paid subscription to the service.

How to Get the Car Thing

Spotify plans to sell the Car Thing for an MSRP of $79.99, plus shipping. Only premium account holders may purchase the device, and it requires the paid subscription to work. A Spotify premium account is currently $9.99 per month. For the time being, Spotify is offering paid subscription holders the opportunity to get their hands on the Car Thing for the cost of shipping, $6.99 to the lower 48 and $14.99 to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Alaska.

Users will also need a smartphone with an internet connection and the Spotify app in order to stream content to the Car Thing. Getting one for yourself may be a challenge, though. Spotify is giving the devices away through a lottery system of users signed up on a wait list. The company has declined to say how many units they have available.

What Does the Car Thing Do?

When I first started to look into the Car Thing, I was a little confused as to what the actual purpose of the device is. It seems like the Car Thing basically does what my phone does, and since I have to have my phone on anyway, it was a bit mystifying trying to wrap my head around the point of this device. It seemed like basically just another screen to add to my car to compete for my attention while driving.

The more that I learned about the Car Thing, though, the more it made sense. Ultimately, Spotify is about creating a custom experience for each user, and the Car Thing slots in nicely as a method of curating content specific users are interested in without bogging them down with unnecessary and undesirable options. Instead of being a replacement for my phone, the Car Thing is more like an extension of the app.

How The Car Thing Works

You can think of the Car Thing like a remote control for the Spotify app that gives you voice command control and a dedicated screen that displays the current content. If you are like me, you probably are thinking that your phone already has voice commands and you already have the app, so what is the benefit of the Car Thing? The real benefit is the ease of use you get. Basically, since this device is only designed to play Spotify content, it does a better job than any smartphone running the Spotify app. There are no complicated steps that you have to go through to get the content you want. Spotify says the Car Thing will work in any car with any smartphone, provided you have a head unit that has the correct technology or connection points.

The Car Thing comes with three mounting options: CD player, dash, AC vent. It requires power at all times through the included 12-volt accessory plug and connects wirelessly to your smartphone using Bluetooth. The device plugs into a 3.5mm Aux-in port, USB, or streams using Bluetooth to send your music to your car speakers.

Appearance and Functions

The device itself is thin and lightweight. It has a rubberized finish that makes it easy to hold and unobtrusive when installed. The four-inch touchscreen is brightly lit and clear. A large physical knob lets users change tracks, stations, or even play or pause content. Four physical buttons on top of the device are for presets- a great idea that makes getting to your favorite playlists fast and simple.

The entire package is attractive and functional. Lots of people are going to love having a physical knob- this is a feature that is frequently wished for on many new head units that have gone buttonless. Having a knob will satisfy users that don’t like to use voice commands. Those same folks- and many others- are going to quickly realize the brilliance of the four preset buttons to access content in a flash.

What the Car Thing Can Do

The Car Thing uses a built-in microphone to pick up voice commands, using “Hey, Spotify” as the listening command. You can use voice commands for all the normal stuff, like changing songs, finding artists, and selecting stations. Spotify will also provide new content on command. You can ask for similar artists to your favorites, play similar songs, and discover new content you’ve never heard before. You can also create custom playlists for specific situations, like when you’re driving to work, hitting the gym, or getting your Uber hussle on.

The touchscreen displays the current artist information including album artwork. You can use the touchscreen to navigate to specific content, play songs, and pause the music. The rotary knob provides similar functions to the touch screen and voice commands. If it seems like Spotify is giving you triple-redundancy for controlling the streaming app, you are correct. The Car Thing really aims to be user-friendly, regardless of how you like to use devices in the car.

User Reviews – Seeing the Car Thing in Action

Although the Car Thing has been available for nearly a month, very few people have received them and written reviews of their experiences. With limited feedback, some things about the Car Thing will have to be guessed at. The few users that have reviewed the device found it easy to use, fully functional, and an acceptable extension of how they use the Spotify app.

The best feature of the device is that it helps to further create a custom experience for each individual user. Through voice commands, selections, and predictive AI, Spotify is getting better at providing artists, songs, and podcasts that listeners want to hear. The Car Thing certainly enhances audio listening experiences and helps to get the right content in your ears.

Who is The Car Thing Meant For?

Not everyone is going to want the Car Thing, and Spotify seems fine with that. Instead, this is a device that is being marketed toward Spotify users with paid subscriptions that use the app as the primary source of music, news, and podcasts. The Car Thing is an elegant solution to something that may not be a real problem. The Spotify app is fairly easy to use in the car, and when you have already gotten used to using it on your smartphone, switching to a new system is a hassle.

Where this device truly shines will be for people who love Spotify and want a streamlined way to use the app. It’s a great way to get new content, find content you already love, and get instant, hands-free access to artists, songs, and stations. The Car Thing is an interesting gadget with an uncertain future. New devices like this often pop up and fizzle out without making an impact. But, the future is always uncertain, and the Car Thing very well may be onto the next big thing- finding ways to create a personalized experience for every customer.

Key Features

  • Spotify Premium Account, Smartphone, and Bluetooth connection required
  • 4-inch touchscreen with vibrant display
  • Voice command enabled
  • Oversize rotary knob for physical selection and control
  • Four preset buttons for fast access to favorites
  • Rubberized, matte finish
  • Provides a hands-free Spotify listening environment
  • Well-designed controls and layout make this an easy-to-use device for anyone
  • Bright screen displays current content information clearly
  • Voice commands make hands-free control a reality
  • Current lottery-system means it is almost impossible to get one
  • It may be hard for many people to justify the cost once it is available for sale
  • Adds another screen to the dash, potentially creating additional distractions