What Is Spotify Car Thing? How To Get on Waitlist for New Streaming Device

Streaming giant Spotify unveiled its first hardware experiment this week: a Bluetooth-connected smart device officially named "Car Thing."

The small music player—which essentially looks like a smartphone turned on its side—connects to a Spotify premium subscription and lets users search for songs, podcasts or entertainment on the app using a simple "Hey Spotify" voice command.

The device, which was described as being a limited run, is specifically designed to play Spotify audio, so there's no maps or internet functionality built-in.

On top of the voice control, there's a dial that can be used to browse, pause and play songs, alongside four preset buttons that can be assigned different categories.

It's the company's first test of dedicated hardware and appears to be targeted at people with older vehicles lacking screen-based infotainment systems, the ability to have their phone on-show, or simply for its users who desire a dedicated Spotify player.

According to The Verge, there's no speakers on the device itself. It can connect to a car via Bluetooth or an auxiliary cable. Streaming is done via the phone's internet data.

For the millions of Americans driving older cars, I'm excited to announce our smart player called Car Thing.

I'm so grateful to have led this project over the last while and am thankful for my co-designers, Karl, Yoon and Richard, and everyone else who contributed! pic.twitter.com/rXWDZTvF3W

— Barton Smith (@bartonsmith) April 13, 2021

In a press release on April 13 that quickly stirred conversation on Twitter, Spotify said: "We developed Car Thing because we saw a need from our users, many of whom were missing out on a seamless and personalized in-car listening experience.

"No matter the year or model of your vehicle, we feel everyone should have a superior listening experience. With Car Thing, we'll be bringing our entire catalog of music and podcasts to a wider range of users across an even wider range of vehicles."

The reaction on social media was mixed overall, with many enjoying the design of the small player itself but some users wondering why it would even be needed at all.

I really hope @Spotify picks me to try out the ‘Car Thing!’ I’ve always felt behind the times without being able to Bluetooth to my car 🥺

— j jav (@karsteh) April 13, 2021

Spotify Car Thing looks pretty dope, You'll see me with one in the golf cart, the FRS, my racing sim setup, literally every where

— Joshua Johnson (@JoshuaJ_97) April 14, 2021

This is a cute looking device from Spotify and a great name. I want a version of this for my desk that sits next to my laptop for dedicated music control https://t.co/obFkw9ARHk

— Tom Critchlow (@tomcritchlow) April 13, 2021

the Car Thing does ONE thing, play Spotify. if you want maps, calls, voice messages, etc, you’re going to have to use your phone (which is also fully capable of playing Spotify)

— dan seifert (@dcseifert) April 13, 2021

How to get on the Car Thing waitlist

Car Thing is being offered free for a limited time, but is only available for premium users in the U.S. Those who are successful at getting one—by adding their details to a waiting list—will only have to pay a small shipping fee, which is listed on the site as being $6,99. Spotify has said the shipping fee for users in Alaska and Hawaii is $14.99.

Car Thing requires a paid premium subscription plan and a smartphone with WiFi or a mobile data connection to work. Spotify said one Car Thing is allowed per subscriber while supplies last but has not confirmed how many devices would be available.

What is Spotify's strategy with Car Thing?

One question that some may have about the release of the Car Thing is why? After all, most users who have a premium account are likely to have a smartphone handy.

Spotify said the smart player is not made to compete with in-car infotainment systems but is another step in the company's "larger ubiquity strategy," which aims to create a "truly frictionless audio experience" for its users regardless of their location.

But one U.S. computer and data engineer, Nic Acton, posted his own theory on Twitter this week, writing: "Brands like TikTok are demonstrating the value of more frequent signals. Spotify's differentiator from competitors is its recommendation engine, so they need a front and center interface apart from your phone to increase interaction.

"We currently rely on phones and this leads to 'set and forget' of playlists and podcasts. Don't be surprised if Discovery becomes front and center for the product."

Car Thing
Car Thing is a smart player designed for older vehicles that connects to a user's cell phone - as long as they have an internet connection and a premium Spotify account. Spotify/Media Release

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