Spotify’s ‘Car Thing’ takes on CarPlay as a touchscreen smart media player

Spotify has officially launched its new in-vehicle device, “Car Thing.” The smart player comes with support for “Hey Spotify” voice commands as well as a knob, touch screen, and preset buttons for controls. For the initial product launch, Spotify is giving out Car Thing for free to a limited group of Premium subscribers in the US.

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Spotify announced the debut of its “new smart player” for the car in a press release this morning.

Currently available to eligible users in the U.S., Car Thing enables you to play your favorite audio faster, so you’re already listening to that hit song or the latest podcast episode before you’ve even pulled out of the driveway. Switching between your favorite audio is effortless, allowing you to shift gears to something else as soon as the mood strikes.

Spotify highlights its “focus remains on becoming the world’s number one audio platform—not on creating hardware” but that it’s aiming to solve a problem it saw–many of its users “missing out on a seamless and personalized in-car listening experience.”

Spotify says it’s not trying to compete with in-car infotainment systems but it certainly could be an alternative for some users, even for CarPlay and Android Auto. Car Thing doesn’t offer functionality outside of audio like CarPlay, but Spotify is nonetheless vying for more use in vehicles.

Notably, Spotify Premium is required to use Car Thing. Users can control their audio with “Hey Spotify” commands, the physical dial, the touch screen, and four preset buttons on the top of the compact device that has a 4-inch screen.

Detailed by The Verge, Car Thing is more or less a dedicated Spotify remote for your car with a screen and microphones. It needs to pair with your smartphone/Spotify over Bluetooth for the data connection. Then you can either use Bluetooth, AUX, or USB cable to connect to your car’s audio system. Car Thing doesn’t have a built-in speaker itself.

Here’s what you get in the box:

Time will tell if Car Thing offers a more compelling experience than just using the Spotify app with your smartphone (or CarPlay) in the car. And a good point by Ashley Carman in The Verge’s review, Spotify’s success with Car Thing will probably depend on how people feel about having an always-listening Spotify microphone in their vehicle.

Spotify says Car Thing should retail for $79.99 but is giving the device to a limited number of Premium subscribers in the US for free. You can add yourself to the waiting list on Car Thing’s landing page here.

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Avatar for Michael Potuck Michael Potuck

Michael is an editor for 9to5Mac. Since joining in 2016 he has written more than 3,000 articles including breaking news, reviews, and detailed comparisons and tutorials.