Towards the end of 2021, Spotify unveiled its own in-car hardware under the brilliant name Spotify Car Thing. It comes at an interesting time when many vehicles on the road can use Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Although some Spotify Premium users were able to get one for free, is it worth the current MSRP of $89.99? Here’s everything you need to know about Spotify Car Thing.
What can Spotify Car Thing do?
Remember when we had a separate device for everything in our lives? We used a GPS device, such as Garmin, to guide us while driving, an MP3 player to just listen to our music, and our phone, just for communication.
Spotify Car Thing goes back to those simpler times by providing hardware that just plays music from our Spotify library.
Now our smartphones can do all of the above, making some wonder why Spotify Car Thing even exists. Here’s everything Spotify Car Thing can do and why it still has a place in the 2020s.
1. Voice recognition
One of the most important features of this device is its voice recognition software, which will help drivers to change playlists, songs, artists, etc. without being distracted from the road.
Spotify announces some essential commands like “play” and “show”. Drivers can tell Spotify Car Thing to play something by saying, “Hey, Spotify! and it will be able to play a playlist, song, artist, podcast, and anything in your library.
You can also tell Spotify to show content with voice commands like “show my podcasts”, which will only show your podcast library for you to browse. While this might present a slightly more distracted driving opportunity, it’s good that this option is there.
Unlike using your smartphone, Spotify Car Thing displays larger collectable images, making it easier to select the podcast, song, etc., without missing out.
2. Physical buttons
Unlike your smartphone, Spotify Car Thing comes with a few buttons that make it a bit easier to use the hardware in the car.
You’ll notice a large dial on the front of the device for scrolling through your library; you can also press this dial to select a song. Below the dial is a smaller back button that directs you to the previous screen.
At the top, you’ll find four customizable preset buttons. You can use them to save anything, like your favorite podcasts and playlists. Also on the device is a button to access the Spotify Car Thing settings menu.
It may seem like small things, but while driving, these physical buttons give the driver peace of mind knowing exactly what they’re selecting without having to take their eyes off the road.
3. Practical features
Spotify Car Thing wants the device to be as simple and seamless as possible. Every time you get in your car, your phone automatically connects to Spotify Car Thing, making playing your music faster than even opening the Spotify app on your phone.
The device also comes with three different mounts that you can place on different parts of the car, including a CD mount, a dashboard mount, and an air vent mount.
All user interface elements are larger than in the Spotify mobile app, making them easier to see and tap while driving. Although Spotify previously offered Car View in the app, which gave users much more extensive playback controls, this came at the expense of usability.
What other options exist?
Spotify Car Thing is an interesting piece of hardware that’s great for those with older vehicles without an intuitive in-car infotainment system. But what are the alternatives to this dependent $90 media player?
1. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Today, most new vehicles are equipped with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Both systems are fantastic, as they replace mostly awful infotainment systems from automakers.
They do more than Spotify Car Thing by integrating multiple navigation apps, reading your text messages, allowing you to reply to text messages and phone calls, as well as supporting multiple media apps such as Pocket Casts, Spotify, Apple Music , Apple Podcasts, etc.
If you own a vehicle with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, you probably don’t plan to buy a Spotify Car thing. However, Spotify mentions on their product page that the Spotify Car Thing is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so there might be a market for those who just want an extra device like this, despite having a great infotainment system. .
Smartphones are the most common reason people don’t want Spotify Car Thing. People who own older vehicles without sufficient in-car infotainment systems are already used to mounting their phones to their dashboards or air vents and using the built-in voice assistant to change songs. Smartphones also integrate all your other applications, such as your navigation.
However, this is where Spotify Car Thing shows its advantages. With a smartphone, you can get distracted by switching between navigation and music apps, all with sometimes a charging cord in the way. Spotify Car Thing is out of the way and only used to play music and podcasts. You can have your GPS on your phone while controlling your music separately.
Spotify Car Thing also has easy-to-use physical buttons and large UI elements for convenience, making it a better choice for some people than just using a smartphone.
3. Third Party Infotainment Systems
The last real alternative to Spotify Car Thing is third-party infotainment systems. These usually need to be installed in your vehicle and are expensive, but now have the convenience of coming with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Once installed, it should work as if your car came with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay in the first place.
Infotainment systems from BOSS and Pioneer look good and have various features, but can cost around $300. Although some people find them worth the cost, it’s a steep price to pay to be able to play music a little easier on your discs.
Is Spotify Car Thing worth all the hype?
If you have an older car and want an affordable way to listen to your music more easily on your daily commute and road trips, Spotify Car Thing is for you. Uber drivers also seem to like having Spotify Car Thing in their car so passengers can control the music right from their phone.
Spotify Car Thing has some fantastic features, such as the four customizable preset buttons, and is a great idea for most people who need this technology. Right now it’s priced at a confusing $89.99, but once the price drops it should be an easier purchase for many Spotify Premium users.
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