Spotify's new Car Thing brings streaming music to your older vehicle

Music streaming giant Spotify aims to expand its reach into older vehicles with an all-new hardware device known as Car Thing.


Not everyone is in a position where acquiring a new vehicle is affordable or reasonable. Others simply enjoy older vehicles for a variety of reasons. One of the drawbacks to driving an automobile that was not produced in the last five to seven years is the lack of a modern infotainment system. While your old Toyota may have an AUX jack, there is no way to simply and safely interact with a streaming music service while driving. Spotify believes it has the answer to this problem with its new hardware device called the Car Thing. The Car Thing can be added to an older vehicle and offers modern touches like an LCD display and voice controls.

While most new vehicles sold today feature naive support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, software that allows mobile phones to directly integrate with infotainment systems, Spotify says that the average vehicle on the road is eleven years old. The Car Thing will serve a market of customers who would otherwise be unable to take advantage of the creature comforts of the newest in-car technology.

The device sports a light rectangular frame that is less than five inches across. It has a dedicated touchscreen as well as a large volume knob and context-sensitive button. The Car Thing will support several mounting options, including a clip that will hang onto air conditioning vents. It has a USB type-C port for power that can run to a vehicle's integrated USB port or 12v outlet. The device can interface with the car via Bluetooth, AUX cable, or USB cable.

The Car Thing has an interface that is similar to the Spotify mobile app and makes finding your favorite tunes a snap. It also supports voice recognition via the company’s new “Hey Spotify” command. This feature allows for hands-free operation and is safer than attempting to use a mobile phone app while driving.

A Spotify Premium subscription is required to use the Car Thing. A mobile phone with cellular data or wifi access is also required for operation. This is a limited-release device so interested parties will need to join the official waiting list

Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 13, 2021 4:03 PM

    Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Spotify's new Car Thing brings streaming music to your older vehicle

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      April 13, 2021 4:16 PM

      At that price it's not a bad idea. I'd personally go with a new head unit, but for people who don't want to go invasive this seems fine.

      As long as Spotify is how you listen to music, of course.

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      April 13, 2021 4:20 PM

      I don't really understand why you'd use this over a phone. It requires a phone to work anyway it seems.

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        April 13, 2021 4:34 PM

        For the interface, or at least that's their argument. Plus you can leave it connected to the car.

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        April 13, 2021 4:36 PM

        Can you talk to your phone to select playlists and albums by name? e.g. does this work? "Hey Siri, Play X on Spotify"

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        April 13, 2021 7:31 PM

        It has a physical dial!

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        April 14, 2021 7:03 AM

        Then use a phone? It’s not mandatory.

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        April 14, 2021 7:18 AM

        It really depends on the car. My wife's 2012 (or is it '13?) Odyssey has a terrible bluetooth implementation. It stopped showing track info several OS revisions ago. I even tried both Android and iOS devices. Nope. No track info is shown now. She can still track up/down, but it just won't display any info. This wouldn't be a bad solution for her if it's not a lot of money.

        Not to mention, if your car doesn't have a higher end bluetooth codec, you're getting compression on the signal from the phone to the car. Aux input would not have the extra lossy compression. Most people don't care though. I can hear the difference in some music, usually symphonic stuff, but not really regular music stuff.

        I never did sub to Spotify so I'll have to pass on this. But, I really like the idea as a solution for my wife to see track info until we're in a position to replace her car.

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      April 13, 2021 10:47 PM

      All they're missing is a tape deck adapter for even more access to older cars. My dad still drives a truck that only has a tape deck.

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