Is Spotify’s New Smart Player, Car Thing, Worth Waiting For?
Updated: Aug 21, 2021
It's been a few months since Spotify released Car Thing, a smart player for cars, in the United States. Since then, there has been no sign that the company is releasing it to other parts of the world yet.
So what exactly is Car Thing, and is it worth getting if it does come to our region?
You can either turn Car Thing's dial or command the device using your voice to select a song.
Car Thing is Spotify's brand new smart player designed to "fill your car with music, news, entertainment, talk and more." The device, which was released in the US to eligible users on 13 April 2021, allows users to play audio faster and without the risk of taking their focus off the road. Spotify claims that the device is the answer to the needs of users who are missing out on a "seamless and personalised in-car listening experience."
The device is almost as large as an iPhone 11, if not as large. To control it, users can either use their voice to issue commands, use the device's touch screen, or use its four preset buttons and dial to browse and select from your audio library. It is compatible with any car no matter the year or model the device can be mounted on a car's CD mount, dash mount or the car's airconditioning vent mount.
To get the device up and running, you'll need a cable and power adapter to connect the device to a car's 12V power outlet, a Bluetooth connection between the device and your phone as well as to the car's stereo. You can also use an AUX cable or USB cable if a Bluetooth connection between the device and the car's stereo can't be established. Lastly, you'll need to have a paid Spotify Premium subscription and a WiFi or mobile data connection to stream your favourite audio.
Spotify's Car Things comes with its own USB cable, mount and power adapter.
Now, let's talk about the price of the device itself. When it was released, Car Thing can be acquired for free as it is on a limited release, as previously stated. While Spotify intends Car Thing's current state as a test run, CNET reports that if the device were to be actually sold, then it will cost US$80, or approximately S$108 should it reach Singapore.
But now, we ask the big question: with a premium subscription and mobile data or WiFi plan combined, is Spotify's Car Thing worth getting?
It actually comes down to your needs. The device is a huge boon for drivers with cars that do not have the same equipment as newer models, which come with their own infotainment system that can be connected directly to your phone with a Bluetooth connection, rendering the device redundant.
For the price, you can forego the device in favour of a more affordable alternative like buying cheaper car mounts and using the Spotify app's car mode. Of course, users who drive older cars can also stick to the setup they have been accustomed to instead of getting Car Thing. However, the device could make users who normally tune in to the radio while driving switch over to Spotify, since it offers content not available on the radio.
A top-view illustration of Spotify's Car Things showing where the device's microphones are located.
There is also the issue of privacy as Car Thing comes with microphones to receive voice commands. The Verge's Ashley Carman reports that the device's microphone is always on, and therefore, could be listening in to any of your conversations while inside your car. Although Carman cited Spotify's voice privacy page, which says that the device will only record and store what users say after the wake phrase "Hey Spotify" is spoken, and the fact that the built-in microphone can be manually muted, she does not still feel comfortable with the idea of a Spotify-owned microphone potentially listening in to her conversations.
Should Spotify address this privacy concern, then the device may ease some users' worries about the device. As it stands, Spotify's Car Thing is a device most users can make do without, as only users with older car models can stand to benefit from the device.
Written by John Paul Joaquin