What is it, how much and should you buy one?

If your iPhone feels a generation smarter than your car, Spotify has just the in-car music player for you. Called Car Thing, the new Spotify-branded technology promises a more convenient listening experience for dedicated Spotify Premium subscribers. So if buying a car with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto isn’t happening any time soon, perhaps due to the rising cost of new and used cars, Spotify Car Thing promises to brighten up your journey by making your journey more modern.

When the most popular audio streaming service offers its own on-board hardware, we take note. But we wanted to know if Spotify Car Thing made as much sense to music fans as the streaming service itself. Can the Car Thing make an evening commute easier or make a road trip better? Here’s what you need to know about this new product.

What is Spotify Car Thing? And how does it work ?

Spotify Car Thing is a Bluetooth-enabled audio player that hopes to improve your in-car listening experience. Seen in another way, this device can help suppress the desire to buy a new car. Or at least push it on the road for a while. When the choice is between an $89.99 Spotify Car Thing and the down payment on a newer car, the device’s sub-$100 price tag and trusted brand name might seem like an attractive compromise.

The Car Thing connects to your phone, which then needs to be connected to your car with an aux, USB or Bluetooth cable. Plug Car Thing into your car’s 12 volt outlet and you’re ready to set it up. Speaking of which, we found the setup easy. The controls are also easy to understand. On the right side of the 4.0-inch touchscreen, a rotating dial and a smaller back button make it easier to navigate if you don’t want to just swipe and tap. Four small tab-shaped buttons sit at the top of the 2.5-inch-tall Car Thing and serve as customizable presets. Or, if you prefer, a “Hey, Spotify” command should get you closer to a favorite song, artist, or podcast.

What’s in the box of Car Thing?

Inside the box, the Spotify Car Thing is front and center. At just under an inch thick, the Car Thing leaves room underneath for a USB cord to connect it to your car via a 12-volt adapter with a USB connection. Although we suspect most Spotify Car Thing users will simply use the supplied air vent clip, a dash mount and CD player mount are also included, along with a quick start guide.

What you need to use Spotify Car Thing

Spotify Car Thing users will need a smartphone, a Spotify Premium subscription, and $89.99 for the device itself. As of this writing, Spotify Premium subscriptions start at $9.99 for ad-free listening and increase for family accounts of two or six people (a student rate is $4.99).

Car Thing Pros: What Spotify’s Tech Does Right

Loyal Spotify Premium users with older cars should love Car Thing. The in-car touchscreens can’t offer Car Thing’s Spotify-specific presets, a neat perk that’s hard to match. Although the screen is small, keep in mind that the audio display of many older cars, SUVs and trucks only shows a single line of text. In comparison, Spotify Car Thing’s color display, complete with cover art, is a big improvement.

The more adventurous you get, the more the Spotify Car Thing shows its strengths against a phone on a vent clip or yes, even against Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

“I’m not a regular Spotify user,” said editor Aaron Gold, “but after playing with Car Thing, I might become one. I absolutely loved how this little gadget helped me. allowed to explore Spotify using only the “Hey Spotify” voice command.”

Beyond commands that call out a specific playlist, artist, or album, Spotify Car Thing’s voice commands can play (or display) more audio content like the current selection. As with any new technology, experimentation increases the usefulness of Car Thing. If you generally stick to set playlists, Car Thing’s advantage diminishes.

“After playing a particular song that I requested, she found something related, and I asked her for more music from that particular artist,” Gold said. “I’ve tried commands such as ‘Listen to 1980s road trip music’, ‘Listen to relaxing classical music’ and ‘Listen to harpsichord music’, and it always responded correctly. .. There’s no need to load your phone with music, because whatever it is you want to hear, you can just ask Car Thing.”

Disadvantages of the car: room for improvement

Even when you’ve mastered voice commands and set up your presets, Spotify Car Thing still only caters to part of the car tech market. We just don’t see that much value for anyone who owns a car whose infotainment system includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These phone mirroring features have been improved over the years and can now handle voice commands just like Spotify Car Thing. The Apple and Google voice control options, also available by long-pressing a button on the steering wheel, aren’t as extensive as Spotify Car Thing, but they get the job done. Again, the importance of this Car Thing advantage comes down to how often you travel through musical (and podcast) rabbit holes.

Integrated automotive technology solutions also have multifunctional advantages. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto now have split-screen options, allowing you to see your phone’s map and music information on the same screen. It’s not much of an advantage for cars with smaller screens, but it’s still a visual option that Car Thing can’t compete with.

An editor also had problems by inadvertently resetting our four presets. Because we’re not in the habit of leaving phones, computer equipment, or other valuables visible when parking cars, we accidentally pressed the buttons on top of the device repeatedly when we moved it out of sight. Over time we learned to be more careful, but it was a constant concern.

New Features on Spotify Car Thing

This month, Spotify unveiled new updates to Car Thing for Apple iPhone users, including controls for other non-Spotify media and the ability to answer phone calls from the screen. So far, there is no time frame for rolling out these handy features for Android users. Whether you’re on Android or iOS, the Spotify Car Thing can now handle adding songs to your listening queue, another significant update. A night mode is also on the way.

All of these welcome changes increase the overall usefulness of the device. As much as we understand the idea posed on Spotify’s Car Thing website that a phone should handle “phone stuff”, these days phone stuff is just about everything. Even on a 6.5 or 7.0 inch screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto offer great full functionality to help you safely listen to text messages, listen to audio, navigate and make phone calls.

Is Spotify Car Thing Worth Buying?

All of this is irrelevant if your car doesn’t have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – that’s where Spotify Car Thing becomes more valuable. Music and podcast fans who aren’t ready to buy a new or updated used car should appreciate Spotify Car Thing.

We think $89.99 is a little pricey, but Car Thing is a more sophisticated streaming solution than a phone on a vent clip (Gold suggests including a few months of Spotify Premium with every purchase). Every day, however, more and more people are buying newer cars with built-in phone mirroring technology and basic voice commands that can handle just enough Spotify Car Thing features to make it harder to recommend. . But what if you try to do everything you can to avoid buying a new car with today’s inflated prices? Spotify Car Thing is worth considering.

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