Technology

Spotify leaks in-car music device to rival CarPlay and Android Auto

Back in 2019, Spotify acknowledged it was running a test using a bit of hardware called “Car Thing.” The post, published on the Spotify newsroom, was short and to the point: this was a test to learn about “how people listen to music and podcasts” and not something the company was planning to make available to the public at large.

“Our focus remains on becoming the world’s number one audio platform — not on creating hardware,” the company said at the time.

Nearly two years later, it’s increasingly hard to believe that’s still the case. In January, a device with similar functionality (“voice controlled accessory for phone / Spotify App with supporting display and buttons”) appeared on the FCC website with a very different looking design. And now something matching the photos has been discovered in renders in the latest build of the Spotify app.

MacRumors contributor Steve Moser made the discovery, which you can see in the picture at the top of the page. Compare and contrast to the device seen in the FCC listing below…

Spotify Car Thing

(Image credit: FCC / Spotify)

… and the original Car Thing design from 2019:

Spotify Car Thing

(Image credit: Spotify)

It’s come a long way. The screen-to-button ratio has been completely flipped, and the device looks closer to the design of the ill-fated Microsoft Zune. A large screen is supported by a button, and a large control knob.

Alongside the initial render, Moser also discovered a couple of mounting solutions for Car Thing. Here it is attached to the dashboard and an air vent:

Spotify Car Thing

(Image credit: Spotify / Steve Moser)

Spotify Car Thing

(Image credit: Spotify / Steve Moser)

While this product could have proved revolutionary a few years back, it’s hard not to believe that Spotify is somewhat late to the party here. Both Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto are sophisticated solutions that now come bundled with many new vehicles. For cars without CarPlay or Android Auto, there are plenty of third-party solutions, and almost everyone with a car has a smartphone that can mimic the functionality in a pinch as well. Unless the device has some clever tricks up its sleeve, then this could well prove to be a non-starter, even with the beloved Spotify branding.

That said, as recently as January, Spotify still maintained that Car Thing was and is simply a test rather than a soon-to-be product. When the FCC filing emerged, the company told The Verge: “Spotify is focused on becoming the world’s number one audio platform, and we’re continuing tests of a voice-controlled music and podcast device to help us learn more about how people listen to audio in the car.

“While we don’t have any further news to share at this time, we’re always testing and seeking feedback from our users before rolling out new features or products broadly.”

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