Spotify is getting into the hardware business - but only on a very limited basis.
The streaming service is about to begin publicly testing its first hardware that serves as a voice-controlled smart assistant for cars. Some Spotify Premium users in the US will receive the device for free. Called Car Thing, it plugs into the 12-volt outlet and connects to both the car and your phone over Bluetooth. It can be voice-activated with “Hey, Spotify,” and then you can ask for something to play.
It’s be linked to your Spotify account, so it'll access your playlists, too. Spotify said it developed Car Thing to help it learn more about how people listen to music and podcasts. It basically looks like a dongle, but with a circular screen on one side that show what’s being played. The other side has buttons that can be used to access presets. Spotify said it has no plans to launch the device for consumers.
The test will begin within the next few weeks, and Spotify itself is contacting people it’s considering including. In a blog post, Spotify said it plans to do similar "voice-specific tests" in the future, and it told us not to be surprised if you hear about “Voice Thing” and “Home Thing". However, its focus “remains on becoming the world’s number one audio platform -- not on creating hardware".
Keep in mind that, in January, Financial Times claimed Spotify was making a voice-activated, in-car device that would cost around $100. At the time, people thought Spotify was trying to take on the likes of Amazon, which had introduced the voice-activated Echo Auto months earlier. That device brings the Alexa to a car for $24.99 on an invite-only basis, but it’s supposed to hit retail for $49.99.
However, we get the feeling Spotify simply wants to learn more about its users in-car experiences and is using Car Thing to gather that data.