(Pocket-lint) - Spotify has launched a smart media player for vehicles. It's called Car Thing and comes with support for “Hey Spotify” voice commands. For the initial product launch, Spotify is giving out Car Thing for free to a limited group of Premium subscribers in the US. Here's what you need to know.

Read more: What is Spotify and how does it work?

What is Spotify's Car Thing?

In its blog post announcing the "limited release" of Car Thing, Spotify described the device as a "smart player that fills your car with music, news, entertainment, talk, and more". The device itself features a physical dial on the front along with a 4-inch touchscreen, plus four microphones at the top and four preset buttons for controls. You can control your car's audio through Car Thing using either “Hey Spotify” commands or the device's dial, screen, and preset buttons. 

How does Spotify's Car Thing work?

Think of Car Thing as an infotainment center, but one that plays content exclusively from the Spotify library. It needs to pair with your smartphone (Spotify over Bluetooth) for a data connection. You can then use Bluetooth, AUX, or a USB cable to connect to your car’s audio system. Car Thing doesn’t have a built-in speaker.

Voice search

With Car Thing, you can use Spotify’s voice search technology to quickly play specific music or podcasts. Just say “Hey Spotify", and then ask for a song, album, artist, playlist, station, or podcast. Spotify said Car Thing will be able to understand what you’re asking to play, "even with the music turned up or your windows down".

Go hands-on

If for whatever reason you don't want to control Car Thing with your voice, you can use the device's dial. It lets you browse, select, play, pause, and discover music or podcast to listen to in the Spotify library. Clearly, Car Thing is more or less a dedicated Spotify remote for your car with a screen and microphones.

See what you're playing

At any time, you can look at Car Thing's touchscreen display to see what’s playing. You can also use the screen to see your library and results from voice search. Or, you can use the touchscreen to navigate around Car Thing's interface. Just swipe to browse further or skip, or you can tap to play. Simples.

Set your favourites

Car Thing's four preset buttons let you access your favourites faster, such as a new podcast episode. These are customisable, and you can hange them at any time. 

How much does Spotify's Car Thing cost?

Spotify said Car Thing should retail for $79.99 when it fully launches - but is giving the device to a limited number of Premium subscribers in the US for free. 

How to get Spotify's Car Thing for free

Spotify Car Thing is currently available to eligible users in the US. As part of a "limited product launch" on "an invite-only basis", you can join a waitlist and potentially snag Spotify's new Car Thing at no cost (excluding shipping). You just need a paid Spotify Premium subscription plan (and, of course, an iOS or Android smartphone with Wi-Fi or mobile data connection). In other words, you must be a paying Spotify subscriber to even be eligible to get Car Thing for "free". 

To get on Spotify's Car Thing waitlist:

  1. Go to carthing.spotify.com.
  2. Select the "Put me on the list" button at the top.
  3. Sign in to your Spotify account.

Note: Spotify is only giving out one Car Thing per subscriber. 

Want to know more?

Check out Spotify's blog post here and Car Thing webpage for more details.

Writing by Maggie Tillman.