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Report: Spotify preparing to launch $100 in-car streaming device

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Though it could still be total vaporware, we have a new report that Spotify is inching closer to releasing an in-car music streamer, which would sell for $100, according to the Financial Times. Basing its story on information provided by “people familiar with [Spotify’s] plans,” FT claims the device will use Bluetooth to connect to existing in-car audio systems, and will have both physical buttons and voice commands available for controlling music playback.

These details are consistent with previous rumors about such a device. In April of 2018, it was expected that Spotify would announce some kind of dedicated hardware — either an in-car audio controller, or a portable player — but the ensuing April 24 event ended up only revealing details about the company’s new app. Still, just a few months later, we learned that the company had registered with the FCC, a necessary first step before any company can bring a device to market in the U.S.

Such a device would also be consistent with Spotify’s move to simplify the streaming music user experience for people who already listen to streaming music via their phones while driving. It would also give Spotify an edge as it competes with an increasing number of music services, which, in a driving context, includes SiriusXM, and terrestrial radio.

What remains to be seen is exactly how a dedicated in-car Spotify streamer would work. It could simply act as a Bluetooth controller for a phone that is already connected to a car’s audio system. If the device included a high-res display, so users could see what’s playing, it might justify the reported $100 price tag.

The alternative, which we think is more likely, is that Spotify intends for this streamer to be fully independent, with its own LTE connection. If it goes this route, the cost of that data connection will have to be accounted for. Ads spotted by Reddit users last year suggest that the company would offer users the option to pay for the hardware over a one-year term, either as a standalone payment, or as part of their monthly Spotify subscription.

While a voice controlled, fully independent streamer would be attractive to a lot of Spotify listeners who don’t have Android Auto, or Apple CarPlay in their vehicles, we think such a device would only gain a strong foothold if it could work anywhere — in a car, at home, or while working out.

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Simon Cohen
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial…
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