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Spotify’s Car Thing music and podcast device could finally launch in 2021

Spotify Car Thing 2 spotted in FCC filing

In 2019, Spotify announced that it was starting to conduct “tests” of how people listen to music when in their cars by using a voice-controlled music and podcast device called “Car Thing.” At the time, Spotify said that Car Thing testing would only be conducted in the U.S. with a small group of invited Spotify Premium users. The company was pretty clear that it had no plans to sell the Car Thing, and there have been no new details about the device or what Spotify may have learned from its testing.

But a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing spotted by The Verge shows a new version of the Car Thing, with a larger, smartphone-sized display, which could mean that Spotify is considering selling the device after all. The FCC lists it as a Bluetooth phone accessory, so one thing at least is clear: It’s not designed to act as a stand-alone streaming music player with its own internet connection.

So far, the FCC has only published the results of its tests of the second-gen Car Thing. There’s not a lot of information about what the device actually does, or the software it’s using, but the included device photos give us a few clues. Looking at the measurements, it’s a lot bigger than the first version. If you placed an iPhone 11 next to the Car Thing, in portrait orientation, the Car Thing is a little taller, but also a hair narrower than the iPhone.

Unlike the first version of the Car Thing, which integrated a small, circular display inside of a rotating control ring, the newest version opts for a more traditional rectangular screen that won’t be obscured when you use the rotating control, which has now been placed to the right of the display. It’s possible that it’s a touch-sensitive screen, which would give you more navigation options than the circular control alone.

The first version used a cluster of four function buttons on the front face of the Car Thing, but the newer design looks as though it has moved these to the top edge of the device. We’re guessing this makes them a bit easier to press while preserving as much room as possible for the display. In between each function button, is a small hole. Could these be the Car Thing’s microphones?

None of this is a guarantee that Spotify is aiming to actually sell the Car Thing to its users, and when asked, the company reiterated its previous response to this question. It told The Verge that “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.”

As more and more vehicle makers integrate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the need for a dedicated device like the Car Thing is slowly going away. But the age of cars on the road recently hit an all-time high — 25% of them are at least 16 years old — which suggests there’s plenty of potential demand for a driver-friendly way to interact with Spotify.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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