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Spotify’s ‘Car Thing’ speaker gets limited release in the US

Spotify has been working on its ‘Car Thing’ smart speaker for some time now. The streaming service first talked about it in May 2019, when it began testing the in-car device with some American users.

A recent filing with the US Federal Communications Commission revealed how the device was evolving, but today it’s going on sale. Well, we say on sale…

Car Thing is getting a limited release in the US on an invitation-only basis for some Spotify subscribers, and they’ll only have to pay shipping costs to get one.

The device uses Spotify’s new ‘Hey Spotify’ voice controls, which recently launched for the streaming service’s smartphone app. It also has a touchscreen display and a big, radio-style knob to navigate between music and podcasts.

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Spotify Car Thing hardware streams music and podcasts to drivers

Spotify has unveiled its first hardware: a voice-controlled speaker for cars that will stream music and podcasts. However, ‘Car Thing’ isn’t a commercial product… yet. Instead, the speaker is being used for a test in the US with “a small group of invited Spotify Premium users” according to the streaming service.

Those people will install Car Thing in their vehicles, with the data on how they use it being sent back to Spotify, to further its understanding of what drivers listen to, which in turn will filter in to any future products and features.

“While we know there has been some speculation about our future plans, Car Thing was developed to help us learn more about how people listen to music and podcasts,” is how Spotify is putting it in a blog post, published this afternoon. “Our focus remains on becoming the world’s number one audio platform – not on creating hardware.”

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MQA talks music and the future of in-car entertainment

This week, rumours that Spotify is preparing to launch a $100 in-car speaker as its first hardware resurfaced. It’s a sign of the wider excitement around the potential for music-streaming in cars.

Hi-res music-technology firm MQA is part of that trend: earlier this month, it showed off how its studio-quality music can be experienced in cars. Director of marketing Lisa Sullivan explained more in a speech at Music Ally and Music Biz’s NY:LON Connect conference in London today.

“On a practical level, the automotive world has ridiculously long lead times. We’ve been talking to automotive partners for four to five years, but we’re only just starting to see some of those technologies coming in to play,” said Sullivan.