On February 22, 2022, Spotify launched Car Thing—a smart music player for your car. This device requires a Spotify Premium account but allows a seamless in-car experience with the popular music streaming app.
However, in its June 27, 2022, earnings update, Spotify revealed they’ve stopped manufacturing the dashboard infotainment gadget. After investing years and millions of dollars in making this dashboard accessory, the company simply dropped it after four months.
But why did Spotify’s Car Thing become a flop? Let’s investigate the reasons why.
1. It Can’t Compete Against Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
Spotify’s Car Thing is designed for use in vehicles that don’t have infotainment systems. However, most new vehicles in the market are equipped with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, or both. So, if you have a car with this system, Car Thing is simply redundant.
Furthermore, if you don’t have an infotainment system in your car, you can get an Android Auto or Apple CarPlay head unit starting at $80. This price is $10 cheaper than the Car Thing’s launch price. Although you’ll have to spend more on installation, and you’ll likely want to get a more expensive head unit model, it can do much more than control Spotify.
If Spotify added extra features, like Google Maps or Waze integration and allowing the Car Thing to control your smartphone, it probably would’ve been a more compelling device to purchase. After all, the touchscreens on small devices can be challenging to use, especially if you’re behind the wheel.
The built-in knob and four assignable buttons can make launching navigation apps, changing tracks, or making calls much safer on the Car Thing. However, since it’s only used for controlling Spotify, it doesn’t make sense for many drivers to purchase it.
If Spotify had added those integrations to the Car Thing and kept its price at the same level, it probably would’ve sold more. But it seems we’ll never get that chance anymore.
3. The Spotify App on Smartphones Is Good Enough
Another reason Car Thing didn’t take off was that many Spotify users don’t see the need for it. The Spotify smartphone app is already easy to navigate, and the huge screens on most phones nowadays make it far more effortless.
While the Car Thing had the ‘Hey Spotify’ voice command, a large control dial, and five physical buttons—four of which you can customize—most users are fine with using their smartphones.
You can use Siri or Google Assistant to play songs on the Spotify app. And while assigning specific playlists to the physical buttons is convenient, you can also easily create home screen shortcuts to your favorite Spotify playlists, at least on Android.
The control dial makes browsing for songs and playlists easier while driving, but you shouldn’t fiddle with your Car Thing (or any other device) while at the wheel. You should safely stop and park if you’re looking for a specific song or playlist. And once you’re stationary, it’s far easier to type on your smartphone than browse through hundreds or thousands of songs in your Spotify collection.
4. You Still Need a Phone, a Data Connection, and a Spotify Premium Account
When you buy the $90 Spotify’s Car Thing, you should expect it to work as a standalone device. After all, it’s almost equal to nine months of Spotify Premium subscription at that price. But that isn’t the case.
To use the Car Thing, you first need to connect it to your car’s power. Then you need to connect your smartphone to it via Bluetooth, and then you need to connect the Car Thing to your car’s stereo system via Bluetooth, AUX, or USB cable. This makes setting up your car audio a more complicated process.
Instead of just plugging your phone into your car charger and connecting it via Bluetooth or AUX cable, you have to take a couple of additional steps to enjoy Spotify music. You also need to be a premium subscriber and choose the right Spotify plan for you before you can even play with the Car Thing.
And, if you’re using smartphone navigation, you may want to have your phone on your dashboard. This can make your car cluttered and add more distractions for you as a driver.
5. It’s Just a Glorified Spotify Remote Control
At its core, Spotify’s Car Thing is just a remote control for the app. Although, as we mentioned before, its buttons and dial will make it easier to control the Spotify app, you can do the same with your current gear. Your phone’s large screen or the fast-forward and reverse buttons on your existing stereo—even if it isn’t Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatible—accomplishes the same as the Car Thing. stereo—even if it isn’t Android Auto or Apple CarPlay compatible—accomplishes the same as the Car Thing.
6. Spotify’s Car Thing Isn’t Worth the Price
Many people wouldn’t shell out $90 for a remote control, and it’s an unnecessary expense on top of your monthly Spotify fees. Maybe, if Spotify sold the Car Thing with a free six or twelve-month Individual Premium subscription (or a voucher for other Premium plans), the Car Thing would’ve been a compelling car accessory. After all, people are always looking to save money on Spotify Premium subscriptions.
7. Spotify’s Car Thing Missed Its Target Market
The Car Thing’s primary target market was drivers with cars that do not have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. While it does make playing and navigating Spotify far easier, many people who put smartphones on their dash don’t just use it to play music.
Instead, they use their smartphones to navigate traffic, make calls, and receive messages. By making Car Thing Spotify-centric, they removed all these capabilities from drivers. As such, many didn’t buy such a niche and specialized product.
But, if they incorporated navigation and handsfree call into the Car Thing, it probably would’ve sold much better, even if it had a higher price.
Spotify Missed the Mark With Car Thing
Spotify’s Car Thing is an unnecessary accessory that accomplished the same thing our smartphones and infotainment displays could already do. And its original $90 price tag is far too expensive for what it can do (which is not much).
If only Spotify gave it more capability, like integrating it with Google Maps and letting you make handsfree calls, it probably would’ve sold better, even at a higher price. When the company announced it was no longer making the Car Thing, it also dropped the price. Maybe more people would start buying it at more than half off. But would you buy a $40 remote control?