Spotify Gives Up on the Whole ‘Car Thing’

Spotify Gives Up on the Whole ‘Car Thing’
Spotify's Car Thing is a neat trick, but it needs more functionality before it's essential. (Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo)

R.I.P. to Car Thing, the Bluetooth dashboard accessory from Spotify that required you to use your smartphone alongside it, but didn’t do anything your phone couldn’t do already on its own.

Spotify will stop manufacturing Car Thing(s), in a move that was announced in the company’s 2022 second quarterly earnings report on Wednesday. By Spotify’s own estimate, the decision to discontinue the product is costing the streamer €31 million (about $US31.4 ($44) million).

A Spotify spokesperson told Tech Crunch that, “the goal of Spotify’s Car Thing exploration was to better understand in-car listening, and bring audio to a wider range of users and vehicles.” On the discontinuation of the device, the spokesperson further said the following:

Based on several factors, including product demand and supply chain issues, we have decided to stop further production of Car Thing units. Existing devices will perform as intended. This initiative has unlocked helpful learnings, and we remain focused on the car as an important place for audio.

In both name and purpose, Car Thing has been vague and silly from the beginning. The dashboard accessory was meant to enable a “seamless and personalised in-car listening experience” for Spotify’s music and podcast streaming customers. But all it does is sit on the sidelines, hogging the one precious power port, while a smartphone plays content from Spotify over a car stereo via AUX or Bluetooth.

The device was first hinted at in 2019, via a Spotify press release. Then, the company released Car Thing in a limited, invite-only launch in April 2021. Finally, in February 2022, the dashboard accessory became available for general sale in the U.S.. Now, just five months later, the Thing is no longer in production (though you can still buy it on the Spotify website for now, at 50% off.)

Car Thing is/was a touch screen, plus dial, plus voice-command-enabled device that displays a version of the Spotify App. Users mount it on the dashboard, plug it into a car’s 12V power, connect it to a smartphone via Bluetooth, and then connect that same phone to the car stereo.

Spotify Gives Up on the Whole ‘Car Thing’

Once all the that set-up is out of the way, users are then able to navigate between songs or podcast episodes via Car Thing by giving verbal commands with the “Hey Spotify…” prompt, or by using the device’s dial, touch screen, or one of four click buttons. Except: a smartphone literally already lets you navigate Spotify with a touchscreen, or buttons, or even voice commands (ex: “Hey Siri…”).

You can even mount a smartphone on a dashboard (shocking, I know). And, if you want to be able to pull up navigation assistance while using Car Thing, you’ll have to — because there is no GPS app on the Spotify device! Even after a suite of additions and updates, Car Thing still remained effectively useless.

So, ultimately it’s not surprising that Spotify’s foray into hardware cost the company money. But the streaming giant itself seems to be doing OK by its own metrics. The company reported a 19% increase in monthly active users between this quarter and a year ago, as well as more premium subscribers. Its gross profit also seems to have gone up in the past year.

Granted, Spotify is operating at a loss for the second quarter in a row, after a brief uptick that indicated the company might finally become routinely profitable. Yet profitability doesn’t seem to be the streamer’s priority. Pour one out for Car Thing, but don’t worry about Spotify just yet.