Spotify Sends ‘Car Thing’ to the Digital Boneyard

Spotify Car Thing on dashboard Credit: Spotify
Text Size
- +

Toggle Dark Mode

A little over two years ago, Spotify released its first (and only) hardware accessory, Car Thing. It was one of the most narrowly focused tech devices we’ve seen in recent years, but the streaming giant clearly hoped that it would become an overnight hit with Spotify Premium road warriors.

Spoiler alert: It did not.

The intent behind Car Thing was to create a dash-mounted controller for playing music and podcasts from Spotify’s network. The company described it as a single-purpose device that “has one job and does it awesomely.”

As we said at the time, it was perhaps second only to Ye’s Stem Player in obsessively single-minded focus on catering to a specific group of fans. Of course, Spotify arguably has many more fans than the artist formerly known as Kanye West, especially now.

The Car Thing was a strange idea from the start since not only was it naturally exclusive to Spotify, but it was also only useful for folks who didn’t already have CarPlay or Android Auto. Car Thing didn’t stream Spotify directly; it merely acted as a remote controller for the Spotify app running on your smartphone. While it added an arguably nicer interface and “Hey Spotify” voice control, it’s still hard to imagine too many people purchasing Car Thing and mounting it on their dashboard beside a CarPlay display.

Further, Car Thing was only for those serious enough about Spotify to keep paying for it. Drop your Spotify Premium subscription, and you basically have a brick.

However, now Car Thing owners will have a new contribution to their gadget graveyards even if they decide to stick with Spotify Premium. Spotify gave up on Car Thing only five months after it became generally available; it stopped making new units, giving investors the excuse that it created the device to “better understand in-car listening, and bring audio to a wider range of users and vehicles,” but that it had decided to stop producing new units due to “product demand and supply chain issues.”

At the time, Spotify said that “existing devices will perform as intended,” but it seems even that promise has limits. In an announcement on its website, Spotify told customers it’s pulling the plug entirely at the end of this year.

We have made the decision to discontinue Car Thing. This means that Car Thing will no longer be operational. This decision wasn’t made lightly, and we want to assure you that our commitment to providing a superior listening experience remains unchanged.Spotify

Spotify notes that as of December 9, 2024, Car Thing will be fully discontinued and “no longer be operational.” There are no plans for a replacement or new version of Car Thing, and Spotify is not offering any trade-in or recycling options.

Instead, Spotify is telling customers to throw Car Thing away:

We recommend resetting your Car Thing to factory settings and safely disposing of your device following local electronic waste guidelines. Contact your state or local waste disposal department to determine how to dispose of or recycle Car Thing in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.Spotify

The decision to discontinue Car Thing is certainly a bit perplexing since it doesn’t seem like it requires any significant effort on the company’s part to keep it running. Remember that this is just a remote control for Spotify, and if Car Thing has been working for the past two years or so, all the code needed to support it should already be in the Spotify app.

Car Thing may not have been overwhelmingly popular, but like most gadgets, it attracted a niche community of fans — enough for the suggestion of a class-action lawsuit to have accumulated a couple of hundred responses from those who would like to try to force Spotify to reconsider its decision, or at the very least open source the devices so that hobbyists can continue to tinker with them rather than tossing them in the garbage heap.

Update (May 30, 2024): Following the negative backlash from Car Thing owners, Spotify told TechCrunch today that “it has more recently instituted a refund process for Car Thing, provided the user has proof of purchase.”

Social Sharing