Spotify launches Car Thing for everyone, priced at $89.99

The company's elaborate remote control for your car is now widely available to the general public.

Remember Spotify’s Car Thing? The accessory that once used to be free for select users is now widely available to the general public for a price of $89.99. Spotify’s formal launch of its own hardware indicates that the company is serious about its efforts in the space after initially experimenting to understand whether people wanted a Spotify-branded gadget in their lives.

I suppose enough people did, otherwise the Car Thing wouldn’t have reached the market. If you’re one of these people, you’ll be happy to know that Spotify includes everything you’ll need to set Car Thing up in your car, such as mounts and a 12V power cord. You can either use Bluetooth or auxiliary input to connect the accessory to your car’s audio system, and it’ll require your phone’s data connection to operate.

Because of how closely it’s tied to your phone, it’s essentially a fancy remote for your Spotify account. Rather mounting your phone to your dashboard and using Spotify’s car interface, for example, you use Car Thing instead. In exchange, Spotify gives you a fancy nob to control volume, as well as voice commands through “Hey Spotify.” According to the company, new voice commands like “Add to Queue” and a dark mode for the UI are on their way in a future software update.

In an interview with CNET, Spotify’s chief research and development officer Gustav Söderström said the Car Thing will also be able to control other streaming services via a software upgrade, namely Audible. “We want to be an open platform,” he said.

It’s clear Spotify has big ambitions for Car Thing as it positions it as a replacement for an older car’s infotainment interface rather something you could tack on to a dashboard already powered by Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. “During our exploration phase, we discovered a lot about how people listen in the car, and for many users, how Car Thing can help improve that experience,” the company said in its press release. “We learned two major things from device owners: First, users were listening to Spotify in the car more than they had before. Second, Car Thing made it simpler to play exactly what they wanted, thanks to both the product interface (which they enjoy more than their previous in-car media) and the ease of using ‘Hey Spotify’ to control what they wanted to listen to.”

How far Spotify will be able to take Car Thing remains unclear, but it likely won’t be the last time we’ll see hardware from the streaming company.