The Spotify car thing is baffling, but it works as advertised

Picture of a Spotify car thing

Spotify Car Thing sounds very nice, but it’s not all for my car’s infotainment problem!
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I love my old car. He’s officially a teenager – 13 – but his built-in entertainment setup makes him look a lot older. For the longest time, I’ve been using the Android Auto app on my smartphone as the “infotainment” system in my car. Years ago I slipped a 30-pin iPod tether into my glove box to expose the AUX port, then bought it later Roof Bolt With Google Assistant built in for hands-free calling.

Everything works fine. I’ll start the car, my Android phone will connect via bluetooth to the Bolt, and the Android Auto app will appear on my phone screen. Next I would attach the Popsocket to its holder and press pPut a button on the phone to get started on the road. Android Auto has provided the perfect blend of music playback and Google Maps, which is something I have constantly needed because I don’t have any sense of direction even after living in the San Francisco Bay Area my whole life.

But then Google announced that a file Android Auto The phone app will gradually be scrapped, and I’m starting to panic. That’s when I looked at Spotify’s Car Thing, a Bluetooth accessory for your phone that plays music. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this $80 device only for Spotify streaming – I definitely thought there was more. Reader, none.

iPod, but make it Spotify

Image from Spotify Car Thing

The vehicle object directly fits into the magneto adapter air vent.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I have been a Spotify Premium user since its early days. My algorithm has become fine-tuned to so many phases of my life over the past 10 years, and I feel intricately restricted to my Spotify profile — the same way anyone felt with the mix of curated CDs and iTunes playlists back in the day.

That’s why I thought I’d take advantage of Spotify’s Car Thing. that it Thing For a service I’ve been paying for nearly 10 years. Spotify requires you to sign up for an invite list for a chance to purchase Car Thing, so I did. About a month later, it was approved and I smashed the buy button.

the The car thing mounts to any air vent with a strong magnet, although there is a CD insert slot if you prefer to mount it this way. The device has a 3.97-inch screen, which isn’t much bigger than the first Android phone, the HTC Incredible. It also has a giant turntable in the right corner and a small button at the bottom. Powered via USB-C through your car’s 12V socket with the USB-A adapter, which includes an additional USB slot in the adapter to charge your phone. There are also five additional buttons on the top of the Car Thing that serve a navigational function. I’ll get to that in a minute.

To Spotify’s credit, it delivered a show that’s easy to see even in the glare of the sun. The display lights up and dims automatically, just as the dashboard does.

Remote control for your music

Spotify car from another angle

Car Thing can take you through the latest playlists, artists, and even your favorite audio files.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

To set up Spotify Car Thing, you will need to connect your device through your car’s speakers. Some newer cars use bluetooth, which makes it handy (suitable for those folks). But my car only has AUX, so whenever I want to drive a motor with Car Thing, I have to actually connect a headphone adapter to the AUX cable outside the glove compartment before I can take off. It adds minutes to my driving time which I prefer not to deal with and turns me almost completely into this tool.

However, I insisted. Spotify Car Thing and I took several car trips together around the Bay Area. Over the course of 100 miles or so, I’ve found that I’ve loved having the app I use second most often front and center while driving. But as soon as you drive your car and decide to change the atmosphere, you suddenly feel that Car Thing is very complicated to use. You have to really Trust Spotify to deliver the playlist you want before hitting the road.

car object diagram

Those four buttons at the top that I mentioned before? They’re shortcuts that can be customized so that if there’s a playlist that you update frequently — my playlist is called Everyday I’m Shufflin — you can pin that one. You can also pin a favorite podcast (have you heard of it Tools?). By default, Spotify leads you to a list of playlists. I’ve met up with commuting playlists, but I work from home and only use my car to drive around town running errands, so these playlists just aren’t for me.

The most frustrating part about Car Thing is that the volume dial is not so intuitive to use while going through a playlist. Since I’m listening through the AUX in my car, the volume is really the loudest it can get. And if you want to switch between songs, it takes two taps on the back button to activate the mode that goes through the playlist. Annoyingly, I can’t even use it to skip to the next song, which would be a much easier mechanism than tapping on the screen. It’s a tricky balancing act when trying to steer the car on the highway.

Spotify has a digital assistant of sorts. You can say “Hey Spotify” to skip a song or queue a specific album. To his credit he’s been the only assistant so far who understands when I ask him to play my “Everyday I’m Shufflin” playlist. Google Assistant constantly struggles with this particular task, and it was nice to see Spotify Assistant was able to drive, the only place I really relied on this kind of hands-free interaction.

You can turn off the microphone if you don’t want to use Spotify Assistant. The ability is available in the settings panel, which you can access through the fifth end button at the top of the device (in the same row as the presets).

I use Spotify for music but not for podcasts, which unfortunately means I can’t use Car Thing to listen to my favourites. Car Thing remains dormant if you want to cast podcasts from a third-party app on your phone (same for music, although if you buy Car Thing you’re supposed to be streaming on Spotify already). Since my phone is physically connected to the car speakers, I can still listen to Pocket Casts downloads without any interruption. You will have to do this manually so it is one of the things you have to stop and manage if you want to do it safely.

All about Spotify

Picture of the thing's car and my phone doing its job

Unfortunately Car Thing did not fix my problems. When using it, I drive with two devices that are mounted on my air vents. Very futuristic!
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

What bothers me the most with this supplement is that it doesn’t do everything I need. Car Thing is just a Bluetooth accessory for your phone to play your Spotify library, and that’s pretty much it. For a car hardware, you want some navigational capabilities, and I’m not sure if Spotify will integrate that into their offerings (or work with a third-party map app) to make Car Thing more useful. But in its current implementation, I still have to put my Android smartphone against an air vent to see where I’m going and what the traffic is. It’s almost comical, which is certainly not what I expected when I went in search of a more elegant infotainment option.

If you’re a Spotify Premium user and are deeply immersed in its ecosystem – I mean you love the playlists it offers every week, and don’t use other apps for media interaction – then Car Thing is probably worth a try. And to be fair, Spotify doesn’t make any promises about Car Thing – just this”The car thing has one job And he does it with astonishment. ” But the days of single-use devices are over, especially when it comes to music. The iPhone made the iPod unnecessary, and Car Thing clearly isn’t reinventing the wheel there.

I’m still looking for an app that can replace Android Auto on my phone when Google removes it for good. Until then, my confidence the Rove Bolt will have to get the job done.

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