Spotify's 'Car Thing' gadget finally goes on sale, but it's not a must-have... yet

Car Thing is Spotify-only for now, but it's going to be opened to rival streamers too

Spotify Car Thing
(Image credit: Spotify)

I'll be honest. I came to mock Spotify's Car Thing. A $90 remote control that does what your phone already does? Thanks, but no thanks. But while I don't think Car Thing is something I'd buy right now, that could well change very quickly – because while it's starting life as a Spotify-only device, it's not going to stay that way.

Car Thing is designed to sit between your phone and your car stereo, connecting to the latter via Bluetooth, USB or aux cable. It then acts as a remote control and voice control device, its fairly large screen and rotary dial enabling you to see and skip music without messing around with your mobile. And if it opens up as Spotify promises, it could be quite the thing indeed.

Open up, make room for me

I'm not a fan of service-specific hardware: it's designed to lock you into a particular ecosystem, which is great for the ecosystem manufacturer but not so great for consumers. And as someone who doesn't use Spotify for podcasts – I much prefer my third-party apps, which I use in my car via my phone – and who also uses a wide range of other musical apps, a device that only works with a Spotify Premium subscription is no good for me. 

But according to Spotify, that's going to change "in a few weeks" with support for other services, so I'd be able to control my Audible audiobooks – and it might even include other forms of integration. I can't imagine being able to play my Apple Music through the device given Apple and Spotify's ongoing enmity, but a $90 gadget that doubles as a display for Google Maps, a player for Amazon or Google or TIDAL and perhaps a controller for other apps too sounds awfully tempting.

Of course, there's a big difference between what tech firms promise and what they actually deliver – so if you're considering a Car Thing for a yet-unannounced partnership that's not a great idea. But if Car Thing turns out to be as open as Spotify says it'll be, it could be just the Thing you need.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).