Spotify is about to begin publicly testing its first hardware: a smart, voice-controlled car assistant, aimed at helping Spotify learn how people consume audio while driving. As part of the test, some Premium users will receive the device for free.
The device, called Car Thing, connects to the 12-volt socket of a vehicle (also known as a cigarette lighter) for power and connects to a person's car and phone via bluetooth. The device can be activated by saying: "Hey, Spotify", followed by a request for what the person wants to hear. It will be linked to a user's Spotify account, so they can access their playlists.
Car Thing includes a circular screen on one side, which will show what's being played. On the other side there are a series of buttons that can be used to access the presets of the playlist.
The test, which will begin in the coming weeks, will only run in the US. UU For now, and Spotify will communicate with the people you are considering including. We do not know how many people will participate. A source close to Spotify says that the team does not have a difficult timeline for the time the test will last, and that there is no intention of launching this device as it is or for the general public.
In a blog post, Spotify says Car Thing was developed to "help us learn more about how people listen to music and podcasts." And despite being a hardware device, Spotify says its focus "is still to become the number one audio platform in the world, not create" hardware. "
Still, the source says that Spotify has registered a trademark not only with the name of Car Thing, but also with the names Voice Thing and Home Thing, suggesting that Spotify might be interested in creating a smart speaker for Home or at least perform a pilot test. program with one.
This source says that Spotify is running its Car Thing test to learn more about the car experience. Spotify already has access to some data about the habits of its users when driving: the equipment has an integration with Waze, as well as a driving mode, so the application will probably know when someone is in the car and what they are consuming. However, if someone is playing music through an auxiliary cable, via Bluetooth or through another third-party application, Spotify may not know the context for that listening session; The car thing could change that.
We have seen indications of Car Thing during the last year or so. In January, Financial Times reported that Spotify was planning a device in the car that was activated through a "Hey, Spotify" command. But at that time, the newspaper said that the device would cost around $ 100. My source says that Car Thing has been in testing for a while, but that today marks the beginning of a test for a larger group.
Spotify is clearly making a move to understand all facets of a user's day, which could help the team develop. The new products or even provide information about the content of the green light, especially when it comes to podcasts. This year, Spotify aims to spend up to $ 500 million in podcasting. The company has acquired several major podcast networks and is redesigning its application to make podcasts more accessible. The car is a natural place to promote that new content.
All the big technology companies have been competing for the automotive interface. In September, Amazon introduced the Echo Auto, a device that takes Alexa's intelligent assistant to a vehicle. It is currently available for $ 24.99 only by invitation, but will eventually sell for $ 49.99. Meanwhile, Google has just announced a driving mode for its Google assistant. Both Google and Apple also have software that can replace the interface of an automobile's information and entertainment system.
While smart assistant companies want access to data in the drivers' car, the automakers themselves are also developing their own smart assistants and voice controls. But in a survey conducted by JD Power, 76 percent of car owners said they are interested in having the voice assistant of the same brand in their home and in their car. Spotify could face an uphill battle if it wants to convince its users to give up the assistant they are already used to playing the audio without problems from their Spotify account.
Correction May 17, 11:42 a.m. ET:  Due to an editing error, this story initially said that the Spotify test would start today. It will begin in the coming weeks.