Spotify Car Thing dashboard music controller has good and bad news

Spotify has revealed its first hardware device, with Spotify Car Thing bringing a dedicated music display with voice control to the dashboard. Designed as a limited release, and part of the streaming music company's "exploration" of potential produce ideas, Car Thing has a touchscreen and a big scroll wheel for navigating through your favorite playlists and albums.

In-car access to Spotify has been getting increasingly more straightforward over the years. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both offer a Spotify app with a custom UI for easier use while still focusing on driving, and a number of vehicles have native Spotify apps that actually run on the dashboard directly.

However that requires having a relatively new car, and that's not something Spotify says it intends to take for granted about subscribers. "Our focus remains on becoming the world's number one audio platform – not on creating hardware – but we developed Car Thing because we saw a need from our users, many of whom were missing out on a seamless and personalized in-car listening experience," the company said today. "No matter the year or model of your vehicle, we feel everyone should have a superior listening experience."

The result is a dedicated device for interfacing with your car's audio system and Spotify itself. You can control it via voice, using the "Hey Spotify" wake word, and then ask for songs, albums, artists, playlists, stations, or podcasts. The dial works to scroll through lists and select items, as well as toggle between play/pause when pressed. Alternatively, you can swipe on the display to move between tracks.

Four preset buttons running across the top edge offer access to shortcuts, and can be customized with playlists, stations, and podcasts. If you choose the latter, Car Thing will always bring up the latest episode. A back button is under the dial, and a settings/mute button is on the top edge.

There's no onboard data connection. Instead, Car Thing links to your smartphone and uses its data, which helps keep the cost down, not to mention the size too. A power cable and 12V adapter are included, and then Car Thing hooks up via Bluetooth to the phone and then either Bluetooth, USB, or an aux-in cable to the vehicle's existing audio system.

Three different dashboard mounts are included in the box: a dash mount, a vent mount, and a CD slot mount. Car Thing attaches to each via magnets. There are four microphones – a combination of near-field and mid-field – which use noise cancellation to ignore road noise.

Car Thing will only be offered in limited numbers, on an invite-only basis. Those in the US can sign up to the wait list to hopefully snag a unit: you'll need a Spotify Premium subscription and a smartphone with data, too. Normally, Spotify envisages it being priced at $79.99, but those deemed worthy of an invite for a unit will be able to get it for just $6.99 in shipping instead.