As a driver, I don’t really do Spotify car thing and need a device that only plays music when I am driving.
The old car has been great to me for many years. In spite of the fact that the GS is a teenager, it actually has a lot of in-dash entertainment, which makes it seem a whole lot older than it really is. As a user of Android Auto on my smartphone, I’ve been using the “Infotainment System” of my car as the “Infotainment System” of my phone for a long time now. When I first got my car, I ripped out the 30-pin proprietary iPod hookup in the glove box in order to expose the AUX port. Later, I bought a Roav Bolt with Google Assistant built-in so I could link all my hands-free devices.
There was no problem at all with everything. My cell phone connected to the Bolt via Bluetooth, and I would be able to see the Android Auto app on the screen of my phone once the Bolt had been started. Afterward, I would attach the Popsocket to the phone holder and start the Popsocket when I hit the play button on my phone. Android Auto offered the perfect solution for conducting music playback on my phone and accessing Google Maps. I constantly depend because I do not have a sense of direction despite living in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Then I found out that Google would discontinue the Android Auto smartphone app, and as a result, I started panicking. That’s when I discovered Spotify’s Car Thing, a Bluetooth accessory you can use to play music on the go with your smartphone. Something quite unsettled in my mind when I thought about this device that costs $80 and only exists to stream Spotify-surely there is more to it than that. I’m sorry, but you are wrong.
What if you could have an iPod but with Spotify instead
Spotify Premium has been a part of my life since its inception. As my algorithm has become finely tuned to the many stages of my life these past 10 years, I feel inextricably tethered to my Spotify profile, in very much the same manner as one might have felt about their curated CD mix or iTunes playlist way back when.
Because of this, I thought Spotify’s new Car Thing would be beneficial to me. In all seriousness, this is a thing I pay for a service I’ve been using for nearly ten years now. You have to sign up for an invite list to purchase Car Thing on Spotify, so I signed up for that. Approximately one month later, I was approved and crushed the buy button on my iPhone.
You can attach the Car Thing by magnetically mounting it to any vent in your car. There is. However, a CD slot insert is included if you prefer to put it in the CD slot. Compared to the first Android phone I owned, the HTC Incredible, it has a 3.97-inch display, so it isn’t that big.
The bottom of the device also has a small button and a giant rotating dial, which can be turned around to adjust the time. This charger gets its power from your car’s 12V socket with a USB-C cable and a USB-A adapter, which comes with a second USB port for charging your phone as well. A further five buttons are also available on the top of the Car Thing. These serve as navigation buttons for navigating around the system. You will learn more about that in a moment.
Spotify has done an excellent job of making sure that its display is easy to read, even in the glare of the sun. As your instrument panel would, the screen will automatically brighten and dim to match the environment.
My main purpose in using a device like this isn’t to play music when I’m driving but to observe the road ahead.
Having a remote that you can use to control your music
It is necessary to connect your device to your car’s speakers to set up the Spotify Car Thing. Many newer cars feature Bluetooth that makes connecting to the Internet easy (nice for those kinds of people). But to take the Car Thing for a drive, I have to physically plug in a headphone adapter to my car’s AUX port, which is found in the glove compartment.
This requires me to physically connect the AUX cable to the headphone adapter before starting the car. My driving time would be increased by numerous minutes that I would rather not spend dealing with, and to be honest, I’m almost completely put off.
The Spotify Car Thing accompanied me on numerous trips throughout the Bay Area this past week. There were several excursions together throughout the Bay Area. The more I used the app behind the wheel, the more comfortable it became for me to use the app I use second most often out of the window.
It is true that Car Thing suddenly becomes too complicated to use once you’re driving and you decide to change it up. It’s important that you fully rely on Spotify before you leave the house to deliver the playlist you want.
I mentioned before that there are four buttons on the top of the page. Do you know what they are? It’s a set of shortcuts you can create from your favorite playlists, so if you update your playlist frequently — I update mine often, and it’s called every day I’m Shufflin’- you can pin it as well. There is also the possibility to pin a favorite podcast (have you heard of Gadgettes?). Once you click on Spotify, you are taken to a playlist list. My first reaction was to be presented with a playlist for a commute, but I work at home, and I rarely drive to work, so those playlists aren’t suitable for me.
One of the most frustrating things about Car Thing is that you can’t easily adjust the volume dial when you are rocking out to your favorite playlist. Using my car’s AUX input, I listen through the speakers, and that volume is already as loud as it can get.
When shuffled through songs, I have to press and hold the back button for two seconds before switching over to the mode in which songs are scrolled through. The only thing that bothers me is that I cannot even use it to skip to the next song, which would thus be a far more convenient method than tilting the phone. Trying to steer a car down the freeway can be a tricky balancing act when attempting it.
It is possible to refer to Spotify’s assistant as a digital assistant since it contains a digital assistant. If you say, “Hey Spotify,” you will have the ability to skip songs or queue up albums, and you will be able to do this with just one word. It has been the only assistant that I have asked to play my “Every day I’m Shufflin'” playlist in the past that understood what I was requesting. I depend on hands-free interaction while driving, which is one of the places where I depend on Google Assistant. Spotify’s AI assistant handled that particular task perfectly, and I was happy to see that.
You can turn off the microphone for those who do not wish to use Spotify’s assistant. This functionality can be accessed through the device’s settings panel, which is accessed by clicking the fifth end button at the top right-hand corner of the device (on the same row as the presets).
Spotify is my music player, and I don’t use it for podcasts, and sadly that means that I can’t listen to my favorite shows using Car Thing. Unless you’ve subscribed to Spotify already, Car Thing cannot stream podcasts from third-party apps that are not included in the package (and the same applies to music, though if you bought Car Thing, you streamed on Spotify already). The fact that my phone was physically tethered to the car’s speakers allowed me to still enjoy my Pocket Casts files, which were downloaded via Pocket Casts. As you’ll have to do that manually, so it’s something you’ll have to do while you’re pulling over and managing if you want to do that safely.
Here is everything you need
The most frustrating part of this accessory is that it does not do all of the things I want it to do. It is merely a Bluetooth accessory that allows you to play back your music library via your phone, and nothing much more than that. Car Thing would be more useful if it offered some navigational capability. Still, I’m not sure if Spotify would ever be able to provide that (or work with a third-party maps app) to make it more useful. As of the current implementation, however, the only way to see where I’m going and the traffic is to place my Android smartphone against an air vent. There is something almost comical about it, and it is something I would not have expected to find when I went to do my research for a more stylish infotainment system.
I think it’s worth giving Car Thing a try if you’re a Spotify Premium subscriber and you are deeply ingrained in the ecosystem – I mean, you get your playlists each week from Spotify, and you don’t use other apps for media consumption – you’ve got all the reasons to love it. Spotify does not make any promises about Car Thing. All it says is that ” Car Thing is remarkably good at doing what it is meant to do.” However, when it comes to music, the days of single-use devices are over. The iPod has been rendered redundant with the iPhone, and it’s clear that Car Thing hasn’t reinvented the wheel there either.
Shortly, when Google ends the Android Auto service for good, I will continue searching for an app to replace it on my phone. The job will have to be handled until then by my trusty assistant Roav Bolt.
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