Spotify this morning officially announced the limited U.S. release of its first hardware device, the oddly named Car Thing, aimed at Spotify Premium subscribers. The new device — which Spotify is surprisingly offering for free plus shipping — has evolved substantially from the version that first began testing in 2019. This upgraded model has a touchscreen, a big, grippable knob for navigation, voice control features and four preset buttons at the top for favorite music, podcasts or playlists, similar to Spotify on mobile devices.

The company explained its interest in Car Thing is about solving a need for customers who want a “more seamless” and personalized in-car listening experience. Although many cars today support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, Spotify points out that the average age of a car in the U.S. is actually 11 years old and the average lifetime of cars is 18 years. That means there are still a large number of cars on the road that don’t support modern, in-car infotainment systems.

Car Thing is being introduced to serve this market — and likely, to give Spotify the opportunity to explore future business models where it has a more direct relationship with customers inside the vehicle, though the company isn’t speaking to its longer-term ambitions at this time.

The new Car Thing itself is a lightweight (3.4 oz.), thin (4.6″ x 2.5″ x 0.7″) music and podcast player that offers a combination of voice control, knobs, buttons and a touchscreen display for navigating its menus and selecting the media you want to hear. You can choose to set up the device to work via Bluetooth or an AUX or USB cable, depending on how you usually connect your phone to your car stereo to play music.

You’re also able to mount Car Thing to your dash in a variety of ways, as the device ships with three different types of dash and vent mounts to choose from, along with a car charger and USB-C cable.

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