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When I drive my Jeep Cherokee down the California coast, I like to jam to electronic lo-fi and the latest Harry Styles tracks. But my car is old – 1998, almost as old as me – and no wonder it has an outdated audio system. (For God’s sake, it has a CD player plugged into it.) This means it’s not convenient (or unsafe) to play music on my phone while I’m on the road. My little console doesn’t have room for a phone, so I often throw it in the passenger seat where it slips and slides while driving.
Enter Spotify Car Thing, a phone-sized music player that attaches to the dashboard. I hope this new gadget will make it easy to control the music in my car. Unfortunately, it broke on both my car and my partner’s new car, which left me wondering what car and what audio system it was designed for.
The $90 Car Thing is a “smart player” that connects to your phone and car to play music hands-free. It’s smaller and thinner than a smartphone, and its most striking feature is the large round knob on the right. That intelligence comes from its Spotify-specific voice assistant that you can control your music with “Hey Spotify”.
The knob on the right lets you partially control the volume (you’ll need your stereo to be fully turned on) and scroll through the Spotify catalog. You can then use the small round button below the handle to make a selection. There are also four shortcut buttons on the top of the device, and you can program a specific playlist or artist you often listen to, or leave it as it is and use the Spotify presets that will take you to the Spotify Recommended page. jams. By default, it’s a bit like the Spotify homepage: a mix of your own playlists and others that Spotify suggests based on your listening habits. (I quickly reprogrammed the shortcut button to go straight to my latest lo-fi playlist and my partner’s crazy Aussie surf rock mix.)
Car Thing requires power and includes a USB car charger dock with two USB ports so you can charge your phone. It comes with three mounts – dash mount, air vent mount and CD mount. It takes a fair amount of force to snap these fasteners together with the Car Thing itself, and they didn’t hold up particularly well in our tests.
It also requires a Bluetooth connection to the phone you use to control your music. However, the phone also needs to be connected to the car stereo via Bluetooth or an optional cable because the Spotify Car Thing only connects to the smartphone and not to the car stereo itself.
Because Car Thing doesn’t actually connect to your stereo, but to your smartphone, it really works best for cars that already have Bluetooth (these more modern setups usually let you control music on stage without the help of gadgets like Spotify) . automotive business). For older cars (like mine) that don’t have Bluetooth, the setup can be a hassle. Car Thing must be installed and connected to the car, and my phone must be connected to the auxiliary cable connected to the car stereo. And, since I have an iPhone XS, I have an extra Lightning port adapter to add to the wired clutter.
Car Thing doesn’t work on cars with really old systems, and doesn’t make sense for cars with newer systems that make the device almost unnecessary.
I tested this device in my car and in my partner’s new car, which has a Bluetooth system. Using Car Thing in a new car is definitely more convenient than in my old car – I no longer need to take out my phone to switch playlists or find new things to listen to. But when my partner needed directions, we had to get our smartphones out. My partner’s car also has a rearview camera, but while the CD holder is easiest to use in his car, the landscape orientation means Car Thing can block the entire rearview camera screen, which smartphones usually don’t.
This makes me wonder what car this device is actually intended for – Car Thing doesn’t work on cars with really old systems, and it doesn’t make sense for cars with newer systems that make the device almost unnecessary.
Spotify Car Thing made me realize that I needed a car phone mount that would securely protect my phone and let me control my music, see directions, and take calls with ease. Adding Car Thing to my setup only made one of those things easier – and it came at the cost of an unsightly mess of wires sticking out of my stereo.
This layout can be easily installed and removed for your phone. It offers one of the fastest charging speeds of any product we’ve tested and delivers the best results when it comes to stability.
If you’re thinking about buying a Car Thing, you can check out our guide to car phone mounts. I just bought an iOttie Easy One Touch Wireless 2 to keep my phone in place, put on Harry Styles or Lime Cordiale, roll down my car windows and drive to the beach.
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Wirecutter is the New York Times product recommendation service. Our correspondents combine independent research with (sometimes) over-the-top testing so you can make buying decisions quickly and with confidence. Whether you’re looking for a great product or want some great advice, we’ll help you get it right (first time).
Post time: Feb-17-2023