Spotify’s Sordid Car Thing History—Here’s a Timeline of the Disastrous Hardware Release

Spotify Car Thing timeline
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Spotify Car Thing timeline
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Photo Credit: Spotify

Spotify killed off Car Thing, the first hardware experiment intended to be used in cars that don’t have a robust infotainment system. The move has irked buyers of the $90 piece of hardware, who filed a class action lawsuit. But just how long was the device available? Let’s take a peek at the timeline.

May 17, 2019 — Spotify announced the original Car Thing before the pandemic! Spotify said its first hardware experiment is intended to gather data on how users listen to music in a car. This prototype device was only available to select Spotify Premium subscribers.

April 13, 2021 — Spotify announces a redesigned Car Thing that will be released for free to select Premium subscribers from a waitlist. Daniel Ek reveals two million people signed up and showed interest in the Car Thing. Expected retail price was $79.99.

October 14, 2021 — Spotify made the Car Thing hardware commercially available for the first time. Spotify Premium subscribers could purchase the device for $79.99. A new subreddit for the device a r/CarThing subreddit crops up for people to talk about the device online. Reports of slow orders trickle in on social media.

February 22, 2022 — The Car Thing is made available for purchase to any Spotify Premium subscriber for $89.99—a $10 premium over the ‘early access’ price it charged.

June 30, 2022 — Spotify announces a Summer Sale on the Car Thing, knocking off $40 of the price and dropping it to $50. This kind of fire sale among new hard ware usually indicates the manufacturer is going to discontinue the product soon.

July 27, 2022 — Spotify quietly stops production of the Car Thing due to poor sales. It continues offering the summer sale price on the device to clear out the remaining stock. The product is discontinued around five months after its public launch.

August 20, 2022 — Spotify reduces the price of Car Thing to $30 to clear out remaining stock. The $60 discount interests lots of people who purchase the device and Spotify eventually sells out of the units it produced. Packaging is changed to a green cover during this swap.

October 20, 2022 — Security researchers release a report on how they achieved root on the Spotify Car Thing—which means the device can be hacked. Upon achieving root, researchers reached out to Spotify to let them know. Spotify responded on October 21 stating the device is “unsupported, and end-of-life, and therefore no bugs would be accepted pertaining to the product.”

October 27, 2022 — Spotify stops the sales of Car Thing on its website, reserving the website as a place to offer help for owners. The website contains guides, manuals, and instructional videos for using the device.

May 23, 2024 — Spotify announces support for Car Thing will end on December 9, 2024. At that time, Spotify will issue a firmware update to the device that will brick it. Spotify suggests recycling the device and stated it will not offer refunds. Days later a class action lawsuit is filed in response to lack of refunds for the device.

May 31, 2024 — Spotify begins issuing refunds for Car Thing on its website under specific conditions. Users must provide a copy of a receipt that contains the Car Thing serial number. Most users are offered a refund of the price they paid in $12 tranches—likely refunds of months of Premium. Car Thing devices purchased from third-parties (eBay, Mercari, FB Marketplace) are not eligible for refund.

December 9, 2024 — The Spotify Car Thing API is shut down and will no longer work.