Spotify killing Car Thing shows why you shouldn't buy hardware from a software company

Turning the dial on Spotify Car Thing.
(Image credit: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Spotify announced that as of Dec. 9, 2024, it will discontinue the Car Thing and render all existing hardware useless. 
  • The company started selling Car Things in early 2021, ceased production in 2022, and will now brick ever Car Thing out in the wild by the end of 2024.
  • Car Thing is a tethered accessory that depends on a connection to your smartphone, so there is no additional strain on Spotify's servers by supporting it longer. It's unclear what Spotify's motives are for discontinuing the product.

In a surprise move, Spotify announced Thursday, May 23, that it would completely drop support for the Car Thing later this year, bricking every device sold. Car Thing was Spotify's first hardware product, announced in early 2021. It served as an intermediary between your smartphone and your car, specifically targeted at cars that didn't have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay Support. The tiny touchscreen device was marketed as a simpler and safer way to play Spotify tunes while driving. 

When the Car Thing debuted, the general consensus was that it was a neat idea without a clear purpose. In fact, in our own Car Thing review, we came to the same conclusion. It had a quality design, simple UI, and voice control — but was it really necessary as more and more cars started shipping with proprietary infotainment systems, Android Auto support, and Apple CarPlay capabilities?

Spotify seemingly came to the same conclusion. The company made the Car Thing widely available in February 2022 and stopped making new ones five months later. Now, as of Dec. 9, 2024, Spotify is killing support for Car Thing entirely. That doesn't just mean it won't provide Car Thing software updates or aftersale support. It's actively bricking every hardware device it ever sold. Car Things will work perfectly fine on Dec. 8 and will become E-waste by Dec. 10. 

Spotify's axing of Car Thing isn't your typical end-of-life discontinuation

Wider view of Spotify Car Thing.

(Image credit: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central)

Every device will eventually reach end-of-life status, so Spotify dropping support for Car Thing isn't egregious on its own. However, products and accessories that depend on server-side support to function are in a whole different category and should follow a separate set of rules. When you buy something like Car Thing, which depends on Spotify's service to provide any value, there is an expectation that the service will be upheld for a reasonable amount of time. 

Spotify stopped making Car Things in late July 2022 and sold existing stock for a period of time thereafter. Let's say you bought a Car Thing in July 2022. In that scenario, Car Thing will only have been supported for about 17 months. Now is a good time to also point out that this thing sold for $90. Again, Spotify isn't just ending software support or customer service for Car Thing; it is rendering the device completely useless. 

That's the gamble that comes with buying hardware products that cannot function without support from a company. In these situations, one could argue there is an implied agreement between buyer and seller that support will be offered for some time. 

The magnetic car mount for Spotify Car Thing.

The magnetic car mount for the Spotify Car Thing on an air vent. (Image credit: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central)

Spotify dropping support for Car Thing is different than, say, Apple dropping iOS support for an iPad. The oldest internet-connected device I own is the first-generation iPad, which was released in 2010 and received its last iOS update (5.1.1) in 2012. Not every internet and server-supported feature works on that iPad; in fact, many of them don't work at all. But I can still use the iPad, access all my apps and games, and even connect to the internet. The equivalent to Spotify's decision would have been if Apple just told me to throw away my iPad in 2012.

In fact, Spotify says in its announcement that it recommends "safely disposing of your device following local electronic waste guidelines."

The egregious part of Spotify's choice to brick Car Things is that these devices don't require any additional upkeep on the company's end. Car Thing is a tethered device that needs a smartphone to function and connects to the Spotify app on your phone. There isn't public knowledge of any Car Thing feature or service that requires additional server support or infrastructure to function beyond those that everyone uses when they connect with any Spotify client. In other words, I can't think of a practical reason that Spotify is killing Car Thing other than because it can. 

Spotify's official support document and the email it sent to users seem to support my version of the events. The email starts with a single sentence: "We're switching gears." Spotify wants to put the Car Thing behind it and will brick devices to that end. 

"We have made the decision to discontinue Car Thing. This means that Car Thing will no longer be operational," Spotify explained in a support document. "This decision wasn't made lightly, and we want to assure you that our commitment to providing a superior listening experience remains unchanged."

I'm not the only one appalled by Spotify's actions

Spotify Car Thing Inside The Box

(Image credit: Spotify)

At first, I thought I was the only one disgusted by Spotify's treatment of the Car Thing. My reaction was, in part, because I think the Car Thing was a really cool concept that could've taken off. However, I was surprised to find that there is a small but passionate cohort of Car Thing users who are just as disappointed by Spotify's actions. In posts on social media, some pointed out their dissatisfaction with the lack of refunds offered by Spotify for their Car Thing purchase. 

Others professed their love for Car Thing, and appear to be still using the product in their cars to this day. 

Finally, some users pondered whether regulators need to step in and make actions like Spotify's illegal in the future. 

Beyond these posts, there were plenty others that conveyed similar sentiments with a lot more profanity. In essence, people are mad, and for good reason. 

Does the Spotify Car Thing have a place in 2024

Air vent details on Spotify Car Thing.

(Image credit: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central)

It's worth wondering whether Car Thing had a place in 2024, at a time when most cars are equipped with some sort of built-in infotainment system. I happen to think that Car Thing did have a reason to exist since there are plenty of older cars without support for media control. Google says that there are over 200 million cars on the road with Android Auto, and that sounds like a lot until you realize there are just shy of 1.5 billion cars on the road worldwide, according to 2024 numbers from Hedges & Company

But it really doesn't matter whether Car Thing needed to exist because Spotify already stopped making the hardware. This only concerns the software. As we mentioned earlier, there isn't a clear reason Spotify needs to discontinue software support for Car Thing. Regardless of whether Car Thing was a good idea or not, the bottom line is simple: Spotify sold them, so it has an obligation to support them.

What can we learn from Car Thing?

Using voice access on Spotify Car Thing.

(Image credit: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central)

First, I want to emphasize that there's still time for Spotify to right this wrong, and I hope the negative sentiment around the company's actions causes it to rethink its approach. We just saw Sony reverse course on a decision it made to require PSN accounts for the game Helldivers 2 following public pressure, so it's possible. While refunds for Car Thing are probably unlikely, I think Spotify offering a credit that could be used for Spotify Premium subscriptions would be a fair resolution to the issue. 

Moving forward, Spotify's treatment of Car Thing should serve as a reminder for consumers to be wary of buying hardware from software companies, especially when said hardware is dependent on services, because it usually doesn't end well. If this situation doesn't make you reconsider supporting Spotify as a company, at least let it be a warning for buying server-supported hardware in the future.

Brady Snyder

Brady is a tech journalist covering news at Android Central. He has spent the last two years reporting and commenting on all things related to consumer technology for various publications. Brady graduated from St. John's University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. When he isn't experimenting with the latest tech, you can find Brady running or watching sports.