Spotify is testing a voice-controlled gadget for cars

By Matt McFarland, CNN Business

(CNN) — Spotify revealed Friday that it’s testing a voice-controlled device for cars.

A small group of Spotify’s premium users, who pay for an ad-free version of the service, will try the devices in the United States.

Spotify also said that in the future it may test similar devices in homes, too. The announcement suggests Spotify has some interest in creating hardware devices that may compete with Amazon’s line of Echos, Google Home and Apple’s HomePod. Research has shown that listening to music is among the most popular uses of smart speakers.

The Swedish company has 217 million users worldwide, giving it a large market to sell to. But Spotify said its focus remains on being the world’s best audio platform, and that it has no current plans to make the device, called “Car Thing,” available to consumers. An image of Car Thing shared by Spofity shows an oval black device with a small round screen off to one side, and a few indicator lights next to it. It looks like a fancy Amazon Dash button.

Spotify characterized the tests as a way to better understand and serve customers who listen to music or podcasts. Earlier this year, Spotify announced plans to invest up to $500 million in podcasts.

“Americans spend 70 billion hours behind the wheel each year,” Spotify said in a brief news release. “Spotify is trying to learn more about people’s listening habits and preferences to help create an unparalleled experience for our users.”

Spotify did not elaborate on what it might learn through the device that it couldn’t glean from existing services, such as its smartphone app. The company declined a request for comment.

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