Spotify Car Thing runs out of road – and fans are utterly furious it's being bricked

Spotify Car Thing
(Image credit: Spotify)

Spotify's dedicated in-car controller, Car Thing, is about to become No Thing – or Bricked Thing, if you prefer. Spotify's short-lived hardware adventures ended in 2022 when the popular music streaming platform stopped making the Car Thing, and it's now emailing buyers to tell them that their devices will stop working altogether on December 9. "We understand it may be disappointing," Spotify says – and it seems that's quite the understatement.

While Spotify is effectively telling you to throw your Car Thing in the trash (after factory resetting it and finding an e-waste recycling place to take it), there are growing calls for it to be open sourced so that volunteers can continue to support it. Unhappy owners are taking to both Reddit and Spotify Community to voice their concerns and annoyance, but so far it seems that their pleas are falling on deaf ears. 

Speaking to Ars Technica, a Spotify spokesperson declined to answer questions but said that "it's time to say goodbye to the devices entirely."


Car Thing's demise speaks to a wider issue on device bricking

There's a pretty clear message here, and it's a simple one: don't invest in hardware if a company says it's an experiment, which is how Spotify described Car Thing. As the big green streaming giant said at the time, "Our focus remains on becoming the world’s number one audio platform – not on creating hardware" – and it's probably wise not to buy physical gadgets from companies who aren't dedicated hardware outfits either.

But there's a wider issue here too, which is that Spotify isn't just withdrawing support, but actively bricking a product that it only released in February 2022 – and that people have paid $90 for. 

Car Thing is at heart just a remote control for the Spotify app – a way to bring streaming music to cars and other vehicles that don't have Bluetooth audio – and I'm really struggling to see why Spotify has decided to shut it down remotely, rather than just leave it be. 

This is something that's an issue in products besides audio accessories for cars. The smarter our tech gets, the more reliant it is on continued manufacturer software support, and as this particular cancellation demonstrates, makers can and do withdraw that support whenever it suits. And that's not the only concern: we've also recently seen Roku locking people out of their smart TVs and streamers if they don't consent to new terms and conditions that didn't apply when they bought their devices.

Clearly there's a role for regulation here – in the UK, the consumer association that publishes Which? magazine is campaigning on this very issue – but it also means we need to think about more than what a device can do when we're buying hardware. Increasingly we have to also think: what could the manufacturer do to ruin it? 

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.