- Spotify said in May that its voice-activated streaming music gadget, the Car Thing, is just a prototype.
- Spotify said it was testing the device with a limited number of users to learn about "how people listen to music and podcasts."
- But Spotify’s language in its FCC filings paints a different picture, and suggests a product intended to be purchased by consumers.
- Here are some new, intriguing clues about Spotify’s hardware plans.
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Remember the Spotify "Car Thing"?
Reports of the streaming music service’s first-ever foray into hardware — in the form of a voice-controlled smart assistant — provoked a lot of excited speculation earlier this year. But then Spotify threw cold water on the party. Yes, Spotify was testing a hardware prototype, it acknowledged in a blog post. But no, you won’t be able to buy it.
The Car Thing, it said, is a prototype device that Spotify is testing with a limited number of people to help the company better understand how consumers use its streaming service. In this case, specifically in automobiles.
"We don’t have any current plans to make this specific device available to consumers," Spotify said in the blog post published in May.
"Car Thing was developed to help us learn more about how people listen to music and podcasts. Our focus remains on becoming the world’s number one audio platform—not on creating hardware."
No hardware. Let’s move on. Case closed.
Or is it?
Two weeks after that blog post, Spotify submitted filings to the FCC for a hardware device. The filings went largely unnoticed, probably because Spotify had already publicly acknowledged it had a gadget prototype in the works and said it had no real future.
But a close look at the filings suggests that Spotify’s hardware ambitions may be more serious than the company’s blog post makes it sound.
Andrew Burton / Getty Images
The filing is for a "music streaming device," that operates in a variety of radio frequencies, including the 2.4Ghz range typically used for WiFi.
Although heavily redacted, some of the language in the filings suggests a product that will be sold to consumers.
Instructions for the required FCC labeling information "will be provided with the product at the time of purchase, in the user manual, operating instructions, packaging material, quick guide pamphlet," the filing reads (words bolded for emphasis by Business Insider).
"End user can access to product-related website, a reference (URL) to obtain the website information is provided at the time of purchase in the user manual, operating instructions, packaging material, quick guide pamphlet, etc." the filing continues.
That doesn’t exactly sound like a limited testing prototype.
User manuals, quick guide pamphlets, special websites and informative packaging material sound like what you would expect from something on the shelf at a Best Buy store.
The filing is signed by Spotify’s Daniel Bromand. On LinkedIn, Bromand lists his title as "Engineering Lead Manager," though on the FCC filing he is identified as "Head of Technology, Hardware Products."
Check the manual
The user manual for the streaming device is also in Spotify’s FCC filings, but it’s not available for the public to view yet. That’s a standard move for consumer electronics companies, which generally request that the FCC withhold any photos, user manuals, and other product details until after it becomes available.
According to the FCC filings, the user manual for Spotify’s music streaming device will become publicly viewable on November 27, 2019. That’s on a Wednesday, two days before Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year.
This doesn’t prove that Spotify will launch a hardware product this holiday season. The timing of the redacted user manual could be a coincidence.
A Spotify spokesperson sent Business Insider the following statement, reiterating that it does not plan to sell the "specific" device mentioned in the May blog post — that is, the Car Thing — to consumers:
"Spotify is always looking to create exciting ways to enhance the audio experience for our users, including testing new products, offerings and ideas. We don’t have any current plans to make this specific device available to consumers, but the learnings from our test will dictate how we develop experiences everywhere you listen."
We don’t know what these "experiences" will be. And Spotify has said its focus is "not hardware."
But if a company were planning to launch a consumer hardware device, its FCC filings would look a lot like Spotify’s.
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