Spotify’s Driving Features: A Bump in the Roadmap

Matt Miller
Customer Success Manager
May 21, 2024

At Enterpret we are in the customer feedback business. We help companies understand what customers say in real time, mostly through internal surveys, reviews, and support tickets. Sometimes, we enjoy scraping public data to test our models and see what we learn.

For our latest edition, Spotify was an obvious choice. Spotify has legions of dedicated listeners who provide high volumes of public feedback across the Apple App Store, Android Play Store, and X (formerly known as Twitter). X can be pretty bursty, with big spikes when threads go viral, such as in December when thousands of K-pop fans bombarded the Spotify account asking for a “This Is V” playlist for the BTS alum. K-pop fans completely overwhelmed our models, leading to a mess of duplicate reasons. (The playlist has since been created, if you were wondering.)

Anomaly Detected: Car Mode Feature Disappears

This spring, when we dug into the data to start writing this blog post, it didn’t take long to notice that there was an interesting customer feedback reason for the spike in volume—Car Mode was gone. (Enterpret’s Anomaly detector identifies statistically significant increases in volume based on previous time periods to help companies pinpoint surging topics.)

Anomaly: Issue With Removal of Car Mode Feature

A History of Spotify’s Driving Features

We decided to dig deeper - it’s been stop-and-go in the past few years for Spotify’s automotive features.

Driving Features v1: Car View and Car Thing

In October 2021, users noticed that the familiar Car View, a simplified interface meant to make it easier – and safer – to control music or podcasts while driving, had vanished from the app.

Car View was very basic, just a simplified, scaled-up version of the player screen:

Source: Engadget (Link)

Spotify soon confirmed that this disappearance was intentional, with a representative writing, “Think of retiring Car-View as something that needs to happen in an effort to make way for new innovations coming down the track.”

Users whose cars had screens that could work with a car-play app like Android Auto or Apple CarPlay had an alternative, but plenty of people were left in the lurch. Some called foul, suspecting that the feature discontinuation was meant to push them to buy Spotify’s “Car Thing” (yes, that’s the name), a dedicated device with a screen and a simple interface for manipulating playback controls on the road. The Car Thing had been introduced in April of that year. While some premium users had been offered a free one, everyone else would have to shell out $89. Womp womp.

Driving Features v2: and Car Mode

Fortunately for everyone, this was not, in fact, a big ol’ ploy to get users to buy the Car Thing. Within a few months, Spotify announced that Car View would be replaced by Car Mode, an expanded version of the concept. This was not a backtrack or a slapdash replacement, but it meaningfully built on the original by adding additional screens (like a playlist/album view) and introducing voice control.

After August 2022, Car Thing quietly ceased production, and balance was restored to the universe—well, until this spring.

Present Day: Removal of Car Mode and a Possible Safety Issue

Back to the present and the spike in volume, we saw this month about the Removal of Car Mode. Users were not pleased about the change, pointing out that the removal made the app not only less convenient (e.g., keeping the screen from going to sleep) but less safe. Trust the trucker guy – he does a lot of driving.

There doesn’t seem to have been any warning or clear confirmation of the change. Users saw it vanish at different times based on their operating system and when they updated it.

I contacted Spotify support and after a confusing back and forth with the chatbot, a human told me:

At Spotify, we’re always looking for ways to make listening more seamless, wherever you are. There are multiple ways to enjoy listening to Spotify in the car and of those options, we found that Car Mode doesn’t offer a better in-car user experience. As a result we’ll be retiring it. To find out more about the different ways you can continue to listen to Spotify in the car, check out For the Record.

It seems like you’re out of luck for the moment if your car doesn’t have a built-in dashboard screen. Though I guess you could try and buy a used Car Thing; apparently, they go for pretty cheap these days 🥴 Safe driving, everyone.

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