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Spotify could learn from how Google killed Stadia

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I remember when Spotify announced Car Thing, its piece of hardware that could sync up to your car’s audio. It was a goofy little device, but a pretty cool one for those who still have a car that doesn’t have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

It always felt like this small skunkworks kind of project within the company where a small group of people got enough funding to run with the thing, and bam — all of a sudden, big old Spotify had a piece of hardware it was now selling.

Well, that’s over now. In a blog post, the company announced that it is discontinuing Car Thing. It says that it is doing so “as part of our ongoing efforts to streamline our product offerings.”

Car Thing is our first hardware product that allows users to control Spotify through car speakers when connected to a phone by using both voice recognition and preset buttons.

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

We acknowledge and deeply appreciate the support and enthusiasm you have shown for Car Thing. It has been an incredible journey, and we are grateful for all the miles we’ve shared.

So, what happens to everyone who bought Car Thing? You are all completely out of luck. The company says: “After December 9th, 2024, Car Thing will be discontinued and will no longer be operational.” So, unless you can hack Car Thing and hook it up to Spotify on your own, your little audio device is going to turn into a paperweight come Christmas.

Spotify UI on mobile.
The Spotify mobile app. Image source: Spotify

Spotify is really offering no options to continue using Car Thing. From its FAQ about the product being discontinued, here’s what the company suggests you do with your useless Car Thing: “Safely [dispose] of your device following local electronic waste guidelines.”

We recommend resetting your Car Thing to factory settings and safely disposing of your device following local electronic waste guidelines. Contact your state or local waste disposal department to determine how to dispose of or recycle Car Thing in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.

The company also says it has no plans to build another version of Car Thing and that, if you’re wanting a refund, you’re also out of luck. Spotify says there is no option to trade in your Car Thing and it will not be offering any refunds for all of the customers who invested in the product.

Spotify could learn from Google

Spotify’s approach to discontinuing Car Thing is pretty terrible. A bunch of customers took a leap to invest in the company’s first piece of hardware and just over two years after launch, it is discontinuing the product and leaving all of those customers holding the bag.

I can’t help but think about how Google handled the discontinuation of Stadia, its cloud gaming service that it shut down back in January of 2023. When Google announced the shutdown of Stadia, it not only acknowledged the impact on its customers but promised to take care of everyone who took the leap and bought hardware and games through the service.

Stadia-Pro-ATT
Stadia controller streaming games to a phone. Image source: AT&T

Google promised refunds for all of its customers who purchased Stadia hardware, games, and in-app purchases, saying “We will be offering refunds for all Stadia hardware purchases (Stadia Controller, Founder’s Edition, Premiere Edition, and Play and Watch with Google TV packages) made through the Google Store and software transactions (games and add-on purchases) through the Stadia store.” The only thing you couldn’t get refunded was Stadia Pro, the monthly subscription service.

In contrast, Spotify’s handling of the Car Thing discontinuation has been far less considerate. By not offering refunds, Spotify is sending a message that customers who invested in their product are on their own. I certainly wouldn’t trust purchasing another hardware product from the company, especially on how they’ve handled killing the first one.

For anyone who is trying to learn how to offer world-class service, this is not the way.



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