Spotify is testing a new car mode focused on voice commands

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Spotify has begun testing a new “Car Mode” interface with some users, the company confirmed to TechCrunch on Friday. The test comes a few months after Spotify announced it was discontinuing its simplified car interface called “Car View,” which displayed playback controls and your current track while driving. At the time, Spotify said it was exploring new ways to provide in-car listening experiences and would be launching new features soon.

“At Spotify, we are always working to ensure our users have the best listening experience possible,” a Spotify spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We can confirm that we are testing a new car mode for some users. As with all of our testing, we always ask for feedback from our users before rolling out changes more widely.”

The new interface was first noticed by 9to5Google. The website posted screenshots of the Android version of Car Mode. Spotify would not say whether the new interface will also be tested with iOS users.

The screenshots show that in car mode, users can browse and search for music using voice control. The track player view in car mode includes simple controls such as play/pause, shuffle skip, and like buttons. There is also a microphone button that you can use to search the Spotify library in car mode. You can also use voice control to access recently played music or podcasts. The layout is similar to Spotify’s regular interface, but without much of the visual distraction usually present on the screen.

Spotify is still testing the new interface and seeking feedback from users who access it, which means the final version of Car Mode may look different from the screenshots above.

The new car mode is just one part of Spotify’s effort to provide a seamless in-car listening experience. Last April, the company officially announced the limited US release of its first hardware device called the Car Thing. The device is aimed at Spotify Premium subscribers and car owners who do not have a built-in infotainment system that provides easy access to Spotify, such as Apple’s CarPlay or Android Auto. Spotify made Car Thing available to the general public in November for $89.99.

Car Thing connects to the Spotify mobile app on your phone and then uses the phone’s mobile signal (or Wi-Fi, if available) to stream your music or podcasts through the car’s sound system. The device works with USB, Bluetooth and Aux. You can access the service by saying “Hey Spotify”, tapping the touchscreen, turning the knob, or using one of the four preset buttons at the top of the player.

Spotify also integrates with Google Assistant to listen to music and podcasts hands-free while driving. The feature also works with Google Maps so you can navigate while listening to Spotify. To do this, you can link your accounts and say ‘Hey Google, play Spotify’.

The jury is still out on whether hands-free speech recognition actually makes driving safer (some studies suggest that drivers using voice controls are more distracted). But the new revamp offers fewer visual distractions and a cleaner interface.