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The Spotify Car Thing is a short-lived gadget that Spotify launched and then quickly discontinued in 2022. It’s basically a smartphone accessory for automobiles, giving you a 4 inch display and a dial that lets you interact with Spotify without looking at your phone.

Originally launched for $90, the Car Thing eventually had its price dropped to $50… and then it was discontinued. And last month Spotify announced it was going to effectively turn existing units into paperweights by disabling support for the Car Thing in December, 2024. The company is now offering refunds to customers who request one, but what if you want more than your money back. What if you want that thing you paid for not to become e-waste? There’s hope.

Shortly after Spotify announced it was ending support for the Car Thing, some folks started to call on the company to open source the device. But it turns out that Spotify has already released source code for the bootloader, Linux kernel, Bluetooth stack, and software updater.

There’s already an active hacker community that have figured out how to flash custom firmware and make other changes.

As YouTuber Josh Hendrickson points out, there’s only so much you can do with the Car Thing: It has an Amlogic S905D2 quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage, plus a 4 inch, 800 x 480 pixel touchscreen display and support for Bluetooth.

Without WiFi, it’s never going to be all that useful as a standalone device. And with a limited amount of RAM, it’s not going to be all that useful for complex applications.

But it was never really made to be a standalone device: it was always meant to pair with a smartphone and basically act like a remote control for a single web-based app: Spotify. With Spotify ending support, you could still use it to interact with other web apps by using a tool like the Superbird Custom Webapp.

superbird-custom-webapp

This open source utility lets you replace the Spotify web app on the Car Thing with a custom web app, which opens the door to designing your own remote control for other apps or services.

Superbird, by the way, is the codename for Spotify’s Car Thing.

You can install Macro Deck, and use the Car Thing as a touchscreen controller for launching apps or functions on a connected device.

Car Thing Macropad

Or you could also use the Superbird Debian Kiosk hack to install a lightweight GNU/Linux distribution based on Debian 13 that boots to a kiosk view powered by Google’s open source Chromium web browser. In this use case, it needs to be paired with a host device like a Raspberry Pi or similar single-board computer. The developer behind this tool uses it as a touch screen interface for Home Assistant, an open source smart home platform.

superbird-debian-kiosk 

And those are just a few of the many projects that members of the Car Thing Hax Community have come up with. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more mods added to the list in the coming months, as Spotify’s decision to brick the Car Thing will surely lead more folks to look into ways that they can hack the device to keep using it for something.

via Car-Thing-Hax-Community, Car Thing Hax Community (Discord), and Josh Hendrickson

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