In 2019, Spotify began testing a hardware device for car owners like the one lovingly called “Car Thing,” which allowed Spotify Premium users to play music and podcasts using voice commands that began with “Hi, Spotify.” Last year, Spotify began developing a similar voice integration in the mobile app. Access to the “Hey Spotify” voice feature is now expanding.
Spotify chose not to officially announce the new add-on, despite many reports indicating that the voice option appeared to many people in their Spotify app, leading to some user confusion about accessibility.
An early report from GSM Arena, for example, indicated that Android users had received a push notification notifying them of the feature. The notification advised users “Just turn on your microphone and say”
Several outlets soon reported that the feature had launched for Android users, which is only partially true.
As it turns out, the feature also makes its way to iOS devices. When we launched the Spotify app here on an iPhone running iOS 14.5, for example, we found that the same feature had actually gone live. Simply press the microphone button next to the search box to access the voice experience. We asked around and found that other iPhone users on different versions of the iOS operating system also had the feature, including free users, Premium subscribers and Premium Family Plan subscribers.
The screen that appears indicates in large, bold text as you can tell “Hi Spotify, play …” followed by a random artist name. It also presents a large green button at the bottom to turn on “Hi Spotify.”
When enabled, you can request artists, albums, songs and playlists by name, as well as control playback with commands such as stop, pause, skip this song, go back and others. Spotify confirms the command with a robotic male voice by default. (You can switch to a female voice in Settings, if you prefer.)
This screen also notifies users that when the app hears the voice command “Hello Spotify”, it sends the user’s voice data and other information to Spotify. There is a link to the Spotify policy regarding the use of voice data, which further explains that Spotify will collect recordings and transcripts of what you say along with information about the content it returned to you. The company says it can continue to use this data to improve its functionality, develop new voice features and target users with relevant advertising. It can also share your information with service providers, such as cloud storage providers.
The guidelines appear to be the same as those used with Spotify’s voice-activated ads, which were launched last year, so it does not appear to have been updated to reflect the changes that were triggered by the launch of “Hello Spotify.” However, it indicates that, like other voice assistants, Spotify does not just record continuously – it waits for users to say the watchwords.
Given the origins of the “Hey Spotify” voice command with “Car Thing”, there has been speculation that the mobile rollout is a signal that the company is ready to launch its own hardware to a wider audience in the near future. There are already some indications that this may be true – MacRumors recently reported finding references and photos of Car Thing and its various mounts inside the Spotify app’s code. This follows Car Things’ revelation in FCC filing in January this year, which had also raised rumors that the device would soon be launched.
Spotify was reached for comment this morning, but has not yet been able to provide any answers about the feature’s launch despite a day’s wait. Instead, we were told that they “unfortunately do not have any new news to share at this time.” It further suggests that some larger projects may be linked to the launch of this otherwise smaller feature.
Although today’s consumers are skeptical of technology companies’ data collection methods – and especially their use of voice data after all three technical giants admitted poor practice on this front – it is still a use case for voice commands, especially from an accessibility point of view, and from a security standpoint.
And although you can direct your voice assistant on your phone (or via CarPlay or Android Auto, if available) to play Spotify content, some may find it helpful to be able to talk to Spotify directly – especially since Apple does not allow Spotify by default music service. You can only train Siri to launch Spotify as your preferred service.
However, if you have other thoughts about using the “Hello Spotify” feature after activating it, you can turn it off under “Voice interactions” in the app settings.