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Spotify’s Automotive Factor: “Why does it exist” is the crux of the questioning

Generally I have a look at a product and suppose to myself, “wow, this gadget was genuinely developed to unravel a buyer drawback.” Different occasions, I have a look at it and suppose “wow, this gadget exists essentially to extract cash from clients’ wallets.” Spotify’s Automotive Factor, which lots of you seemingly didn’t know was ever even a factor (present of palms, readers? Yeah…thought so…) sadly IMHO falls into the latter class. Which seemingly explains why, after first rolling out press evaluate models in April of 2021, adopted by a restricted public preview that very same October and a full launch the next February (2022) at $89.99, by that very same (final)-year late summer time the corporate started closely discounting remaining stock in preparation for a full product discontinuation (though Automotive Issues already in clients’ palms nonetheless work). The markdown pricing began at $49.99…by late October, once I purchased mine, it was right down to $29.99.

Reality be instructed, I don’t even use Spotify; Amazon Music Limitless, Pandora and Sirius XM (together with, sometimes, Tidal) are my companies of choice. And Automotive Factor wasn’t appropriate with the free Spotify service tier, anyway; you wanted to spring for a Premium account (after which spring much more for Automotive Factor itself…bear in mind my earlier “cash extraction from pockets” remark)? But it surely’s obtained some cool know-how constructed into it—touchscreen, dial-and-button and voice interface choices, for instance, together with an OpenLinux O/S basis and built-in Bluetooth—so I believed it’d make a cool teardown candidate.

In (faint) equity to Spotify, the product’s prolonged gestation was no small a part of the issue; had it come out sooner, when of us’ smartphone screens have been tinier and the smartphones’ voice interfaces have been flakier, it may need had extra of an impression (the corporate began speaking publicly in regards to the preliminary prototype, which by no means ended up making it to market, means again in Could 2019). However I’m getting forward of myself; how does Automotive Factor work?

As the sooner “inventory” photograph exhibits, Automotive Factor has a 3.97” diagonal 800×400 pixel decision LCD touchscreen, together with a dial within the higher proper nook (which can be pressed in to pick out a specific menu choice) and a switch-only button beneath it (for “back-menu” functions). In-between them is an embedded ambient gentle sensor that raises the LCD backlight depth for daylight viewing and dims it to keep away from distracting the driving force at evening. Alongside the highest edge is an array of microphones together with a number of preset-selecting buttons. And Automotive Factor communicates with a separate (additionally required) smartphone over Bluetooth.

That’s proper; Automotive Factor’s not even a Spotify receiver in its personal proper. Primarily, it’s a Spotify-only (albeit for each Android and iOS) second show with app UI management. Now see what I imply about how the large-screen smartphones which are all the craze these days, to not point out the multi-app-compatible Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and different UIs constructed into trendy automobiles’ dashboards, have basically neutered any rationale for Automotive Factor’s ongoing existence?

Sufficient background-info banter; let’s get to dissecting. As common, I’ll start with some outer packaging photographs:

Slip off the sleeve:

Open the highest, and right here’s what you’ve obtained:

Let’s first have a look at what’s beneath the Automotive Factor:

First, a couple of items of literature:

And beneath that, three totally different mounting choices—optical disc participant slot, vent, and dashboard (the latter everlasting sticker-only, no suction cup choice), all of which magnetically mate to the Automotive Factor—a USB energy cable, a cigarette lighter socket energy adapter, and a display cleaner:

Spotify thoughtfully provided an adapter with twin USB energy outputs, one for the Automotive Factor and the opposite presumably supposed for the paired smartphone:

And listed below are the cigarette lighter energy adapter’s specs:

Now for Automotive factor itself, as-usual accompanied by a 0.75″ (19.1 mm) diameter U.S. penny for measurement comparability functions:

Take away the display protector and reorient the smartphone-as-camera to attenuate reflections…

As you might have already been capable of inform, Automotive Factor is pretty svelte:

  • 5” (124 mm) extensive
  • 3” inches (64 mm)
  • 1” (20 mm) in depth and
  • weighing 3 oz (90 g)

A high view reveals the 5 preset buttons, intermingled with 4 inlet holes for (presumably MEMS) microphones:

A bottom-side view is extra mundane:

As are the preliminary glimpses of either side:

So, let’s flip ‘er over:

Once more, the highest fringe of the gadget:

is way extra intriguing than both the underside edge or both aspect:

The USB-C energy enter is a little more attention-grabbing:

After which there’s the back-side label itself:

which atypically doesn’t listing the FCC ID (2AP3D-YX5H6679, for any of you who have been questioning) however supplies a possible path inside. Whereas poking at one of many corners of the sticker with a flat-head screwdriver to see if I might get it to detach, I stumbled throughout the impression of a seeming screw head beneath. No shock, there ended up being one in every nook:

By various technique of my thumbnail, I did find yourself getting the sticker off:

though eradicating the metallic panel beneath didn’t get me far within the grand scheme of issues; its seeming “raison d’être” is as a mate for the beforehand talked about magnet mount:

So, I turned my consideration to the gadget’s entrance aspect, particularly the aforementioned dial. The highest portion popped proper off once I utilized a flat-head screwdriver to it:

The assemblage beneath the rubberized disc lifted proper out, too, however solely to some extent; a flex cable presumably additionally related to the primary PCB contained in the gadget hindered additional progress:

See what appear like two silver pins in that final shot? I assumed that they, along side some adhesive, held in place the plastic ring surrounding the meeting, and that I’d due to this fact be capable to pop the plastic ring off by cautious flat-head screwdriver software (to keep away from cracking the display surrounding the ring). Sadly, my principle didn’t precisely pan out:

Seems the dial and button are a part of the identical subassembly, which cracked and punched by the display. And people silver pins? They have been the ends of two screws; preliminary meeting had taken place from the different (in)aspect.

On this subsequent shot, you may see the ambient gentle sensor, additionally built-in in the identical subassembly, in-between the dial and button:

One upside of my inadvertent entry level into the Automotive Factor’s innards is that it was then easy to surmount the rest of the adhesive surrounding the LCD:

Seems the flex cable coming from the dial-and-light-sensor-and-button meeting that I confirmed you earlier didn’t find yourself immediately on the system PCB, in spite of everything. As a substitute, it related to an amalgam of connectors, traces and circuits glued to the bottom of the show backlight, from which exited a bigger flex cable which did find yourself on the system PCB:

Its tether level is the now-unpopulated connector at high on this photograph, above the massive Faraday cage on the primary PCB:

Talking of which…now for the primary PCB and its warmth sink to the left. First step, take away these three screws:

Subsequent, the connector to the left of the earlier-mentioned one, whose flex cable hooks as much as the 5 top-side preset buttons and 4 microphones talked about earlier:

Right here’s a closeup of the buttons-and-mics assemblage, after disconnecting the flex cable. The assemblage was securely glued in place, so I used to be unable to proceed additional with its dissection:

So, I returned my consideration to the PCB-and-heatsink smorgasbord, which lifted proper out of the chassis with no fuss:

The heatsink and PCB have been pressed along with thermal paste on the underside:

Each side of heatsink standalone, to your inspection:

Since we’ve obtained the PCB turned the other way up, let’s subsequent clear off its Faraday Cage with some rubbing alcohol:

After which pop it off:

Extra thermal paste to take away; comfortable comfortable pleasure pleasure!

That enormous sq. IC is the system SoC, Amlogic’s S905:

And populating one of many different now-exposed quadrants is an Etron Know-how EM6HE16EWAKG-10 4 Gbit 933 MHz DDR3L SDRAM:

Now let’s flip the PCB again over; it’s obtained two Faraday Cages to pop the tops off, and extra thermal paste to subsequently clear off:

The big sq. IC within the higher proper nook may be ID’d by its final two package deal mark traces:


The product code THGBMNG5D1LBAIL references a 4 GByte eMMC module comprised of a Toshiba (now Kioxia) 32 Gbit NAND flash reminiscence and a media controller. Under it, within the decrease proper nook of the PCB, is a Cypress Semiconductor (now Infineon) CYW20706 Bluetooth (and Bluetooth LE) SoC; you may see the related PCB-embedded antenna to its left.

As I beforehand talked about, the Automotive Factor runs on an OpenLinux working system basis. Predictably, of us have tried “rooting” the gadget to provide it further capabilities and in any other case lengthen its helpful life. Listed here are a couple of associated Github pages I discovered, to your perusal:

And that virtually wraps up this venture, not less than from my perspective; be happy to proceed the dialogue within the feedback!

Brian Dipert is the Editor-in-Chief of the Edge AI and Imaginative and prescient Alliance, and a Senior Analyst at BDTI and Editor-in-Chief of InsideDSP, the corporate’s on-line e-newsletter.

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