I do a lot of news items here at GD — just keeping you folks abreast of new offerings, deals, and the like. Every once in a while an item pops up that makes me think, “Yeah, okay, I’ve gotta give that a try.” Such an item was the Octa WhaleTail tablet stand/holder. I mean, it just looked cool, and I have been in search of a decent “holder” for my iPad ever since I got it. Not just to hold it up on a table, but also to hold it up, ya know, in front of my face. This looked like a good possibility.
Here’s what Octa has to say about it:
Dropping your iPad, e-reader, netbook or other tablet is everyone’s worst nightmare, but most accessories don’t really make devices any easier to hold on to or use. Introducing the TabletTail from Octa (http://octa.com) – a new, modular grip and positioning system that provides a natural way to carry and display device.
The first piece, the Vacuum Dock, is an ergonomically shaped suction attachment that provides a reliable and long-lasting connection to your device. It nests gently in your palm, providing a restful grip, and doubles as a low-angle stand.
The second piece, the WhaleTail, clicks easily into place and turns the Vacuum Dock into the most flexible stand on the market. The unique design, which looks like the actual fins of a whale, can be bent at literally any angle, and in three dimensions, providing the widest range of landscape and portrait positions possible.
It’s also sturdy on every surface — from rocky beaches to soft pillows. The WhaleTail also lends itself to hanging, wrapping and propping up the iPad in a variety of ways, such as on a knee, a head-reast, an arm-chair or a tray table. The fins of the WhaleTail also serve as a convenient handle, adding security and comfort while carrying your iPad.
Great for on the go, each piece is slim enough to fit in your pocket or bag, and light enough to bring everywhere. Its future-proof design ensures that it works with existing and upcoming device models.
So what did I think of it? Read on to find out!
My first impression–and first impressions are important!– was, “Mmm, nice packaging!” One of the things I’ve always like about Apple products was their smart, well-designed, attractive packaging, and I’m glad to see that other folks are giving some thought to this area of the “user experience.” Yes, you usually just toss away the box, but making a good first impression is genuinely important, in my opinion.
The gizmo comes in two parts: the big suction cup device, and the tail. The tail is all “bendy”, like a rubber action figure from your youth (or Gumby, if you’re old enough!). You can adjust the tail so that if you use the device as a stand, you can set it to different heights. You can also use the fact that its adjustable to twist it into the right shape for your hand.
Now a note of caution: because of the way they did the logo for the iPad 1, the suction cup does not work if you put it spang over the logo on the back. You can overcome this problem two ways: don’t put the suction cup over the logo, but rather off-center, or get a sticker of some kind–it needs to be plastic and non-porous, of course–and put the suction cup over that. I tested the suction cup both off-center, and by sticking it to the window above my desk; in both places, it held just fine.
I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t put it smack in the middle of the back of my iPad (and I don’t want to put any stickers on it), but the bottom line is this: the suction cup works just fine. So the only caveat is if you have an iPad 1, and even then it’s workable. I am assured that it works just fine on the iPads 2 and 3, and based on the above “window test”, I believe them. Okay? Okay!
I also want to note that my Octa contact was absolutely awesome about getting back to me when I reported trouble. She was friendly and helpful and quick, and I always appreciate good customer service like that!
Attaching the tail to the suction cup, and the suction cup to the back of the iPad, was quite easy, although it wasn’t instantly obvious how to do either one, so I did have to read the doc. Which was actually fun, because the doc was short, to the point, and humorous. As a technical writer myself, I really appreciate the latter. You folks probably don’t know it, but one of the reasons most technical doc seems to have no sense of humor is because most companies have it kept out deliberately in order to make translation into other languages easier. So it’s a real joy to see some doc that doesn’t have the juice pressed out of it, so to speak.
The tail comes in three pieces: the suction cup, and the tail. The package also has the aforementioned doc, and a rubber lid for the suction cup.
The suction cup thingie comes with a nice bag for carting it around in. The tail doesn’t really fit in the bag, too, which was kind of a drag. There is a “lid” for the place on the back of the suction cup where it attaches to the tail, to keep it clean and free of gunk. You put the rubber lid on the suction cup, and the cup in the bag, and that helps improve the life of the device.
The idea here is that when you want to cart around your iPad, you want to be able to slide it into your gear bag, so you take off the suction cup, detach the tail, put the suction cup in the bag, and then do your carting. I didn’t do this much–I don’t go out nearly as much as I did when I was a traveling technogypsy type–but I tried it a few times and it worked fine for me. There are a couple of tabs on either side of the suction cup to make it easier to pry off. It still isn’t easy–that thing really adheres!–but it can be done.
Attaching the suction cup to, well, whatever you like is easy: you press it against your iPad (or window), pump the button 3 times, and you’re done. Then you hold your iPad up by the handle and adjust the bendy tail portion until it fits your hand comfortably.
I found it a quite comfortable way to hold my iPad. I have tried various types of holders, and they were all pretty much compromises of one sort or another–usually a strap on the back of a case in which you slide your hand. The problem with that type of arrangement is that when you adjust your hand at all, the whole thing moves with you. With the WhaleTail, you can noodge your hand around to keep it from stiffening up, and the iPad doesn’t have to move correspondingly. If you see what I mean.
You can also use the WhaleTail as a stand.
Since the tail itself is all bendy, you can adjust the viewing height to your heart’s content. One caution, though: the doc warns that if you bend the tail too much and too often, eventually it will no longer bend (just like your old Gumby toy). But other than that, bend away, baby!
The one thing I didn’t like was the size of the suction cup itself — it’s darn big — and the button to pump it up. On the other hand, the button does offer an additional place to put your fingers when holding your iPad, so that’s kind of a wash. It would be nice if the suction cup itself wasn’t so bulky, though; it ends up taking up quite a bit of space in your bag. Since I have a Tom Behn Ristretto bag, it didn’t really fit very well. In my regular laptop bag, it was fine. But this is a quibble — a big cup means a firmer grip, I’m sure.
Overall, I quite like the WhaleTail, and think it’s a good solution for the “how do I grip my iPad one-handed?” problem, and as a bonus it acts as a stand. Plus, I happen to thing that’s a pretty fair price for this item. Doug sez: if you’re looking for a hand-grip, definitely give this a try!
What it is: Octa WhaleTail Table Holder and Dock
What I Like: Packaging; bendy tail; firmness of grip (both for my hand, and of the WhaleTail to objects)
What Needs Improvement: Bag big enough to include the tail; smaller suction cup
Source: Manufacturer supplies review sample