Octa TabletTail Flexible Handle + Stand
We've definitely seen some strange accessory concepts over the years, but we've also learned that sometimes even seemingly goofy ideas can have genuine practical value. This turns out to be true of Octa's first product, the TabletTail ($60), which has been designed to look like a black plastic fish appendage. Made up of two components -- WhaleTail and Vacuum Dock -- the product works as both a stand and a handle for any generation of iPad. It may look a little silly, but it actually works, and could be a good solution for users with bare iPads or flat-backed cases. A carrying sack is included for the pieces, including a plastic cap that can cover the Vacuum Dock's tail-ready connector when it's not in use.
Made substantially from black plastic, the silver-accented Vacuum Dock uses a suction pump to create a vacuum against the flat back of your iPad—a solution that does provide sturdy attachment. We found that it took about five to six pumps to achieve a proper air void, and it’s quite easy to do so with the three finger-wide button. Releasing the hold can be a little more difficult, depending on how good of a seal you originally achieved. Tabs on either side of the 3.5”-diameter suction cup can be pulled to allow air in, but it may take a little tug to make the cup let go. A piece of paper or a credit card can be slipped underneath if you can’t get it off otherwise.
The back of the otherwise rounded Vacuum Dock is flat with a 1/8”-deep, 2”-wide depression. Right in the center is a metal, four-pronged ring used to attach the WhaleTail, which locks securely into place. As the name implies, the stand looks just like—yes—a whale’s tail, and Octa is promising that future tails will be released throughout 2012. The plastic and rubber tail is flexible yet sturdy, offering a wider range of positions than most stands do. WhaleTail can be used as a surprisingly stable stand in any orientation: while the typing angle isn’t quite as deep as we prefer, it’s wholly usable, and the various viewing angles are spot-on. Otherwise, it can be used as a handle, with the stem of the tail fitting between the users’ fingers before they rest on the Vacuum Dock’s bulb, as the flukes lock the fingers in place. We found it pretty comfortable, although the added weight of the TabletTail is very noticeable; you’ll need to decide whether the iPad’s weight or lack of grips is of more concern to you.
Despite looking and sounding a little silly, the WhaleTail and Vacuum Dock actually work well. Together, they serve as a highly customizable stand with the added benefit of handle functionality. The weight is a bit of a problem, but one that’s only evident when the handle is being used; it’s a viable stand. That said, TabletTail’s major issue is the cost. Comparable plastic stands can be had for $30 or $35, and some really good metal stands start in the same range. There’s no question in our minds that $60 is simply too expensive for what you’re getting here, which knocks TabletTail down somewhat from what would otherwise be a strong general recommendation. It’s a good new accessory, but the price and somewhat niche design prevent it from being a viable option for everyone.