One of my most-used iPad accessories is the FreeOneHand, a device that fits around the iPad and adds a grip so that you can more easily hold the iPad or stand it up at your desk. The FreeOneHand works well as a holder, but it is not a very sturdy stand. Several iPhone J.D. readers who saw my review of the FreeOneHand asked if I could compare it to the Octa Vaccum Dock + WhaleTail, a unique looking device that also adds something to the back of your iPad that can be used to grip the iPad or stand it up. Octa sent me a free review sample of the device and I've been trying it over the last few weeks. My verdict is that the weaknesses of the FreeOneHand are the strengths of the Vacuum Dock + WhaleTail, but the opposite is also true.
To explain what I mean, let's start by talking about how Vacuum Dock + WhaleTail works. As the name implies, there are two parts to this product: the Dock and the WhaleTail.
To attach the WhaleTail you remove a rubber circle from the back of the Vacuum Dock, place the circular portion of the WhaleTale against the Dock lined up at the right spot, and then turn the WhaleTail to lock it into place.
To connect the product to the iPad, simply place the Vaccum Dock against the back of the iPad and press the large button a few times. This creates an incredibly strong vacuum that attaches the Dock to the iPad. Octa says that it will last for days. I haven't tested it for that long, but it does seem very strong, and over time you can press the button again to make the vacuum a little stronger. To remove the Dock, just pull up on the two small tabs at the base. It is very easy to add and remove.
You can bend the WhaleTail to adjust the angle, and the Vacuum Dock + WhaleTail can thus prop up your iPad in lots of different positions.
It works well if you want to prop up your iPad to watch the screen. However, this device won't prop up the iPad at a slight angle, such as the angle that you would use when typing on the iPad's virtual keyboard. Nevertheless, for the angles that the product supports, it works great — much better than the FreeOneHand, which I often find to be unstable when being used to prop up the iPad.
Octa says that this product is also good for adding a handle to the back of your iPad so that you can hold it in your hand. This is where I was less impressed. I found that the Dock itself was so large that it felt uncomfortable in my hand (and I have large hands), and the WhaleTail itself is too skinny to add much support. I suppose it is better than just holding the iPad on one edge with one hand, but only somewhat better. Moreover, if you are looking for a device to hold your iPad with one hand in public — such as in a meeting or in court — you may not desire the look of having a whale's tail between your fingers.
Note that you can attach the Vacuum Dock to the iPad without using the WhaleTail at all, just gripping the dock in your hand. I also found that to be uncomfortable.
Octa says that it plans to release additional "tails" to use with the Vacuum Dock to give the product even more flexibility. And unlike a product like the FreeOneHand which is molded to the precise specifications of specific iPads, the Vacuum Dock can attach to any product with a flat back. Thus, if Apple comes out with the rumored "mini" version of the iPad, or if you have some other tablet-size device with a flat back, the Vacuum Dock should work with it as well. I like that the product is future-proof and has the ability to become even more useful in the future.
So in sum, unlike the FreeOneHand, the Vacuum Dock + WhaleTail is a great, adjustable stand. Also unlike the FreeOneHand, you are very likely to be able to use the Vacuum Dock + WhaleTail with future generations of the iPad, plus there should be options to expand the product in the future. However, I do not like using the Vacuum Dock + WhaleTail as a device for holding the iPad in one hand because I don't find it to be very comfortable.