tech tips

Hold my phone...

Justin Clarke

Are you the type that avoids buying accessories? I am – which is why buying this one was quite the revelation in learning to dance.

There's something to be said for avoiding needless accessories and striving for a simpler, less cluttered life.

But sometimes the right accessory can be transformational.

As part of my journey in exploring how to learn movement with Sentu I indulged in one little accessory which did just that.

There's nothing special or revolutionary in itself about this kind of product. It's quite the common phone accessory – and they come in all shapes, sizes and designs.

A holder for a phone and tablet is hardly the kind of object you'd think would have anyone reach for the word 'transformational'.

And yet here we are.

I'd imagined buying a whole selection of different types of holders to undertake a comprehensive product review, complete with unboxing and detailed deep-dives.

But instead I went to a local chain store in Australia and bought one I thought would be best suited to the task at hand – learning dance moves.

The XCD Multi-Function Tablet Holder was a larger and pricier (at $49.95 AUD) holder than I'd planned getting, but after a little bit of use in a dance context?

I'm completely sold.

XCD Multi-Function Tablet Holder, holding a device
XCD Multi-Function Tablet Holder, holding a tablet

It magically transforms your phone or tablet from a slightly-fiddly handheld screen into what immediately feels like a serious touch-screen computer.

Yes – there are more compact and less ambitious accessories out there to elevate your screen in a fixed and slightly unstable way.

There are also an endless variety of tripods and monopods, but they're more about carefully setting up to take a photo or film, and not so great at actively using the device.

But with the XCD holder you have an accessory that's brilliant all-round: whether you're actively using the screen to find, watch and loop videos, or setting up to film yourself dancing during training sessions.

When you're actively using the device to watch and loop videos you want a stable screen, and one that makes it easy for multiple people to use it. The XCD holder feels really sturdy, makes it easy to rotate the screen, and so is perfectly suited to this.

When you unfold the legs for use, the holder rests on a solid, V-shaped base.  If you're tapping away selecting a dance video to review, and a training partner also jumps in to skip through to a part you want to practice the screen will barely budge.

The gimbal also means the screen can rotate around 360° with ease – so if that dance video was accidentally shot in portrait instead of landscape, it's easy to rotate and continue watching.

The V-shaped base supports the core arm which can be raised and lowered to a pretty reasonable degree. Of course it's no crazily-adjustable tripod, so to really change the elevation you will have to rest it on other objects close to the height you want.

XCD Multi-Function Tablet Holder
XCD Multi-Function Tablet Holder

I found just putting it on the floor, chair or desk and rotating as appropriate was all I needed for recording dance practice sessions to review, and as it's so solid there was no concern about it seriously wobbling if placed near a dance floor.

I've also found myself just grabbing the arm to quickly move the entire unit around a room without worrying about it toppling over – you really do feel confident your valuable phone or tablet isn't at any risk in a more dynamic environment like a dance studio.

A simple clamp-like grip can be gently opened to clip in either a phone or tablet (it fits 4.7"-12.9" devices). There are rubber insets on each grip so your device won't suffer any cosmetic wear-and-tear through usage. Once you position the screen how you want, it should be clear how much more useful a device can be as an accompaniment in training sessions.

In day-to-day use it's felt much nicer using Sentu with the tablet or phone safely locked into the XCD holder. Quickly bringing up videos and loops to review a sequence, or a technique you and your partner weren't totally clear on is all that much easier. Easier and more enjoyable compared to grabbing and holding a device, or tapping at it precariously propped up on a desk.

The device also comes with a mounting clip that can be fixed to a wall – perfect for dance studios that want to provide a convenient place for teachers or students to secure their tablet or phone as they control music, loop training videos, or record themselves with minimum fuss.

XCD Multi-Function Tablet Holder secured in a wall-mount.
The XCD Tablet Holder comes with a wall-mount, perfect for dance studios.

There are a few trade-offs with a holder like this: it's still a bit of training kit that takes up space in a bag (though it folds up in a pretty compact way). It's also a little stiff to adjust parts of it, perhaps because it's new, but also because that tension is just required to ensure it's sturdy when in use (though things like the gimbal are very easy to rotate around). Finally, as mentioned it is no tripod, so for significantly changing the elevation you'll need to get creative with other objects.

These are minor trade-offs though.

Overall this is a transformational accessory for learning movement, especially if your only device is a tablet or phone.

If you're not one to indulge in accessories, but in the market to enhance your approach to training it really is worth considering something like the XCD holder.

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