You've heard of going hands-free for voice calls, but what about video calls? The Swivl from Satarii helps you do just that. This clever accessory takes FaceTime and Skype one step further by allowing you to leave your smartphone (or Flip-style camera) in one spot in a room, but still have it track you as you move around. But is this device worth its steep $179 asking price?
Editor's Note (3/14/12): Since this review initially published, an update to iOS 5.1 resolved the connectivity issues when an iPhone was plugged into the Swivl. We had updated this review, and increased the Swivl's rating to 4 stars.
The roundish Swivl base is about 4 inches in diameter, and takes up about as much desk space as on oversize coaster. It's mainly black, with a few lime-green accents. The majority of the base is about 1.4 inches tall, with the exception of the front portion, which has a slot that angles upward to hold your phone.
The width of the slot is adjustable and accommodates phones of varying thicknesses. However, you'll probably have to remove any protective cases first. Even our slim Griffin iPhone 4S case was too thick.
On the top of the base are two green buttons, one to turn on the device and one to start recording. Wrapped around the base is a small cord with a 30-pin iOS connector.
The oblong 2.3-inch wireless dongle is also black and green, and comes with a lanyard for hanging it around your neck. It's a thoughtful addition, as are the two AA and two AAA batteries needed to power both the base and the dongle.
Finally, a camera adapter is included, which is useful if you're using a device that's too thick for the slot.
Getting up and running with the Swivl was fairly simple. After downloading the Swivl app, we simply attached the connector to our iPhone, and then paired the dongle with the base. You can then use Swivl's app to record video, or FaceTime (or another video-chat app) with the device.
For the most part, the Swivl worked well. The device followed us like a faithful puppy as we walked back and forth across our room. However, we had to make sure that the front of the dongle could be seen by the base; otherwise, it wouldn't turn. You can also adjust the angle of the base by holding a button on the dongle and moving it up and down, but we found it didn't track our movements as easily.
Within the Swivl app, you can select between two tracking modes, Standard and Sport, as well as turn on the flash and lock the camera's focus. The app also lets you email or upload videos to YouTube. When your phone is connected to the base via the 30-pin connector, the app shows the battery life of both the base and the dongle.
We recorded a video using the Swivl app, and the device tracked us as we moved around a room. The microphone in the dongle picked up our voice and transmitted it cleanly to our iPhone 4S, even though we were about 30 feet away.
We also conducted a call using FaceTime; the Swivl device tracked us well, and our caller could hear us fairly well via the dongle's microphone.
The Swivl is an innovative solution. Thanks to the combination of the base and wearable Marker, you can concentrate on your video chat or video blog instead of how you're going to stay in the frame or holding your phone for long periods of time. Its $179 price is steep, but overall the Swivl does its job fairly well.