Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Gadgets

Belkin Auto-Tracking Stand Pro review: Freedom to roam


When Belkin announced the Auto-Tracking Stand Pro during CES, it seemed like the perfect fit for someone who spends a lot of time on video calls walking around, or for a content creator. The idea is simple: You place your iPhone on a MagSafe stand, start recording video in your favorite app, be it TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, or even the iPhone’s Camera app, and the rotating arm and base will keep you in the frame at all times.


Belkin’s now taking orders for the $180 iPhone accessory, with deliveries starting at the end of Feb. 2024. For the last week or so, I’ve been using the Auto-Tracking Stand Pro and you know what? It’s a ton of fun. Here’s how it works, and what it’s like to use.

Belkin Auto-Tracking Stand Pro with DockKit

Belkin Auto-Tracking Stand Pro with DockKit

A fun iPhone accessory

Belkin’s Auto-Tracking Stand Pro uses your iPhone to track and record you in whatever camera app you’re currently using, all without a third-party app.

Pros

  • Easy setup thanks to NFC
  • Long battery life
  • Smooth rotation
Cons

  • If you move too fast, it gets lost

Belkin Auto-Tracking Stand Pro-4


DockKit was a hidden iOS 17 feature waiting for the right hardware

I paid close attention to the announcement of iOS 17 last year during Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference, analyzing all the new features and capabilities that would arrive on the iPhone in Sept. 2023. Features like StandBy mode, improvements to the Messages app and Live Voicemail caught my attention.


Bypassing the need for third-party apps using iOS

But another announcement Apple made at that time was the DockKit API, a new method for accessory makers, such as Belkin, to create stands that move and rotate to follow an object like a person’s face whenever the camera is active on the iPhone. By building the software portion of the tracking experience directly into the iPhone’s software, hardware makers can forgo the need to develop a dedicated app that facilitates recording and tracking/movement.

To be clear, once your phone is paired with the Stand Pro, your iPhone tells the stand when and where to move to keep you in the frame. Belkin’s accessory does nothing more than follow instructions.

When Belkin announced the Stand Pro at CES 2024, I was amazed and puzzled at how the DockKit announcement went relatively unnoticed (at least by me), but excited to see it and the Stand Pro in action.

5:36

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Belkin Auto-Tracking Stand Pro-8


Freedom to roam

The Stand Pro looks like a glorified MagSafe charging stand that you’d expect to see next to your bed, only instead of putting multiple charging pads on display, there’s a motorized base and a motorized arm that stands tall out of the base.

Setup, experience, and tips for best performance

The arm can tilt 90 vertical degrees, while the base has a full 360-degree rotation. There’s a USB-C port on the back of the base to charge the battery, which should last for five hours of use. If you’re using the Stand Pro while it’s plugged in, the MagSafe adapter provides 15W of wireless charging to your phone.

The initial setup is a breeze — tap the top of your iPhone to the top of the stand’s base, just like you would use Apple Pay at the convenience store, and you’ll see a prompt on the bottom of your iPhone’s screen that it’s connecting to an accessory. A few seconds later, you’ll see a Connect button, tap it, and then place your iPhone on the MagSafe pad. Once the connection is complete, you’ll see a final message letting you know as much, then you can open any camera-based app and watch the stand come to life.


If you’re going to test the stand with the iPhone’s Camera app for the first time and are puzzled as to why it’s not following you around, like I was, it’s because you need to switch to Video mode. Once you do that, the stand springs to life.

That’s the only app I’ve experienced having to be in a specific mode for the stand to work. Otherwise, FaceTime, TikTok, and Instagram all worked as soon as the camera viewfinder was visible.

Total freedom to roam while you talk, be it on a call with a loved one or colleagues, or as you record a Reel or TikTok.

And you know what it means to have a camera that follows you around? Total freedom to roam while you talk, be it on a call with a loved one or colleagues, or as you record a Reel or TikTok.


Now, don’t expect to run laps around the Stand Pro and have it keep up with you. If you move too fast, it either has to play catch up or loses you altogether. But if you’re walking around the kitchen while on a call, or recording a cooking video, it’s going to keep up just fine.

Verdict: A worthwhile and (fun)ctional accessory

The Belkin Auto-Tracking Stand Pro is a ton of fun, and a perfect gift for a budding (or veteran) content creator, teenager or just for someone who spends a lot of time on video calls and doesn’t want to be stuck at a desk, staring at a webcam. If you want to use it for fast-paced scenarios, like recording a sporting event or workout routines, you’ll likely have trouble with the Stand Pro keeping up with you.

Belkin Auto-Tracking Stand Pro with DockKit

Belkin Auto-Tracking Stand Pro with DockKit

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