Following on the heels of our recent review of the Le Deux, today we take a look at another new product from Incipio, the Specialist for iPhone 4/4S. The Specialist sticks to the trend that Incipio follows with many of their cases in that it combines two different materials into one case…a softer inner layer fused to a harder outer protective layer, a style popularized by the Speck CandyShell and Case-Mate Pop! Cases. Does the Specialist have what it takes to be considered in the same breath as those leading cases in this market category? Jump past the break to find out!
Incipio offers the Specialist in 4 color variants: black with black TPU interior, white with gray interior, blue with gray interior, and green with gray interior. The outer, hard polycarbonate frame of the case is a glossy finish in all of the color choices, and the inner TPU layer it’s fused with has a textured matte, soft-touch finish. To help fully protect your iPhone, Incipio includes a Vanity Kit with the Specialist, which includes a screen protector, applicator card, and cleaning cloth.
Once installed, the Specialist has a really nice look and great feel on your iPhone. Even though many are going to see the Specialist as a direct competitor to the CandyShell, it has a much sleeker feel and appearance than Speck’s product. The contrasting pattern of the glossy polycarbonate and matte TPU exposed on the back of the case breaks up the monotony of a solid color/textured back like the CandyShell. Having areas of the softer TPU inner layer exposed across the back also aids in grip. The edges where the sides of the case meet the back are more rounded on the Specialist, giving a bit more comfortable feel in the hand.
Around front you have a fairly significant amount of lay on the table design due to the TPU layer extending around the edges and forming a nice lip around the front glass. This lip doesn’t overhang the front glass much however, if at all. So the Specialist should be compatible with most 3rd party screen protectors.The Specialist provides full coverage for all your iPhone’s buttons…the sleep/wake button up top, and the volume buttons on the side. Button feedback and operation is good through the case, and isn’t impeded in any way or requires additional force to operate. The vibrate switch is surrounded by an ample cutout, allowing the Specialist to fit both the iPhone 4 and 4S. Incipio allowed plenty of clearance with the camera cutout around back of the case as well, and during testing I experienced no camera flash issues whatsoever.
You should find pretty good compatibility with most headphones with this case, as Incipio provides a roomy opening around the headphone port. The dock connector opening at the bottom may not be so generous, however. It’s cut extremely tight, and although Apple’s sync cable fits with no problem, the opening doesn’t leave much room at all for connectors any larger. I had no trouble docking the Specialist in any of my Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere speaker docks, but again, due to the close fit and added depth of the case, there’s no guarantee all docks will work.
All around, I’ve really been impressed with the Incipio Specialist case in the time I’ve used it. It’s got a great feel on the phone, doesn’t add a lot of bulk, and the combination of the softer TPU inner layer and protective harder polycarbonate outer frame should provide adequate protection in all but the most severe of drops. The contrasting finishes and densities of the two materials gives a very edgy styling to the case, and also gives a nice texture to aid in grip. One downside to that finish is the glossy polycarbonate…by its nature, it’s going to show scratches fairly quickly. But, that has always been an issue with the Speck CandyShell, and it hasn’t stopped that case from becoming one of the most used cases on the market over the past few years. Plus, I’d much rather have a few scratches on my case than my iPhone!
So on that note, I’d definitely recommend the Incipio Specialist if you’re looking for a very protective, yet stylish case for your iPhone 4 or 4S. At the same price point as most of its competitors ($34.99), it’s certainly worth a hard look.