Review: Incase Sports Armband Deluxe for iPhone 4/4S
It's been a while since we've seen a unique take on the armband-style case for the iPhone 4/4S, but that's exactly what Incase has brought to the table with Sports Armband Deluxe ($45). Unlike most of the others we see in use these days, the Sports Armband Deluxe isn't a neoprene enclosure with a permanently attached pocket for holding the iPhone. Rather, it's made up of two pieces: an elastic, breathable armband and a flexible rubber case that attaches with a plastic clip, a design somewhat similar to Marware SportShells of old. People who find themselves constantly pulling their iPhones in and out of armbands with every workout will likely appreciate what this one has to offer, though there's one serious gap left in the otherwise nice design.
If you’ve ever seen or used one of Incase’s armbands before, Sports Armband Deluxe will be very familiar. The perforated neoprene band is soft and really quite nice, measuring roughly 15.5” long. Thanks to Velcro lining the entire inside of the band, it’s easy to resize, although those with especially large biceps will be out of luck. Incase makes mention of the fact that it’s washable, which may be important depending on your workout routine. In the center is an octagonal patch with a plastic holder for the case; we found this to be quite secure despite the slight bouncing around the iPhone will go through when in use.
Sports Armband Deluxe’s other piece is certainly not the most exciting case we’ve seen from Incase, but it’s actually not bad and more impressive than some standalone models offered by competitors. The case is one piece, made of a very nice flexible hard rubber that easily wraps around the body of the iPhone 4 or 4S. Even when we were intentionally pulling at the sides, they snapped right back into place—lower quality plastics will pull away unintentionally, and sometimes stay there. All three buttons along the top and side edges are covered. Athletes will appreciate the large headphone port opening that accommodates practically any plug, although the hole for the Dock Connector is only large enough for Apple’s small plugs or comparably thin models. A small lip protects the front of the iPhone, which is simple, but effective against drops. Permanently attached to the back is the plastic clip that fits into the armband; it can also hook onto a waistband, belt, strap, or more. It’s not too obtrusive to prevent your iPhone from being slipped into a pocket for everyday use, though it does add to the case’s thickness.
The big thing that this band lacks is any sort of physical protection from sweat or weather. Whereas most armbands have some sort of sealed, protective pocket for the device that limits moisture exposure, Sports Armband Deluxe leaves all of the iPhone 4/4S’s ports, as well as the screen, open to the elements. There’s no front protection for your device apart from the case’s lip. It’s really a tradeoff, with the benefit being that the device is left fully usable and unobscured, and the detriment of added potential for liquid intrusion. One consolation is the fact that the rear clip winds up positioning your iPhone’s back about half an inch away from the band, preventing direct contact with your body.
As has often been the case with Incase’s armbands, we like just about everything but the price. The band itself is top-notch, and the case is solid as a separate component of a complete solution. We also appreciate the simplicity of the connection between them, and the fact that the case can clip onto other other things as well. You must, however, be willing to accept the compromise between interchangeability and its limited protection from sweat and the elements—a compromise that older multi-piece iPhone and iPod armbands achieved with greater protection. At a lower price, we’d offer a strong general recommendation for users who rely on their iPhones while working out. The current price is just too high, though, making Sports Armband Deluxe worthy of a flat B rating.