Review: Incipio Atlas ID for iPhone 5s
Incipio unveiled Atlas for iPhone 5 at the 2013 CES, winning a Best of Show Award and later our relatively rare A- rating. Now, there's a semi-sequel called Atlas ID for iPhone 5s ($80-$90). At first glance, you might not notice the difference between the two, but look at the Home Button protector, and you'll see why this one has a new name. Instead of a rubber nub, Atlas ID now features a flat sheet of film that allows full use of the Touch ID system on the 5s. There are a few other tweaks to the design here and there, but nothing as substantial as that. Despite the name, the iPhone 5 does still fit, and works properly. The price differential represents US and international versions; the former comes with a warranty protecting the phone itself. Four different colors are available, and each comes with a headphone extender and cleaning cloth.
The case is Incipio’s take on the slim, ultra-rugged, waterproof case made popular by LifeProof with cases such as Frē. While it’s essentially the same size—just a bit thicker—as LifeProof’s iPhone 5 case, the materials and overall feel are different. The plastic and rubber case is made to withstand pretty much anything you throw at it, without adding serious bulk or complexity.
Much like Frē, Atlas ID is a two-piece case, comprised of a front and back that snap together around the iPhone 5s. It’s about twice as heavy—62 grams, compared to 30—but the weight is still so light that it’s almost imperceptible, and the material feels sturdier, too. Your iPhone first gets inserted into the front piece, which includes a small holder at the bottom that comes about half an inch up the back. The device fits snugly when placed inside. Next, a plastic back with rubber lining snaps in place over that. There are no O-rings to mess with; rather, there are just six connection points. Make sure the pieces snap together at each point, and you’re all set. The removal process is simple, as you just pull away from the top corner above the silent switch, but it takes some muscle to do so.
As is necessary for this style of case, Atlas ID covers all of the iPhone’s ports and buttons: the Sleep/Wake, Home, and volume buttons are all protected. We like the way they feel, as they retain their tactility. Of course, the biggest change here is to the Home Button, which houses the iPhone 5s’s Touch ID feature. The opaque circle ringed by clear plastic surprisingly works just fine with the scanner, without the need to rescan any fingerprints. A flip-open plastic protector is found on the bottom edge of the device. The microphone and speaker are exposed through it, and there’s an opening for the headphone port; it’s protected by a rubber stopper, but you can lift away the protector, remove the stopper, and then close it back up. You also access the Lightning port by opening the lid.
The iPhone 5s’s speaker, bottom microphone, earpiece and rear microphone are all protected by membranes that allow sound in or out, but not liquid. Music playback is somewhat muffled, but still totally acceptable. Phone calls are a mixed bag. In our tests, outgoing audio was fine, and pretty much indistinguishable from a bare iPhone. Voice quality coming through the earpiece is improved compared to the prior version. Calls are entirely audible and understandable but stripped of some natural bass resonance, versus the metallic rattling we heard before.
Not surprisingly, Atlas ID does keep liquid out. We submerged the case for half an hour, and no water got inside. After removal, we did notice a little bit of water underneath the protective lid, but Incipio informed us “there are holes on the bottom lid that let allow water in all the way to the membrane. Some water droplets may splash or spread when the lid is opened.” A silicone seal prevents the liquid from actually making it to the Lightning port, and the case has been tested by third-party facilities to verify the company’s claims.
One of the most impressive features of Atlas ID is its crystal clear glass screen protector, which rests flat against the iPhone’s display. Although we’ve often found built-in screen protectors leaving us wanting, we are quite impressed with what Incipio has done here. While other screen protectors can sometimes leave a small gap they leave a small gap that can affect the touch-sensitivity of the display, and others can impact the quality of the screen image. Atlas ID’s protector is permanently integrated into the front half of the case, and there’s a small black bezel around it. The screen remains responsive, and you likely won’t even notice that there’s an extra layer. It also feels more premium than plastic does; we’re glad Incipio chose to go with glass.
The warranty is linked to the iPhone 5s you have at the time you register, and is non-transferable. Registration is completed using a free app, where you simply enter information such as your name, the IMEI of your phone, the case’s serial number, and your invoice number. The app also walks you through claims on the case or the phone. Incipio’s warranty is good for one incident of liquid or physical damage, and you have the option of extending the coverage to two years for an additional fee—it seems to be a good deal all around. Comparatively, LifeProof is now offering a $10 warranty, which brings the cost of its case up to the same $90 level, but there’s a $50 deductible for replacements.
From the look to the feel, from the screen protector to the warranty, Incipio got pretty much everything right with Atlas ID; it kept the great design of the original, while adding in iPhone 5s compatibility. The only real issue issue from before, the earpiece, has been partially addressed. Yes, it’s expensive and not necessarily for everyone, but for those who want the high level of protection one of these cases can offer, while retaining the slim profile of the device, it’s the way to go. Atlas ID can be used daily, and the reassurance that you’re covered by insurance if something does happen to your iPhone only adds to its appeal. Atlas ID is worthy of our high recommendation; it’s the best case of its style.