The Specialist ($35) is Incipio’s take on the co-molded plastic and rubber style iPhone 4 and 4S case that has been become some popular, a genre all but defined by Speck’s CandyShell and its various spinoffs. The idea behind this style is to incorporate the best of both worlds — the shock absorbency of rubber with the rigid protection of hard plastic — without having to worry about separate pieces. When executed correctly, it can be an elegant solution. As with most of its cases, Incipio includes a Vanity Kit with The Specialist, comprised of a screen protector film, and applicator card, and a cleaning cloth.
The core of the case is semirigid TPU—grey or black, depending on which model you choose—and it extends all the way to the edges, rising above the glass display in a protective lip.
It’s not as soft or as nice as the rubber portion of Hive Response, but it’s pliable enough to make insertion and removal pretty easy. One piece of hard plastic is molded into the rubber, with two portions of it exposed on the back. One is in a straight line along the top of the case, and the other is in the center in a sideways “H” shape. This plastic provides significant structure and rigidity, although like CandyShell, it quickly shows scratches.
Dock Connector accessory compatibility is limited with The Specialist, as the rubber is too thick at the bottom to allow the iPhone to make an electronic connection in Universal Docks, and the opening around the port is too tight to fit anything but Apple’s own cables and others that small. Thankfully, the headphone port port is much more open.
We experienced some slight issues with button coverage, with the rubber pressing down on the volume button on its own. A little bit of wiggling quickly fixed this. Otherwise the tactility of the buttons is decreased just a bit, but they continue to work as they should.
While The Specialist isn’t a bad case, it’s not our favorite co-molded unit and feels like it’s worth a bit less than the price. The same $35 is better spent on the highly recommended CandyShell Flip or even the standard CandyShell. We do appreciate the inclusion of a the screen film though; it’s something Speck doesn’t offer.