We get a small number of physical products to review around here, and the streets are thick with iPhone cases of every variety -- but Element Case stood out. These aren't generic leather or plastic cases, they are somewhat beefier plastic cases available with metal, carbon or wood accents and sporting magnetic "flip" lids. The added surface area makes it a little easier to play games, especially if you're getting cramps playing Fieldrunner all day. At the end of this review we've got a special-edition TUAW Element Case to give away.
The phone is secure in the case because you have to unscrew the bottom of the case, slide the phone in, and put the screws back in. There are ports along the sides that allow you to access everything you'd normally need: camera, volume, sync cable port. You can't put the phone in the dock, however. The "flip" lid is a piece of plastic with magnets, and those magnets lock onto the screws. The lid attaches to the back of the case when you need access to the screen -- a nice design feature.
I'm not sure all this protection adds any shock absorption, but the phone certainly feels sturdier with a rigid casing on the outside. For games, the added surface area was welcome, even more ergonomic. Speaking of the casing, you can choose a CNC-machined version with a base in aluminum alloy (fits first-gen iPhones), but my model was the "Liquid" edition, which is injection-molded plastic (fits both 1st-gen and 3G iPhones). There's a slightly fancier plastic model with some wood veneer on the back, plus a nickel-plated model and a very limited-run of the "CRG" model. The only problem with all this is that several of the cases are for the 1st-gen iPhone only (like the CRG), so you'll have to peruse the shop and see what's available. Essentially everything is limited-run, which adds to the cache value of your case, if that's your thing. No designer case would be complete without customization, and Element Case will custom-engrave a design on the lid or back of your case.
For protection, the case seems to work well, although a nasty spill on concrete might knock the lid off. Despite carrying it around in my front jeans pocket, the added size wasn't too noticeable and the fuzz accumulation was minimal (pics in the gallery). The only real concern I had might stem from my general fear of small magnets coming in contact with my credit cards or computers, but I didn't let it get in the way of throwing the case around. I felt confident tossing it in my backpack and walking around, and I didn't have to sorry so much about a power cord or keys scuffing up the phone.
The Element Case Liquid edition I tried for a week performed admirably, but the $99 price tag will be too steep for some. It is beautiful, different and useful, that's for sure. But without a way to clip it to something (OK, it did stick to the fridge) you might pass it up. If you tend to carry your phone in a gear bag of some kind, you appreciate design and you have the cash, I'd say this is a good value. Plus, the custom engraving is very well-done if you want to personalize the thing.
And hey, thanks to the nice folks at Element Case we're giving away two "Liquid" (plastic) cases. One sports the TUAW logo on a blue lid, with TUAW engraved on the back and a smoke-colored backup lid with Element Case on it. The other is a standard Liquid case with a nice green lid sporting butterflies and we're throwing in a red lid with the TUAW logo on it. Both are designed for the 1st-gen and 3G iPhone. Who gets which will be determined randomly, just like we pick our winners.
- Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
- To enter leave a comment telling us what kind of case would you choose for an iPhone?
- The comment must be left before December 22, 11:59PM Eastern Time.
- You may enter only once.
- Two winners will be selected in a random drawing.
- Prize: One Element Case Fluid ($100)
- Click Here for complete Official Rules.