Element Case Ion 4 and Formula 4 for iPhone 4

Element Case Ion 4 and Formula 4 for iPhone 4

Element Case's claim to fame is solid, screw-bound aluminum bumpers for iPhone in hot hypercar-inspired design. Well, with Ion 4 and Formula 4 for iPhone 4, they've switched the metal bumper for high quality plastic cases but kept the Reventon design aesthetic in place. How do their new polymer and polycarbonate cases measure up? We take them for a few laps, after the break!

[Element Case Forumla 4, Element Case Ion 4]

Element Case Ion 4 for iPhone 4

The Ion 4 is a traditional skin case with anything but traditional look and crafting. It's made from what Element says is an "ultra-high impact resistant TPU polymer" with reinforced corners and an aerospace-grade carbon fiber inlaid back plate. (Which just so happen to match the lines and look of their famed Vapor Case line.)

Durable. Light. Hawt.

You don't need a screw driver to take this case on or off either; like any soft case you just slip it over and slip it out when and if needed. However, the extra protection does mean it's a tad bulkier than an ultra-thin silicon skin-type case. In keeping with our car metaphor, this is a Hummer, not a Sidekick. I used it for a week and found it to be really solid, with great grip, and cutouts big enough to fit all my AV and in-car cables.

Sure, an iPhone 4 looks great naked, but glass slips off sofas and glass cracks on tile, so if you want to look good and not have to worry as much about breaks, the Ion 4 literally has you covered.

Element Case Formula 4 for iPhone 4

The Formula 4 is a two-part hard case that once again marries the best of the form factor with the now-classic Element Case flare. Special kudos to Element Case for showing that plastic doesn't need to feel cheap (take a lesson here, Samsung.) The high-impact polycarbonate used for Formula 4 feels clean, solid, and high quality. Once again, they've also got the aerospace carbon fiber on the back, equal parts fun and function, and add a rubbery side panel for extra grip.

Because hard cases aren't as easy to slim in and out of, Element Case went with a two-part design and it works. You can leave the full case on almost all the time, because the cut outs are generous and work with almost all cables, but if you want to dock you can just pull of the bottom and you're good.

If you like the Element Case look but don't want a soft case and need something you can remove faster than a screwed-on bumper, the Formula fits.

It's hard to beat the pure accessory porn that is the Element Case Vapor. It's just ridiculously high end. But it's not realistic to expect everyone to carry a hex key with them for when they need to take it off.

Well now you have alternatives. One piece or two. Soft or hard. Between the two, I prefer the polycarb feel of the Formula, but if Element Case is the way you want to go, you'll be well served by any of them.

(I tried both for a week each and ended up liking the Formula so much I kept it on for 2 weeks. If there had been a white option, I might have kept it on longer. Of course, I kept the Vapor on for a couple months, so we know where my superficial heart really lies...)

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Element Case Ion 4 and Formula 4 for iPhone 4


I won my choice of either in the TIPB contest. Element was awesome when a glitch caused my order to not ship right away and they shipped one of each for my troubles. The customer service rocks.
The Formula case, IMO, was the nicer of the two. This was a present for my wife and she loves it. She reads a lot of ebooks and it makes this experience much more comfortable according to her. It feels very high end. A real upgrade from the one piece plastic case she was using.

Elements Blade case (CNC aluminum) was the sexiest case I've ever seen. I was heartbroken when my reception took a huge dump the second the phone was bolted in.
The plastic looks like an answer to that issue, but it sure makes them look like "every-other-case" out there, now.
Too bad.

Own the Formula 4 on a Verizon iPhone. Best case I've ever used on any phone. Very durable and has a high quality feel with zero reception issues.
Form factor improves the overall iPhone experience especially while talking on the phone since there is no lip protruding above the screen and the material and shape allow a comfortable secure grip. Would buy this case again, and if they release a similar design for iPhone 5, I'm buying.

I have the Formula 4 case and love(d) it until I realized that it significantly reduced wifi reception. I guess that's due to the carbon fiber back. With (almost) any other case, my iPhone would stay connected to wifi at distances the Formula 4 would have no reception at all.
I would prefer a fake carbon fiber back instead of real carbon fiber. The form and fit of the Formula 4 is the best of any iPhone case.