Designing the Sector 5 iPhone Case

Element Case Sector 5 aluminum iphone case design sketches

We’ve been getting a lot of people asking us how we came up with the design of the Sector 5, so I thought I’d share some of the design history of this very unusual iPhone case.

In summer of 2011, I was at Northstar Bike Park in Tahoe, for some downhill mountain biking and R&R with my buddies. All weekend I had been pondering the fate of the iPhone 4 prior to the 4S announcement. As I walked into the Northstar Village Oakley store, my attention was instantly taken by a display of modular goggles. That’s when it struck me: How cool would it be if our case was modular, customizable, and had upgradeable optional components?

I started sketching some ideas in the condo that night and again over coffee the next day. Some of the original sketches drawn on a Northstar pad are shown in the image above.

Soon after, two good things came about for Element Case.

The first was the Element Case Design Studio, which allows people to custom build a case on our website and have it shipped within days. Kudos to our web development team and supply chain team for making that happen.

The second was the design of the Sector 4 for the iPhone 4S. You may be asking yourself why we created the Sector 4 knowing that the iPhone 5 was on the way. Well, it’s because the design is complex, and the concept would need to be developed and proven prior to the release of the iPhone 5.

So, after a long year of development we launched the Sector 4, and then we eagerly awaited the arrival of the iPhone 5 in order to apply the Sector 4 design language to a new Sector 5.

Getting back to the original concept of “modular” and “upgradable,” we’ll soon be offering cool accessories and upgrades to the Sector 5. All of this takes time but we’re already rolling, so be patient as great new things are on the way for the Sector 5 line.

-Jeff Sasaki, CEO

40 Replies to “Designing the Sector 5 iPhone Case”

  • I can’t wait! I’m waiting for the Standard White & Black to be available! 🙂 excited for the upgradable parts as well!

  • If I already had my iPhone 5, I would be disappointed with the product rollout not including at least a plain aluminum model to accompany the Sector 5 FE. I am neither a rocket surgeon nor a marketing exec but it would seem simple enough to reduce the complexity of special finishing to get the product out to meet demand ASAP. Look forward to my iPhone 5 and a Sector 5 case to protect it.

    • We’ve made an all black and a silver standard edition Sector 5 available at ordering, as well. If by plain aluminum you mean not coated or anodized, we haven’t done that since the Vapor 4 007 case. The issue with not coating or anodizing aluminum is that it will corrode over time and scratches more easily. The Sector 5 Standard Edition in silver that we offer is a matte finish clear anodizing.

      • Good to know about the silver anodized Sector 5, wasn’t clear to me reviewing the info on website. Perhaps I would have known if I was ordering.

  • According to the text above, you guys will be providing ‘upgrades’ soon, is there any other information about this ‘upgrades’ since i signed up for a pre order invitation, how will i be able to upgrade the sector 5?

    • Upgrades that will be available are modular pieces that you will be able to buy to swap out different parts of your case increasing its functionality or adapting it to accessories that we produce.

      • I just received my Sector 5 case. I was sad to see that I could not plug my charging adaptor into the phone due to to small a opening in the case. Will there soon be a new modular piece for the bottom that will allow Apple’s adaptor to plug in? Hope so. I have several charging stations that I just converted with adaptors to charge my 5’s.

  • I really like the design of the Sector 5 however, I am wondering why did you decide to keep the bulge corner on the lower left instead of making the entire case symmetrical? I could understand that the bulge was created due to the death grip and antenna issue experienced in the iPhone 4. Since the iPhone 5 has a different antenna design the addition of that detail is no longer required. I would like to see a thinner symmetrical (minus the bulge) Sector 5 to reflect the thinner iPhone 5.

    • Because symmetry is boring.

      Useless Fact: Did you know that the human face is not actually symmetrical? The left and right halves have a slightly different appearance. If you edit a portrait in Photoshop to duplicate the left and right halves, flip the layers and marry them together, the result will seem odd and sometimes even a little creepy looking.

  • I like the asymmetrical (bulge) side. The bulge is the only thing that allows the phone to be used with my ProClip holder. Without the bulge, the case would not work with any of the ProClip holders or iPhone. Also, I discovered that voice reception/clarity (Verizon CDMA) is much better when the phone is held at the bottom rather than at the top. Leave the bulge, it is a trademark Element Case feature.

  • Just wanted to request that the Sector case for iPhone 4S make top cap/bottom one piece like the Sector 5. Please made this modification for future release, just got the 4S and love the Sector 5 design much more than the one for 4. Keep up the good work.

  • I requested my invite on September 15th, I have a confirmation email to prove it.
    I have yet to receive an invitation to purchase.

    Has anyone that signed up after that date received an invitation to purchase?

    • Looking at our records, you signed up for the newsletter via the pop-up on our home page, but didn’t sign up for the pre-order registration on 9/15. The confirmation email that you received was for a 10% off coupon for signing up to the newsletter. We did not send out confirmations for signing up for the pre-order registration. Please sign up here.

  • HI!

    i got my invite and went to order the FE and it says its sold out! i thought that the invite meant that i had one on reserve at some point. please advise!


  • Originally the Sector 5 FE was shown with a carbon back plate.

    When I received my option to order it looks as if it changed To a soft back??

    I opted for the black version but would prefer a carbon back is that still an option.

    If its only available on the FE can I switch my order??

    • Unfortunately, the carbon fiber back plate is not available right now. It was only offered with the FE and not with the Sector 5 Standard Edition in black or silver. We’re working on a new carbon fiber back plate that will be available soon. If you want to change your order or have other order specific questions, please contact Customer Support.

  • Team,
    Just recieved my Sector 5 and it is incredible. One of the sleekest, toughest case I have ever owned. Just love it!!!!! Now I was wondering when you guys are going to produce a dock for the Sector 5??? Thanks again for all you do.

  • I’ve had the Sector 5 for a while now, mine was one of the first ones shipped. I must say it is an extremely light case yet it is very tough. Last week my iPhone 5 fell out of my truck (a 4×4 Dodge Ram), and bounced off the concrete. After I regained consciousness (LOL!) I inspected the phone – and there was not a scratch on the case at all. Sector 5 did exactly what you designed it to do, it absorbed the fall and protected the phone. A friend was with me and he thought for sure the phone would have broken, but even he was amazed. I believe he’ll be ordering a Sector 5 soon as well!

    I am looking forward to the addition of new pieces and parts for the Sector 5. I love the FE version, but it will be cool to customize it a bit and make it my own. And – is that a Black Ops themed Sector 5 in the photo?!?!? Insanely cool!!!


  • Jeff,
    Dr. Kevin Peters here, I hope this finds you and your family, and everyone at Element doing very well; I was curious how I could actually get on the list for a 5 case? I’ve been ill lately without access or ability to jump online, and after finally being able to do so just as of today, I am learning that pre-registeration is closed? Not sure what to make of this scenario, so I just thought I would send you a message via your web site rather than bother you by calling direct; please let me know what I need to do at present, to obtain, or register for a Gen 5 case, you know how I hate to be without a case for my devices, especially my daily driver so to speak… I will look for your response.
    All the Best,

    Kevin Peters

  • Hi Jeff,

    I am hoping you can help me. One of my colleague has purchased one of your Native Elements Galaxy S3 Case for her phone. We work for CLAW Environmental Service Inc. in Ottawa and our CEO has seen your product and is asking to find out how much it would cost to have a couple of cases made with our company logo. I am not sure how to go about getting this information but was wondering if you can send me a quote. You can go to our website or I can send you our logo. CLAW is an Aborginal company and we are looking to advertise our company by putting our logo on our phones and maybe send them out to our clients eventually or course if the price is right.

    Have a fantastic day!


    Let me know if this will be possible.

  • Unfortunately my IPhone 5 is white… Will the white phone show up through the Sector 5 cases?

    These cases would be a huge investment for me and I just want to make sure that the white phone will not “shine” through. I really want the Sector 5 Black Ops case in Dark Earth.

    Thanks for your help…

    Ron Kendall

    • The white will show through a bit, but we also include our Rash Guard that you can apply that will cover the edges of the phone under the case so that it will be hidden.

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