Vertu – the manufacturer of handmade, luxury phones – is headquartered in the United Kingdom. Although the company was originally established as a subsidiary of Nokia in 1998, the phone manufacturer was since sold to a private equity group (EQT VI) for an undisclosed amount. Rumor has it that the deal total was in the neighborhood of 200 million, with Nokia retaining a 10% share of the company.
“In 1995, Frank Nuovo, the chief designer of Nokia, had an idea that mobile communication devices would one day be available not just in the mass market, but also in the luxury market. That idea was discussed and talked about for several years.” This is the president of Vertu talking, regarding their brand in 2000.
The idea behind their phones was to design a device that is a union of craftsmanship and technology. The beautifully designed handsets simply scream extravagance, and exclusivity. In essence, Vertu to the cellular device market is what the Rolex is to the wristwatch. The phones are crafted only from the best materials available on Earth (more on that later), and each handmade device undergoes a series of extensive and stringent quality checks.
When shopping for a Vertu phone, the price becomes rather hard to ignore. Since these cutting-edge devices run between $10,000 and $25,000, the cost of the phone is practically part of the feature set.
So, what exactly makes the Vertu phone so pricey?
Well, besides providing exclusivity, the phones are also rather well made. While, the original Vertu line up ran on the Symbian operating system, newer models ship with the latest Android software.
Next, let’s look at the hardware. Using Vertu Signature Touch as an example; the phone’s large 4.7-inch touch screen is coated with a sheet of sapphire crystal, making it nearly impossible to scratch. In fact, unless you have diamonds lining your pockets, you can safely bet that the display stays in its pristine condition during its lifespan. That being said, if you fall under the category of people willing to drop upwards of $20k on a mobile phone, you may also be part of the subset of people carrying diamonds in their pockets, so beware.
Another factor that adds to the cost of the phones are the materials used in production and the build quality of the phone. Some of the materials responsible for the exorbitant price of the device (including the scratch-resistant, sapphire screen) are: strong and durable titanium (or gold, depending on your taste), some ceramic is used around the earpiece of the handset, and premium animal hide is used to coat the back of the device. These are just a few, among many other luxury materials used in production.
It is also worth mentioning that a single builder assembles each individual phone by hand in a factory in England. If you own a Vertu phone and are curious to see who assembled it, you can look for the etching of the builder’s name on the underside of the SIM door.
Since the company went all out with the production materials, it comes as no surprise that the phone feels great in the hand. When you’re holding a Vertu phone, you instantly know that you’re holding a premium device. Using the Vertu Signature Touch as a reference point, we can get a feel for the whole extravagant line up.
Coming in at a hefty 6.77oz, the phone is nearly twice as heavy as an iPhone 5. The heavier, seemingly more sturdy build of the Signature Touch pairs nicely with the rather strong haptic feedback from its high definition touchscreen. Interestingly enough, it has been reported that Vertu phones tend to smell just as nice as they look. The stitched calfskin apparently emits “a rich, intoxicating leathery scent,” or to translate this quote to consumer English, “just another quality to add to the already heavy price tag”.
While the Vertu lineup is sure to please the senses, that’s not the only quality-set that sets these phones apart from the rest of the market. There are two other ‘special’ features that are worth a look – the in house Concierge service and the Silent Circle encryption.
Privacy is clearly something that Vertu holds in high regard, and their customers can rest assured that their text messages and phone conversations are locked down. Vertu phones use voice, video-chat and text encryption powered by Silent Circle. Emails, are unfortunately not protected under this feature. Another thing to keep in mind, is that the receiving party must also be running the Silent Circle encryption in order to enjoy full end-to-end encryption. Also noteworthy – Silent Circle services are free for the first year, but require a subscription afterwards.
In fact, pretty much any special feature of the Vertu phone requires a subscription of one sort or another. Since the company already managed to sell you their $15k phone, chances are rather good that they can milk you for some more easy money. A great example of this ingenious marketing is the Concierge service that comes with every Vertu classic.
Much like Silent Circle encryption, the Concierge is free for the first year, but the price is then bumped to about $3,000 yearly. This service – or feature, whatever you want to call it – grants you access to a personal assistant 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week. You press a small button on the side of the phone, the Concierge app gets fired up – and a real, live person is ready to take your requests. Needless to say, quite a bit more intricate than Apple’s Siri.
When talking to someone from the Concierge, you can request any number of things, and the assistant on the other side will make them happen (within limits of reason, of course). From getting a cab, to securing seats in the VIP section of a popular club, the Concierge service does it all. When initiating the service for the first time and setting up your profile you can choose include your credit card number so that you can be billed directly for plane trips, exotic vacations, and concert tickets booked via the Concierge.
While this service is not cheap, it is certainly convenient. Chances are, if you’re buying a Vertu phone, you’re not worried about the yearly costs of the Concierge. If you are concerned with the cost of these extra features, though, then chances are you’re not the type of person that Vertu is after.
The CEO commented – “Many of our customers desire and appreciate the compact size of Vertu products that comfortably fit inside the pocket of a well-tailored suit, or in an expensive clutch bag.”
While there is definitely a market for uber expensive phones, the question remains – is the Vertu phone really worth 50+ iPhones? Additionally, there are some serious limitations regarding Vertu’s internal engineering; specifically their lack of expandable storage and a mediocre battery life. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Vertu phones generally last half a day on a single charge. On the other hand, if you ever find yourself running low on juice, you can just ask your assistant or butler to plug it in.