Whoops! Did we say stupendous? We actually meant stupidest!
Vertu is an odd company. It was until recently an arm of Nokia that focused on creating and selling ridiculously priced mobile devices of questionable capability and impeccably crafted and “beyond the pale expensive” shells. Vertu was born within Nokia at a time when feature phones reigned supreme and Nokia was looking for a way to distinguish the average Joe’s feature phone from the really rich guy’s and gal’s feature phone.
Not too long ago, as Nokia was streamlining itself and closing down non-essentials, it let Vertu go off into the wilderness to earn its own keep. Now Vertu has delivered the next prize in its literally diamond-studded lineup – the new Vertu Ti (shown above), an Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)-based smartphone that sports a titanium body; some alligator leather; a special “ruby” button – known as the Vertu Key - to connect directly with a high end “white gloves” concierge service (in case you need them to send you a limo or make flight arrangements) and more or less 24-month-old technology; a 3.7 inch screen, and only 3G capability – which is OK since if you can afford to own it you probably don’t do much in the way of Internet shopping or surfing. And forget about using Google Now as that requires Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean).
OK, it does have one very nice additional feature, its sapphire crystal display cover, the same type that is found on any high-end mechanical watch costing at least $1,000. We’re huge fans of mechanical Swiss watches and we admit we own a few – though no, we aren’t talking about the $50,000+ watches from companies such as Ulysse Nardin (one of our favorites). The sapphire crystal truly is scratch proof and nearly indestructible. That is unless you happen to run a diamond over it since it isn’t as tough as diamonds.
The Vertu Ti, with all these goodies in hand, can be yours – in its chunky and weighty entirety, for a mere $10,000, more specifically it starts at $9,600 but with various other “accoutrements” the price can go to $19,900. For example, $11,500 scores a Pure Black model, while the Black Alligator option will cost you $12,800. Titanium Red Gold Mixed Metals will send the cost spiraling to $19,900.
We ourselves are looking forward to receiving our just released and far more sophisticated candy red Pebble Smartwatch for $150. We do suspect that if Apple delivers an iWatch it will very likely have a sapphire display (and we’ll note that the iPhone 5 uses sapphire as a cover for its forward facing camera, one of those special Apple build qualities). We understand that there is also Corning’s curved glass technology to consider but we believe sapphire (which can be curved) is much more appealing and appropriate for a watch.
The magical Vertu Key with the ruby is used to call 24x7 concierge service from anywhere in the world with access to a wireless 2G or 3G connection. What it really boils down to though is the ability to reach a live person by way of nothing more than hitting a speed-dial button! There's also a text-based live chat option, a Windows-style remote assist feature and an app – Life - that does absolutely nothing other than to display personalized ads that Vertu refers to as "independently sourced articles and privileges." There is also what appears to be a rudimentary cloud-based backup phone service dubbed Certainty.
Amazingly, Vertu has actually sold 326,000 Vertu phones on a global basis over the years. China and more generally Asia are Vertu's largest market. It’s an interesting coincidence that this same market is being targeted as the largest for inexpensive smartphones as well!
Before we sign off on this, we did mention Ulysse Nardin earlier not only because it is one of our favorite mechanical watch brands, but because Ulysse Nardin also happens to sell an even more hedonistic mobile phone – one that is, if you can believe it, even more primitive than the Vertu Ti. Here then is the Ulysse Nardin Chairman:
Yes, those are old fashioned feature phone buttons on there! Ulysse Nardin boasts about this – it’s the only Android phone that sports such a thing. The Chairman actually runs an even more antiquated version of Android – Gingerbread. Above the keys is a 3.2 inch sapphire crystal touch screen. There is a very special feature on the reverse side of the phone – a Ulysse Nardin mechanical watch rotor – if you are into mechanical watches you will know what it’s for – if you don’t it absolutely doesn’t matter!
The price? $14,000 for the bargain basement version in stainless steel. At the other end of the spectrum is the deluxe Chairman, featuring more than 3,000 hand-cut 17-karat diamonds adorning the faceplates that will set you back $130,000.
We know, it’s a funny concept. What’s even funnier is that there are at least 10,000 of these already sold or on order. You can’t make this stuff up.
Edited by Jamie Epstein