Lifestyle & Travel

Feb 1, 2015

Exclusive Luxury

Vertu started life in the late 1990s as an indulgence for Nokia's designers. Led by Frank Nuovo, the group set out to explore what a phone could look and feel like if its design was unconstrained by budgetary concerns.

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What if you could use all the best materials and most expensive manufacturing processes, what sort of phone would you end up with? Given free reign to experiment within the then-resplendent Nokia, Vertu gradually evolved into its own division, with a name, logo, and brand identity that grew to be synonymous with overt demonstrations of wealth.

Last year, Vertu gained its independence from Nokia after being purchased by a private equity group and quickly moved to Android as its platform of choice. It is now the most exclusive Android OEM around, offering handsets that cost at least four figures in whatever currency you care to buy them. Still, the way the company conducts its business hasn't really changed from the start. One single manufacturing facility on the outskirts of London handles every Vertu order, with the entire team of designers, engineers, and assemblers all working under the same roof.

The central tenet of Vertu design also remains unaltered. "If you want to stand out, that's what it was built for," says Hutch Hutchinson, the company's chief of design, as he points to the $15,000 Signature handset. It's an unapologetic luxury item, one which turns its Nokia Series 40 software and anachronistic number pad into an asset, demonstrating through them that the owner of the phone doesn't need modern technology, he most likely has people doing those jobs for him. And yet, Vertu is also looking to the future with the introduction of two Android phones this year that usher in touchscreens, the Google Play Store, and many other modern smartphone amenities. The company is eager to appeal to women as well as men, and it's extending its range to accommodate a younger customer too.

Vertu Signature Touch
Vertu, the English manufacturer of luxury mobile phones, presents the Signature Touch. It claims the phone brings the best of mobile technology to superior handcrafted materials like grade 5 titanium and hand-finished calf leather.

Signature Touch comes with Dolby Digital Plus virtual surround sound and Hasselblad certified imaging, as well as Vertu's full portfolio of services, which comprises Dedicated Concierge as well as Vertu LIFE and Vertu CERTAINTY packages.

The phone's premium design incorporates the company's trademark ceramic pillow and has a strong, masculine style highlighted by the use of a grade 5 titanium casing. It is available in Jet Calf, Claret Calf, Pure Jet, Pure Jet Red Gold Mixed Metals, Seaspray Lizard, Damson Lizard, Pure Navy Lizard and Jet Alligator design styles.

The phone has a 4.7-inch full HD (473dpi) display and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.3GHz Quad-core processor.

Vertu is available from around 500 stores, including 70 Vertu Boutiques, in 66 countries.
The Vertu Signature Touch starts at $10,300. The cost is practically part of the phone's feature set; Vertu says the Signature Touch is for "high-net-worth individuals," those who value exclusivity and standing out above all else. The one I tested was the bargain-bin version; there are versions that cost as much as $21,900. It's a luxury car, a luxury watch, a luxury handbag.

If the phone had hit the floor, it may well have survived the impact. Its 4.7-inch touchscreen is coated with a pricey sheet of sapphire crystal glass, making it nearly impossible to scratch. It can take anything short of a diamond to the screen and remain unscathed, but it can shatter just like normal glass if you drop it.

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