Vertu Android smartphone goes on sale in Hong Kong

Vertu’s first ever smartphone to run Android, the Ti, has now gone on sale. Hong Kong is the first market to get it, and, as you’d expect, it’s not cheap. Not only that, but it turns out to be quite a bit more expensive in Hong Kong than the suggested retail price that Vertu announced last month when the device became official.

The Vertu Ti can be bought in Hong Kong for 75,000 yuan, which turns out to be $12,061 or 9,272 at the current exchange rates. Yet we were previously told that the Ti would retail for 7,900. But maybe that was a price before taxes sort of thing. We’ll never know.

What is certain though is that this is the most expensive Android smartphone ever made. In fact, it may also be the most expensive phone ever made. And it’s also the first handset released by Vertu since shedding its Nokia roots (the luxury phone maker was sold by the Finns last year). It’s interesting to see that immediately after that ownership transfer occurred, the company started working on an Android device.

The Vertu Ti isn’t a high-end phone in terms of hardware specifications, but makes up for that (or so its maker hopes) with the materials used for its construction, as well as the fact that it’s manually assembled. The Vertu Ti has a 3.7-inch 480 800 touchscreen, an 8 MP rear camera with dual-LED flash, a 1.3 MP front-facing camera, a dual-core 1.7 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, 64 GB of built-in storage space, all the usual connectivity options (except LTE), and acoustics tuned in collaboration with Bang & Olufsen. It runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
The handset is made from titanium, and the screen is made out of sapphire crystals, and the device’s ability to withstand impact is four times more than other smartphones (though we assume the comparison isn’t made with rugged competitors). The titanium makes the Vertu Ti’s chassis five times more sturdy than those of other phones. And there’s some leather in there too, for good measure.

But the materials are just half the story. The Ti comes with a Vertu button, which opens up an app that allows you to, among other things, be instantly connected to a virtual concierge service that will always be available to you 24/7, no matter where you are. You can call, email, or have a live chat session with your concierge, and behind this is a team of actual humans looking to cater to your every need. If you’re into such things, this alone may make the huge price tag of the Vertu Ti a lot more palatable.

Vertu budget smartphone for back pocket billionaires

By now you know that Vertu is the go-to global brand for upscale cellular devices – however, with starting prices that nudge the £7k mark, the current line of handsets have been reserved for the kind of guys who would pay for one with their titanium Amex. That is, until now. With the launch of the phone maker’s new model, there’s now a sleeker and (slightly) more affordable iteration for aspiring one per centers.

Starting at £4,200, the Aster is significantly cheaper than its cousin, the recently launched Signature Touch. However it’s wrong to think of this as the Signature Touch “light”; the Aster has a very impressive tech spec of its own, including a 4.7 inch 1080p sapphire crystal display, 64GB of internal memory, a 13MP camera on the back (and a 2.1MP one on the front), and a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 2GB of RAM to ensure the Android 4.4 KitKat OS goes without a glitch. All of these are exactly the same as on the Signature Touch. There’s also wallpaper included from the Tate gallery as well as ringtones composed by the London Symphony Orchestra and Dolby speakers to listen to them on. So far, so good.

The main difference is the design of the handset, which you’ll immediately clock is far more pared down than the Touch with it’s ballsy, almost Star Trek-esque ear panel (or “pillow” as the brand calls it). Perhaps it’s because it fits in with the current trend towards more understated items that we’re seeing in the luxury industry, or perhaps it’s because it sits more easily in your hand or slips slightly smoother into your pocket, but we like this new design a lot.

While this model might not be crafted from the kind of high-end mixed metals available for the Touch – such as gold or all-over PVD black titanium (one of the main factors, no doubt, at the reduced price) – the simpler polished titanium edges are an impressive alternative. This being Vertu, there’s also a whole host of exotic skins that your handset can be clad in from “entry level” calf leather (£4,200) to karting (£5,600) up to top-of-the-range ostrich in cognac (pictured, £5,900).

The only real downside? That trademark red ruby button on the right-hand titanium panel will only get you a six-month stint with the Vertu’s famous concierge team, as opposed to a year of expert recommendations from a dedicated “personal lifestyle manager” with the Touch.

However, if you’re looking to supplement your handset with other accessories, you’ll be pleased to hear that there is also a coordinating range of beautiful protective leather cases (from £280) to accompany your new purchase. Because let’s face it, you’re going to want to make sure this phone stays pristine for as long as possible.

Vertu posh smartphone is probably more powerful than yours

  • Moving on to cameras, the main image has been upgraded to a 21-megapixel resolution with f/2.2 aperture (though f/2.0 la Moto X Pure Edition would be better), a dual-tone LED flash, phase detection autofocus, and 4K video recording. The front-facing camera, on the other hand, is stuck with the same old 2.1-megapixel resolution, so hopefully, there’s at least some improvement in image quality. To our surprise, gone is the Hasselblad partnership, but Vertu has since recruited ArcSoft to focus on the camera’s software. We’ll just have to wait and see if the results are any good.

    The most noticeable design change is on the phone’s back plate, where you can twist the round latch to flip open the new “dramatic” gull-wing doors to access the Nano SIM slot and microSD slot. As before, under the right flap, you’ll find the laser-etched signature of the craftsman who was solely responsible for your handmade device back in Church Crookham, England. There’s also space in other parts of the back plate for personal engraving because if you’re paying so much for a smartphone, you might as well make it truly yours, right?

  • we haven’t forgotten the most important element of Vertu phones: services. With the new Signature Touch, Vertu’s “Dedicated Concierge” — a service that provides a single point of contact to act as your personal assistant — is now complimentary for 18 months instead of just 12. According to Pogliani, this feature has proven to be a big driver for customer loyalty and likeness to repurchase a Vertu replica handset, especially since he drastically improved the relevance, quality, frequency and number of privileges offered to his customers over the last two years. Other features such as encrypted communication by Silent Circle and global WiFi access by iPad are still included.

    “With a growing global appreciation and understanding of the term ‘luxury tech’, the opportunities ahead of us are many,” the exec added.

    The new Signature Touch will be available globally from mid-October, with prices ranging from 6,500 (about $9,900) all the way to 13,700 (about $20,900), depending on your combination of colors and materials:Jet Calf, Garnet Calf, Grape Lizard, Pure Jet Lizard, Jet Alligator, Pure Navy Alligator, Clous de Paris Alligator and Pure Jet Red Gold.