When you are looking around for a new mobile phone, you are probably not considering a Vertu phone. This company had the mission to upgrade the mobile phone to a real status symbol. By offering customized “blinged out” smartphones it was only available for the wealthy few. Today Vertu is out of business, but you can still find some online.
If you can spend $20,000 on a watch, why not on a mobile phone?
High priced phones
Finnish cell phone brand Nokia started Vertu in 1998, with the operating and manufacturing head quarters in England. Their mission was to do for cell phones what Rolex, Philippe Patek and others did for watches: offer a status symbol for the riches, based on the idea “If you can spend $20,000 on a watch, why not on a mobile phone?”. In 2002 th first collection came out offering mobile phones with a sapphire-crystal screen and ruby bearings, finished in stainless steel, gold and platinum. Over the years different models with high price tags launched a fashion shows, to emphasize the status of a Vertu. The latest model was the Signature Touch, with the top model available at $50,000/€44,000 for the Pure Jet Red Gold.
Optionally you could opt in for a concierge service which was available as a special button on the phone. Via this service a client could reach out to a service desk which organised travel, booked restaurants and hotels, or find a good doctor or florist in a foreign city. Even if you lost your charger the service could supply you to a new one within minutes. The first Vertu Concierge request: a flight from London to New York in 2002.
In the early days Vertu had become a celebrity favourite. Gwyneth Paltrow, an American actress, was the first customer. Madonna and Mariah Carey are said to be Vertu fans; another singer, Jennifer Lopez, was reported to own three.
Smartphones killed the Vertu
In October 2012 Nokia sold Vertu to private equity group EQT VI for an unspecified amount. Technically they moved away from Symbian and started offering Android based smartphones. In 2015, EQT announced that it sold its share of Vertu to Godin Holdings, a Hong Kong-based holding company. July 2017 the Vertu company collapsed. According to criticism the smartphones were technically modest and tasteless trash (Wired Magazine). Vertu was never able to make a successful transition from mobile phone to smartphone and with Siri at hand the concierge service became a bit obsolete.
The Vertu website is still online, but it is unclear for how long.
eBay still offers a lot of Vertu listings, with still a hefty price tag.
The most expensive phone sold on ebay in 2017 is this Vertu Signature S Design – Pure Red Gold for $13,500.