A Vertu Aster smartphone starts at $6,800 (£4,200, or AU$7,720). That's the basic, calf-leather model; if you want ostrich leather and more "refined" fixings, you can expect to pony up as much as $9,500 (£5,900, AU$10,700). For a smartphone. And this a bit of a discount too, being a few thousand bucks cheaper than we saw just a few months ago.
No one needs a $10,000 smartphone. But no one really needs an Aston Martin or a Rolex, either. Luxury goods necessarily exist outside of the realm of practicality, baubles for the few that are willing to spend gobs of cash on premium goods. When we hear the word premium, we generally think sturdier craftsmanship and higher quality materials. It also generally means exclusivity.
The few, the proud
In this case, paying upwards of $7,000 gets you a relatively high-end Android phone: a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 CPU backs the 4.7-inch, 1080p display (473 pixels per inch). The phone runs Android 4.4 KitKat, and offers 64GB of storage space. There's a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera and a 13-megapixel rear-shooter, "tuned with world-renowned photography experts Hasselblad."
The built-in 2,275mAh battery is rated at up to 15 hours and 30 minutes of talk time, and the phone can be charged wirelessly. The antenna covers ten LTE bands so it should work around the world, and all of the expected connectivity trimmings -- NFC, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi -- are tucked in too.
Superficially, we're looking at hardware that's in about the same league as the $650 (£500; AU$740); the rest of the price tag comes from the build. Vertu devices are made in England, and everything -- from turning the screws to polishing the solid ruby Vertu button -- is done by hand. The device is made of Grade 5 titanium alloy, which is stronger than steel at half the weight. The display is made from a single piece of sapphire, and the camera's lens is similarly protected. And while some of us are content to weigh the merits of plastic or aluminum, prospective Vertu Aster owners will choose from calf, Karung, or Ostrich leather. I had no idea that Ostrich hide was held in high regard. (I believe a Karung is a type of snake.)
I do love how exposed the Aster looks, with its metal screws just kind of hanging there, in the open. But I'm not entirely sure that the phone is stylish. And it certainly doesn't seem distinct enough to justify its price tag. The leather is fetching (probably), but I'd imagine it takes a very particular sort of well-heeled technophile to pay this much for what is --trimmings aside -- a fairly standard high-end Android smartphone.
Buying a Vertu phone gets you a 6-month subscription to Vertu's Classic Concierge service, which gets you a team of experts aimed at making your (presumably legal) wishes come true. They'll book unattainable reservations, track down obscure gifts, and generally lend you a hand, 24 hours a day, around the world. And then there's Vertu Life, which gets you access to private clubs, personal shopping services, and VIP packages to international sporting events like Formula 1.
I am not the Vertu's target audience. Truth be told the device is incredibly intimidating: so much money jammed into one place. And that's fine! I'd wager that a far bigger problem is the inexorable march of technology: your $10,000 Rolex is an investment, a refined piece of horological wizardry that you might consider passing down from generation to generation. A $10,000 Vertu Aster is going to be outdated before your complimentary Concierge subscription is up. And old smartphone technology isn't worth a fraction of its original sticker price.
As someone generally inclined to update smartphones every year or two, I'd need to be comically wealthy to drop thousands of dollars on a device I'm planning on replacing the moment some new shiny bauble rears its head. But maybe the Vertu Aster is for you. Pop over to Vertu's site to learn more, and contact a Vertu boutique to see about ordering one.
And no, prices aren't listed: if you have to ask, then you're probably not Vertu's type either.