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23 Jul 2017

Vertu goes bankrupt: farewell to the world's most unnecessarily expensive smartphone

Perhaps charging £40,000 for a mid-range smartphone wasn't the best business model

£128 million deep in debt, smartphone brand Vertu is officially bankrupt. 200 UK jobs will be lost as it shuts down all manufacturing, with owner Murat Hakan Uzan only offering to pay creditors £1.9 million of the debts owed.

If you haven't heard of Vertu before we can't say we blame you - its products aren't exactly for everyone. Itpresented itself as the 'purveyor of the finest luxury mobile phones'. You certainly can't argue with the aesthetics, as handsets come in such decadent cladding as titanium and alligator-hide leather, but the technical specifications were often far from top-of-the-range.

However, you didn't just get a smartphone when buying a Vertu - you also got a full concierge service. The price of each handset also included 18-month access to a personal concierge. This acted as a 'lifestyle manager', which would provide you with 'discreet and personalised 24/7 assistance worldwide'. Currently theservices sectionof the Vertu website says it has suspended those services with the view of relaunching them, better than ever, in September 2017. Whoops.

Best Buy mobile phones - Find out which handsets we think are really worth your money

All beauty and no brains?

Sure, a mobile phone that costs more than a new car sounds ridiculous, but if you have the money to spare and are looking for something special then it's not necessarily the worst investment in the world. Or is it? Perhaps the biggest oversight of Vertu's line of handsets is that for all the money being asked, their tech specs simply aren't that impressive on paper. Take a look at the handsets below alongside some technologically comparable handsets from more reputable, affordable brands.


Left: Vertu Signature, Right: BlackBerry Curve 9320

As the name, and price, suggests, this is Vertu's flagship handset. When it was first released in 2008 it made a lot more sense - or at least as much sense as a £39,000 mobile phone could. Almost ten years on and its continued existence is absolutely baffling.

You don't need to be a tech buff to realise that something is seriously wrong just from looking at thespecs below. The Vertu Signature isn't even a smartphone - it has functionality similar to most other handsets released in 2008, a time when the first iPhone was on sale, but most people were still using more basic handsets.

Whilst woefully lacking in features it is at least available in a wide variety of styles. The cheapest model is made of stainless steel and black leather with a single button made of ruby, but more expensive options feature mother of pearl inlays, sapphire-faced keys, 18 carat gold detailing and polished black sapphire inlays. Nice and subtle.

Want a cheaper handset with the same specs?

Speaking of failing brands, how about a BlackBerry? The Curve 9320 offers all of the above but for a far more reasonable £110 (that's 1/100th of Signature's cheapest price). It also has a full QWERTY keyboard rather than a standard number pad, plus an actual app store. Of course it's hardly the newest or best phone on the market right now, but that shows just how much of a dinosaur the Vertu Signature really is.

What else could you buy for the price?

A two bedroom terraced house in Darlington.

Signature Touch

Left: Vertu Signature Touch, Right: OnePlus 3T

The Signature Touch is a handset that actually looks like it belongs in the smartphone era, thanks to its touchscreen and 4G capability. It's not exactly an iPhone killer, but compared to the Signature it's a steal at a mere £7,500.

Take note that the version of Android it runs is almost two years out of date, as is its processor - although 4GB of RAM is actually quite impressive. It also comes clad in alligator leather or polished titanium, if that's something you look for in a smartphone.

Want a cheaper handset with the same specs?

Take a look at the OnePlus 3T. It's got extremely similar specs to the Signature Touch, but for the much more palatable price of £350 - plus no alligators were harmed in its production (we think). It also runs the latest version of Android, 7.0 Nougat.

What else could you buy for the price?

You could employ a Starbucks barista to be your own personal coffee maker for a whole year.


Left: Vertu Aster, Right: Sony Xperia Z3

Just when we thought Vertu was redeeming itself with the Signature Touch, we get to the Aster. This is a mid-range smartphone in an £8,000 body, although 64GB of internal storage is quite nice, as is 4G support.

You're not buying the Aster for its specs though - you're buying it for its looks, and because you have more money than common sense. How does ostrichleather sound? Brushed titanium? A chassis encrusted with 55 black and white diamonds? All very real options that you can choose to pay through the nose for.

Want a cheaper handset with the same specs?

The Sony Xperia Z3 came out three years ago and sports very similar specifications, diamonds aside. It has less internal memory, but it does have a microSD card slot - unlike the Aster. It's also able to update to Android 6.0 and has a rear-facing camera that's almost twice the resolution, all for £320.

What else could you buy for the price?

A second-hand 2005 Porschse Boxter.


Left: Vertu Constellation, Right: HTC U Ultra

Now we're talking. A Quad-HD screen! A shiny new high-end processor! An enormous 128GB of storage, powered by 4GB of RAM! And all it will cost you is... oh. It's not available. Presumably Vertu was planning on releasing the Constellation later this year, but sadly it looks like that will never happen.

Want a cheaper handset with the same specs?

We can only hazard a guess at how much the Constellation would have cost had it ever seen the light of the production line, but you can get the HTC U Ultra for £590 - which is probably nearing the absolute most anyone should be looking to spend on a smartphone.

What else could you buy for the price?

We'll never know, but presumably a lunar module or a modest Fortune 500 company.