A month ago, the iconic Vertu brand unexpectedly appeared with a new product, the Aster P. Smartphone. For a long time, Vertu was considered a symbol of everything at once: prosperity, the presence of taste or its complete absence – depending on the model. The company, which sold ordinary phones under the guise of jewelry, could not catch the trends in time and went bankrupt, but it seems that it found the strength to return. How it all began and why Vertu did not find a place in the world of Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi – read our material.
When price doesn’t matter
In the courtyard of the late 1990s. Dashing time became calmer: if you first emphasized your status as a single fact of having a cell phone, then gradually the mobile phone became what it was originally intended to be – a usual means of communication. But the mass distribution of forced producers to look for “their” users – those who will remain with one brand for a long time.
Nokia quickly gained a stable market share, but there was one problem. Wealthy people, sitting at a table in a Michelin-starred restaurant and glancing through the window at their supercar, discussed the supply of oil and the purchase of the Monet original through the most usual dialers in a plastic case, at best, with metal-like inserts. Frank Nuovo, the chief designer of Nokia, understood that the situation needs to be corrected: there are customers who are ready to pay almost any amount for a phone of the appropriate quality. The boss of the Finnish company has managed to push the idea of a new brand – the mobile phones of the company should be as uncompromising in quality and authority as luxury accessories.
Nokia’s management agreed with the arguments of Nuovo, and Vertu officially appeared in England in the fall of 1998 . The name refers to the Latin word virtus – “superiority.” Interestingly, the name was customized under a recognizable bar design. Nuovo came up with playing the letter V on the keypad or on the lid of the phone even before choosing the name of the company. It was also immediately agreed that the devices should be assembled by hand – like other things (watches, cars, shoes) of the highest class.
The company at the start turned out to be small: about fifty employees. By the new millennium, Vertu had nothing – no concept, much less a working device. The manufacturer understood that mobile phones, unlike watches, become obsolete very quickly – in just a couple of years. Therefore, Vertu was planning a rudimentary version of the modular design. Over time, when the filling becomes morally useless, some elements of the “iron” (antenna, for example) can be replaced.
By the time Nokia began to hint that it would be necessary to show something to the world. The presentation of the first phone – Signature – can only be organized by the beginning of 2002. In fact, it was the most common mobile phone, but you can say that “Rolls Royce is just a machine.”
Signature case could be platinum or gold (at the request of the buyer). And no imitations – used real precious metal. Against this background, a strong sapphire crystal (no one even knew about Gorilla Glass) already looked like a matter of course. With incoming calls, the owner of the device heard the ringtone by the London Symphony Orchestra. Hence, the fabulous cost – about € 24 thousand. The calculation of Nuovo worked – the mobile attracted people who, in principle, do not look at price tags.
The company offered customers much more than just an expensive phone. A full-fledged Vertu Concierge assistance service was developed that could be contacted on almost any question, no matter where you were. Buy a plane ticket, book a hotel and restaurant, rent a car – all this can be done through a call to the concierge. Something like these questions now help solve smart assistants like Siri. But, firstly, there was no such technology at that time, and secondly, it is safer and more pleasant to delegate daily efforts to a living person than to entrust them to artificial intelligence. The level of service Vertu Concierge, judging by the stories, really worth the money (€ 89 per month for a standard package of services and a VIP option with a personal assistant for € 300). For example, if you forgot to put shoes in your luggage, and upon arrival you will have an important meeting, the company’s specialists can deliver shoes directly to the hotel room or to the terminal at the airport.
The manufacturer decided to expand the model line through limited versions and partnerships with top brands from the fashion and automotive industries. Characteristics of devices target audience was almost not interested. What is the difference, how many megahertz are there in the processor, if the case is titanium, with leather inserts, one-on-one as in your Bentley? By the way, the brand had a partnership with this British automaker, and with Ferrari: the logos on the phones, a special ringtone, repeating engine sound, and other pleasant things for owners.
The company presented new items in different form factors: the Constellation Ayxta clamshell and the Constellation Quest smart phone with a QWERTY-keyboard came out. He was still on Symbian, if you remember such an operating system. Various modifications, including rare versions, were uncountable. The manufacturer did not hesitate to sculpt an exorbitant price tag on them – they will still buy it. Prices for exclusive gadgets soared to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the latest version of Signature Cobra Limited Edition cost $ 360 thousand. But the phone with 439 rubies in the case was delivered by helicopter.
IPhone suddenly appears
It would seem that Vertu is doing well, but 2007 came. Apple introduced its vision of the smartphone, and it became clear that other phones, if not totally outdated in one day, then at least well behind the iPhone. Finnish Nokia and other brands were not ready for this. And if the head company is bad, then the branch will not be good either.
The Finns began to slip: their Symbian was no good compared to iOS, which set new standards for operating systems in smartphones. Google quickly joined the race with its Android. Microsoft, too, did not give up at first and developed Windows Phone. So in the early 2010s, a new top three was formed, and for Nokia and Vertu came troubled times.
The first touchscreen smartphone Constellation appeared only in 2011. By that time, it was impossible to surprise anyone, and even conservative supporters of the brand could hardly feel the wow effect of poking a finger at the display. Moreover, the device was on Symbian, which has not changed radically, and with each month more and more lagged behind the gaining momentum of Android and iOS. Things are getting worse, and Nokia decides to get rid of Vertu.
In 2012, an investment fund from Sweden, EQT Partners , buys the company for approximately € 200 million (the exact amount was not disclosed). New owners decide to jump into the last car and represent the first Vertu device on Android. This is a Ti model with a titanium case. The screen of 3.7 inches didn’t seem tiny at that time, the device supported microSD memory cards, had 1 GB of RAM and an 8 megapixel main camera … In general, it was the most common smartphone, but in a chic case and with a total price about $ 10 thousand. There are fewer reasons to choose such a mobile phone instead of the iPhone or flagships on Android: yes, it is still “expensive-rich”, but other smartphones are also of high-quality, and the operating system is the same.
The company has expanded the list of available services. In addition to Vertu Concierge, he made his debut Vertu Me email client, as well as the Vertu Life service, which was dedicated to high society entertainment and social life. At the same time, the public is represented by Certainty – the program is responsible for the safety and security of user data.
But EQT Partners could not break the brand and after a few years decided to get rid of it. The change of ownership is stormy: the company was under the wing of both the Hong Kong-based Godin Holdings, and the Cypriot Baferton. It is the latter, by the way, and released an updated version of the very Vertu with a ruby cobra.
In the summer of last year, it would seem, the point in the history of the brand is put – the company said that it dissolves its employees and turns off the production of telephones. But suddenly there is information about the release of Aster P for $ 4 thousand. The device, to put it mildly, raises questions: a Full HD display, a Snapdragon 660 processor (not even the flagship Snapdragon 845!), 6 GB of RAM – without thinking, you can recall within $ 600-700, which rolls out a new Vertu in any benchmark. At the same time, the gadget has a titanium frame and crocodile leather is available among the finishing materials – it seems that this is much more important for buyers, not the numbers in the tests.
The future of Vertu is very difficult. On the one hand, the company has managed to create the most powerful brand, which in the world of mobile phones is the same as Rolex in the watch industry. And on the other hand, if you need to stand out with a special smartphone, many companies will gladly make a case for the iPhone or any other device, even gold, platinum, or aircraft alloys, if only the client has enough money for its whim. Against this background, the stylized letter V loses its former charm.