October 13 2010
One part of this – the latest and most ambitious phone from Vertu – exercised the team of engineers and craftspeople at their Hampshire factory for months. They experimented ceaselessly to get it right and were finally triumphant. Making this phone component is a laborious process that takes a specially built machine 15 minutes per piece. And that’s just for carving an intricate lattice of semicircular shapes into the steel. There’s still more to do to finish the component – fitting dozens of ant-sized screws, applying a cowhide cover and more.
So which part are we talking about? Er, the battery cover. And those engraved shapes? They’re on the inside of the cover, where the owner might never see them.
About 10 years ago Vertu introduced the once-insane idea of hand-crafted luxury mobile phones, and I need hardly labour the point that the company is developing an ever-more serious – and pleasing – form of design and manufacturing OCD.
The Constellation Quest is Vertu’s foray into the BlackBerry/iPhone space – but for high-end, global consumers who find mass-produced products a bit uninspiring, yet still want to look like serious businesspeople, not dilettantes.
The Quest is a gleaming, dense, impressive piece of hardware and does what it does (web, GPS, Nokia Ovi apps, FM radio, camera etc, etc) with élan. It runs an enhanced version of Symbian software, and comes with a Vertu e-mail account (rather chic), which is automatically backed up, along with your calendar and contacts, to Vertu’s secure servers. But the truth is, I’d be amazed if more than 10 per cent of buyers – even you serious business users – bother with more than 10 per cent of its features. They’ll like to know their phone (sorry, Vertu, “communication device”) has these capabilities, but will, I guarantee, primarily use it for phone calls and texts.
The Quest’s functionality will be what propels them to key in their Pin. But the things that will inspire them post-purchase will be that it feels, from the first of a million fondles, a thing of sublime, leathery beauty (my notes say “like a flat cricket ball”) and that the concierge service has evolved into something jolly close to an all-purpose global personal assistant with tailored services including a global, Vertu-flavoured travel digest, City Brief.