** To bid for this phone in aid of Save the Children, visit Christies.com/HTSI. Online auction ends December 11. **
Vertu has been an extraordinary success story, to the surprise of many, even the brand’s supporters like myself. (I enjoy asking people how many Vertu phones have been bought since the über-exclusive British brand launched in 2002 – they usually guess in the region of 40,000, whereas the true figure is now nearly 10 times that.) And the objections that even relatively informed dissenters raise – the most common being that it’s just “a diamond-encrusted Nokia” – have become the most tedious of calumnies.
For the record – though Technopolis readers will know this if they’ve been paying attention these past 12 years – Vertu’s phones are far from blingy. They’re Hampshire-designed and crafted from the ground up, physically and technologically, and are as insouciantly cool as any fine Swiss watch or beautiful Italian sports car.
Now, this spectacularly stylish new model, the Aster, is my favourite to date. It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.3GHz 801 quad-core processor, has uncanny Dolby Digital Plus virtual surround sound and a Hasselblad-certified 13-megapixel camera. It also comes loaded with invaluable Vertu extras, namely the stellar (and genuinely useful as a 24-hour PA) Concierge service, the increasingly interesting Vertu Life selection of privileges and the peerless Certainty security and encryption ecosystem. The Aster’s hand-bound back in calfskin, karung or ostrich feels unbelievably good in the hand, yet it is – like all Vertu phones – exceptionally tough, with its massive sapphire-crystal screen. I have seen these tested – I even had a go (under supervision from Vertu) at destroying one myself with the handle of a heavy spoon – and can vouch that they are, for all practical purposes, unbreakable. That level of indestructibility alone would be a cogent reason to embrace Vertu, but as mobile phones converge inexorably towards a uniform look and feel, the standout aesthetic of a Vertu is also ever-more attractive.