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Vertu launches its first Android smartphone, the $11,000 Vertu TI

Vertu TI

(Be sure to read our full Vertu TI hands on to learn more.)

At a swish launch event in London, Vertu, the luxury mobile phone manufacturer formerly part of Nokia, has unveiled its first smartphone running Google Android. After years of Symbian and Series 40, the Vertu TI finally provides it’s wealthy owners with a modern operating system to match the stunning hardware.

While discussing the specification of the Vertu TI really misses the point, and isn’t at all what the phone is about, the TI represents a Vertu first as it actually has a feature list worth talking about. The screen measures 3.7-inches and has a 480 x 800 pixel resolution, while powering the phone is a dual-core, 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor. The 8-megapixel camera can shoot 1080p video, plus there is a 1.3-megapixel video call lens above the screen, NFC, and 64GB of internal storage memory.

The Google Android operating system is 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which although isn’t the latest version, is upgradeable in the future. Vertu has created its own user interface, which is very subtle and not at all intrusive. The familiar app launcher remains, as does the pull-down notification panel and the multiple home screens. It’s noticeably cleaner-looking though, and incorporates Vertu’s trademark Concierge service perfectly.

Concierge on call

It is accessed using a dedicated button on the side of the device, which brings up and attractive three-button menu. This is very much a part of Vertu’s appeal, and one of the reasons behind the high price. The Concierge is on hand 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, and will assist you with anything from making restaurant reservations to finding someone to deliver a crisp, white dress shirt at short notice. Communicating with the concierge can be done over the phone, by text message or by instant message.

This feature is joined by Life where your interests, combined with your previous interactions with the concierge, come together in a list of recommendations for what to do and see based on your location. Because it’s created by a real person, not an algorithm, it’s very personal. Finally there’s Certainty, which connects you to your own security company which can be used for background checks or even for hiring a bodyguard. While you and I may not have a need for such things, Vertu’s research says there are plenty of people who do.

Luxury doesn’t come cheap

The phone itself is typically Vertu, but far more modern and appealing than any phone the company has previously produced; almost as if the removal of Symbian and S40 has exorcised the ghost of those impressive but unattractive designs with which the brand is associated. It’s handmade from forged aluminum, polished titanium, and sapphire crystal, and feels incredible in the hand. The alligator leather is there if you want it, but it’s an option rather than the phone’s signature style.

There are four versions of the Vertu TI: The Titanium Black Leather, the Titanium Pure Black, the Titanium Black Alligator and the Black PVD Titanium Red Gold Mixed Metals. They cost 7,900 euros, 9,500 euros, 10,500 euros and 16,500 euros respectively. Convert that over into dollars and you’ve got $10,700, $12,950, $14,300 and $22,500. Yep, the Vertu TI costs more than the smartphones we normally talk about, but then Ferrari cars and Breitling watches are more expensive than a BMW 3-Series and a Swatch, and that’s the difference between a Galaxy S3 and a Vertu TI.