Vertu trades flash for restraint in the mature, polished-titanium Aster

I sat down in a calm, and very swish, suite at London’s Ham Yard Hotel, moments away from the insanely busy Piccadilly Circus. I was there to see the new Vertu Aster smartphone, and it was sitting on the table in front of me. In fact, there was a whole collection of them, in a wide variety of colors, all face down. I spent a moment looking at it, and I didn’t really like it.

This was a horrid shock. Every Vertu phone I’ve been faced with in the past has prompted an immediate reaction, but this was the first time one underwhelmed me. It was far less in-your-face than I expected. Although clearly beautifully made, my eyes were examining it for overt flourishes, or a sign of madness; but finding none. If it was an instrument, it would have been a flute, compared to the Signature Touch’s clarinet, or the Vertu TI’s electric guitar.

Beauty that takes time to appreciate

However, over the course of an hour, the Aster became more attractive. Not in a getting-drunk-and-anything-will-do kind of way, but in a the-more-I-look-the-more-beauty-I-see way. The polished titanium side pieces are gorgeous, and have a smoothed out scoop running the length of the phone, interrupted by tiny screws and some finely crafted buttons. At each end, the titanium has been rounded off to perfection. Twist the phone so it catches the light, and it emphasizes the precision of the milling.

There are no swirls, twists, slashes, or lasers; only straight lines to break up the simple panel.

Above the screen is the “pillow” as Vertu calls it, which is split into three sections. On the right is the front facing camera lens — covered in sapphire glass, of course — while the center section uses the V logo for the speaker mouth. It’s a great decision, and one which I hope will find its way onto more Vertu phones in the future. Separating the third section is a notification light. On certain models, two of these sections come in polished titanium, and it looks fantastic.

Turn the phone over and you’re greeted by a rectangular metal panel containing the camera lens, dual-LED flash, and SIM-card door. It’s secured over the leather-clad surface with four screws, and for Vertu, is almost willfully under designed. There are no swirls, twists, slashes, or lasers; only straight lines to break up the simple panel. It’s this which caused my initial reaction. Where is the drama?

Mature and restrained

Even the Constellation was a little bit crazy, especially in bright orange. The Aster is incredibly well-behaved. The subtlety of the design, best described as chic, really does take time to appreciate. This is reflected in the choice of name. An Aster is a daisy-like flower. It’s pretty, colorful, and wonderfully British. It’s not a big show-off like a rose, but a favorite which everyone can appreciate. The Aster smartphone won’t wow like its peers, but there’s a good chance it will win more admirers over time.

It’s possible to funk up the Aster by choosing one of the new ostrich leather options, which are suitably eye-catching, but the unique look won’t be for everyone. Ultimately, the Aster is a Vertu phone for those who don’t want to make a fuss. It’s even more restrained than the Constellation, and the maturity of the design shows Vertu’s becoming more comfortable in the luxury product space.

Technically impressive

The Aster shouldn’t be thought of as a replacement to the Constellation — which lives on in the range — or the poor relative of the Signature Touch. The technical specification is equally as tempting. The 5.1-inch sheet of sapphire crystal glass gives the 4.8-inch 1080p display a beautiful sheen, and a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 2GB of RAM keeps the Android 4.4 KitKat OS running very smoothly.

Android is left fairly standard here, aside from some very cool animated wallpapers, plus some specially commissioned pieces taken from the Tate Gallery, the usual high quality ringtones, and the Vertu suite of apps. Unlike the Constellation, Vertu’s famous Concierge is included here, although it’s referred to as the “Classic” service, which means you won’t always speak to the same person.

Following its debut on the Signature Touch, Hasselblad’s back onboard for the Aster, and has been responsible for tuning the images produced by the 13-megapixel rear camera. Vertu and Hasselblad wanted to move away from the bright, overly-saturated, high contrast images which are common in the smartphone world, and edge toward more natural, neutral pictures. The Signature Touch’s camera was perhaps too restrained, but apparently the software has been refined for the Aster, but we’ll have to wait until we spend more time with the phone to offer up judgement. A quick indoor shot taken with the Aster did look great.

My time fondling the Aster was almost at an end, and although it had taken longer than usual, I found myself daydreaming about the color combination I would choose, should I be in the enviable position to buy one. Vertu is introducing a wider range of customization options across its range, making the buying process an even more personal one. On that subject, the Aster will be sold though Vertu’s newly opened, global online store, and should be available from October 2.

Vertu is evolving, and our assumptions about its hardware should evolve with it. There’s no longer any need to raise eyebrows with an outrageous design. The Aster is demure, rather than ostentatious, and requires time to appreciate. To get this reaction from a phone, and not a piece of jewelry or art, is impressive; and the Aster cements Vertu’s place at the very top of the luxury mobile tree.

Product Review

The gorgeous Oppo Find X plays hard to get, but is it worth the chase?

Is the Oppo Find X the most beautiful smartphone we’ve ever seen? We think it’s right up there, but because it’s an import-only phone, you’ll have to put in some effort to get one. Is it worth going the extra mile?
Home Theater

The best MP3 player you can buy (and four alternatives)

Want to go for a run, but your phone is weighing you down? No worries. Can't fit your whole music library on your smartphone? Don't sweat it. Check out our list of the best MP3 players, and find one that works for you.
Home Theater

The best noise-canceling headphones paint your music on a cleaner canvas

Drowning out the sound of babies, jet engines, and the outside world isn't as hard as it seems. Here are the best noise-canceling headphones, whether you're concerned with style, comfort, or sound.
Product Review

Someday it will do 5G, but the Moto Z3 is already a great phone

Motorola’s flagship smartphone of 2018 looks exactly like its mid-range smartphone of 2018, but powered by a processor from 2017. It’s still a great-performing phone for $480, and it will be the first upgradable 5G smartphone next year.

Google confirms it still tracks users who turn Location History off

Google is tracking your location -- even when you tell it not to. According to an investigation by the Associated Press, Google services store location data, regardless of whether privacy settings claim otherwise.

Is your smartphone frozen? Here's how to reset your iPhone

You can do a lot with an iPhone, but if you ever run into an issue with it, the first thing you should do is restart it. In this guide, we tell you how to reset your iPhone, and explain how it differs from a factory reset.
Home Theater

Crazybaby’s Air 1S true wireless earbuds won’t make you look like a dork

Audio technology company Crazybaby has launched the Air 1S true wireless earbuds, offering considerable connectivity improvements over previous models while retaining the sleek style and supreme comfort.

The HTC U12 Plus is now available in color-shifting Flame Red shade

HTC has released some pretty great flagship phones in the past few years, and it's now aiming to follow up with another one. After plenty of rumors and leaks, the company has finally taken the wraps off of the new HTC U12 Plus.

A subway passenger may have snagged a shot of the upcoming Pixel 3 XL

It hasn't been too long since Google launched the Pixel 2, but it's already gearing up for the next iteration, the Google Pixel 3. Here's everything we know about the upcoming phones so far.

HMD may announce the U.S. release of the Nokia 6.1 Plus next week

It's shaping up to be a big year for HMD. After announcing five phones at MWC earlier this year, the handset manufacturer is reportedly bringing another budget phone, the Nokia 6.1 Plus, to the U.S.

Newly leaked photos show a fully functioning Motorola One Power

Many of us have come to know and love Motorola's extensive lineup of budget phones. But Motorola makes some pretty awesome midrange smartphones as well. And it looks like we're about to see its next phone, the Motorola One Power, very soon.

How to find a lost phone, whether it's Android, iPhone, or any other kind

Need to know how to find a lost phone? Here, we’ll help you locate your lost or stolen phone using both native and third-party apps and services, whether it’s a smartphone or an older variety.
Product Review

Sony's underwhelming XZ2 Premium makes a better camera than a phone

Sony’s third flagship phone of 2018 is its first to ever feature a dual-camera lens. The Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium can capture ultra-low-light video far better than the iPhone X or Galaxy Note 9, but is it worth the high cost?

The OnePlus 6T could launch on T-Mobile in October, report says

According to a recent report, the launch of the OnePlus 6T could be different from any other OnePlus launch in history. How? It could have the backing of a major U.S. carrier. The report notes that the phone could launch on T-Mobile.