Vertu Constellation: Our first take

Vertu’s Constellation is a $6,000 smartphone for the not-quite-ridiculously rich

All the luxury and exclusivity you’d expect from a Vertu phone, but without the overly dramatic visual punch or the crazy price tag.

If you’ve looked on with envious eyes at the Vertu New Signature Touch with its outrageous “gull wing” style door feature on the back, and decided it just wasn’t subtle enough; then the new Vertu Constellation may be the perfect compromise between style, luxury, and subtlety. If you’re still undecided, perhaps the lower price of the Constellation will eventually sway you. We’ve had the chance to try the phone out, and like all Vertu phones, it left quite an impression. Here’s what we thought.

The last time we heard the Constellation name, it was back in 2013, and the phone to which it was attached had the same mission: Give people who either didn’t want or couldn’t justify the cost of the company’s flagship phone a chance to join the family. The new 2017 Constellation will cost less than the New Signature Touch, but we came away from using the phone, thinking we may prefer it over one anyway.

Its subtlety shines through the longer you examine the details. The pillow — that’s the section where the speaker is hidden above the screen — is slim and unobtrusive, yet still a beautiful aspect of the design. The front of the Constellation is dominated by an expanse of 6th generation sapphire glass, which covers a 5.5-inch, 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution screen. Sapphire glass has a slightly different look in comparison with Gorilla Glass. A highly polished, deeper sheen brings out the best in this display. It’s the first time Vertu has gone beyond 1,920 x 1,080 pixels on its screens, and it’s a welcome addition.

No gull wing door madness or builder’s signature

The Constellation is wonderfully comfortable to hold. A machined trench sliced down the aluminum side panels ensures it nestles in your palm and avoids the sharp, angled edge that runs along the top side. It’s interspersed with the power and volume keys, plus Vertu’s trademark ruby button to activate Concierge. This is Vertu’s 24/7 personal assistant service, and it’s a massive part of the phone’s appeal. It joins Vertu Life — where exclusive offers and services are available to Vertu owners — plus secure calls through Silent Circle, anti-theft services, and other benefits.

It’s beautifully made, feels strong as an ox, and we adore the more subtle design and styling.

Examine the sides closely and you’ll notice a traditional SIM tray cut into it. This is a real departure for Vertu, which in the past has hidden the SIM behind a spring-loaded door, making it a talking point. Part of the reason is the decision to use a dual-SIM system on the Constellation. The dual-SIM slot increases its versatility, adding another connectivity feature to the 34 international bandwidths for true global network support, but removes one of the things we always adored about Vertu. A little bit of unique madness you didn’t find on any other phone. It also means the Constellation doesn’t have somewhere to hide the signature of the person who built the phone, unlike most other Vertu devices.

However, the lack of a crazy SIM door makes the phone less fussy, which follows with the rest of the design. There are three colors at launch: a pinkish berry, a blue-grey octane, and an earthy walnut. All the colors are brought to life using leather sourced from an Italian tannery. Simpler lines, strong colors, flatter panels, and fewer visual flourishes mean it’s less dramatic than the New Signature Touch, but the phone is all the better for it. It could be argued the disappearance of the SIM door and the signature of the builder does away with some of the character that’s so important in a Vertu phone, though.

Tech lags behind

Choosing a Vertu phone has rarely been a decision based on the device’s technical prowess, but there are several welcome new additions on the Constellation. The higher resolution screen is one, along with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 (not the newest Qualcomm chip, but still a good performer), 4GB of RAM, 128GB of internal memory and for the first time, a fingerprint sensor on the front. This, along with NFC, means Android Pay is supported. The sensor worked well in our quick tests. It’s a shame Android 6.0 is installed, which is well behind the latest software version, but the security patch was listed as January 2017.

We can’t judge the camera yet. It takes pictures at 12 megapixels, and has a large pixel size for better low-light performance. The software, which is Vertu’s own, was fast to react and the app has a handy shortcut. Press the sleep/wake key twice, and it opens instantly even when the phone is locked.

Vertu will put the Constellation on sale in mid-February, but the price is still to be announced. While it’ll be cheaper than the New Signature Touch, we’d expect a budget of at least $6,000 will be required. Yes, all the same old arguments apply. Yes, you can get more technology for less, but you won’t get even close to the degree of luxury and air of exclusivity provided by a Vertu phone.

It’s beautifully made, feels strong as an ox, and we adore the more subtle design and styling. It’s a Vertu phone for every day, but that said, we’re a little concerned some of the Vertu character has been lost with the Constellation, and that it won’t feel quite so special to use. The New Signature Touch gives you the full Vertu experience, while the Constellation eases you into the company’s exclusive, luxury tech world much more gently.

Highs

  • Beautifully styled
  • Bullet-proof build quality
  • High-resolution screen
  • Concierge service included

Lows

  • Old version of Android
  • Behind the tech curve
  • Special Vertu touches missing
Product Review

If you don't know about Genesis yet, the G70 is going to change that

The 2019 Genesis G70 is Korea’s first attempt to take on the vaunted German trio of BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Competition doesn’t come much tougher than that.
Mobile

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.
Gaming

Who needs a Switch? These 25 games prove there's fun to be found on 3DS

The 3DS is home to a large library, including some of the greatest games Nintendo has ever published. We've compiled this list of some of the best Nintendo 3DS games currently available.
Gaming

Still have holiday cash to blow? Grab one of these awesome Xbox One games

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Computing

Changing a PDF into an EPUB file is easier than you might think

If you like to read on a tablet or ebook reader, you'll find that ePUB files offer a number of advantages over PDFs. With this guide, we'll show you how to convert a PDF to EPUB in a few quick steps.
Deals

Here are 20 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up while on the go (or for some great small gift ideas), we've rounded up 20 must-have gadgets. You'll find everything from a mini gaming controller to a folding Bluetooth keyboard.
Mobile

Benchmark scores surface for Google's midrange Pixel 3 XL Lite

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a midrange line. Say hello to the Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel 3 Lite XL.
Mobile

Samsung's advanced folding phone needed 'total reconfiguration' to make it real

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display tech for a few years and now a folding smartphone might finally arrive. The Galaxy X, or perhaps the Galaxy Fold, may be the company's first example. Here's everything we know about it.
Mobile

The Sony Xperia XZ4 shines in case renders from accessory maker Olixar

Sony may have released the Xperia XZ3 in the past few months, but already it's preparing to release a follow-up, the Xperia XZ4. We're learning plenty about the phone now some details have started to leak out, and it's getting exciting.
Apple

Rumors say Apple's AirPower wireless charger may finally be in production

At its September event in 2018, Apple unveiled the AirPower, a new wireless charging mat that will allow you to charge multiple devices at one time. It has not yet been released. Here's everything we know about the device so far.
Computing

Beam up the videos: AirPlay support is coming to VLC player

At CES 2019, the developers of VLC player announced they are adding support for Apple's Airplay feature, allowing consumers to beam video and other content from their iPhone and Android devices to an Apple TV. 
Mobile

The LG G8 ThinQ may arrive at MWC 2019 with an on-screen speaker

LG is expected to release a successor to the LG G7 ThinQ, possibly called the LG G8 ThinQ, this year and rumors about it are already spreading. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Mobile

Oppo could reveal a new smartphone with a 10x optical zoom

Cracking a solid zoom on smartphones has been a riddle many years in the solving. One company may have finally cracked it though: Oppo may be about to show off a phone with a 10x optical zoom.
Outdoors

Nike’s Adapt BB shoes let you tighten your laces with an iPhone

The new Nike Adapt BB shoe comes with smartphone connectivity that allows the user to tighten the laces using a smartphone while providing the ability to adjust tension throughout the game.