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Agence France-Presse
October 03, 2013
The handmade Constellation puts build quality and exclusivity above internal specifications in order to justify its $6000 price tag.

Once upon a time, the Vertu phone was the epitome of smartphone luxury and desirability, thanks to its 24/7 concierge hotline, which essentially made it an American Express black card that could make phone calls. As such, just like the BlackBerry for businessmen, it quickly became the must-have gadget for socialites and sports stars alike. It might not have had the best camera or the richest display but where most handsets featured plastics, Vertu's featured stainless steel, titanium, silver, gold and even carbon fibre.

But just like with BlackBerry, something called the iPhone came along and changed everything. Here was a phone that was desirable because it looked good and offered easy access to the internet and then to a multitude of apps, not because it was gold-plated, and Vertu, like its then-parent company, Nokia had to go back to the drawing board.

Built from titanium, the latest Vertu boasts a 13-megapixel camera, Android 4.2 and heavy-duty encryption levels as well as a 24/7 concierge service. Photo: AFP

Today the company exists as an independent business and its latest handsets, like those that went before, put build quality above internal specifications, but Symbian has made way for Android -- meaning owners have access to all of the latest apps --  and the concierge service has got an update with a host of exclusive tailored and curated content and offers to invite-only and secret events from a number from a number of Vertu partners.

And the latest Vertu handset, the Constellation, is no exception. It can't compete with other flagship Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy SIV in terms of performance -- it boasts a 1.7Ghz dual-core processor and 32GB of internal storage-- but the phone's chassis is made not from plastics but from titanium which is stronger, lighter and more expensive than steel. Then there's the 4.3-inch 720p display which on its own isn't exceptional, but what does make it much better is the fact that is covered by a sheet of sapphire glass, the same stuff the military uses in armor plating. Even its case, available in a range of subtle and not so subtle colors is cut from the finest quality calfskin.

The Constellation retails for €4,900 or $6630.