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Vertu closes shop, leaving billionaires to buy phones elsewhere

After running with what seemed like an unsustainable business model for years, luxury phone maker Vertu has shut down. The BBC reports Vertu is currently in the process of liquidating its assets, and 200 people have subsequently lost their jobs.

Vertu had previously changed hands a couple of times since being founded in 1998, most recently being sold by its Chinese owner in March to a Turkish businessman who planned to put in the necessary money to keep it going. It is reported that Vertu was running on a deficit of £128 million, however.

On the face of it, this isn't all that surprising. Vertu has made some absolutely gorgeous smartphones with brilliant materials and truly unique craftsmanship that were fun to think about owning. But the prices were completely out of consideration for just about everyone — its most recent phone, the "mid-range" Constellation, started at $6,000. Some models were over $15,000.

People want a great smartphone experience more than they want a diamond-encrusted phone.

The prices were that high because they were hand-made in the UK out of exceptional materials — and naturally, produced in very small numbers. At the same time, Vertu wasn't able to keep up with the latest innovations that all smartphones were offering — its specs weren't great, its skin of Android was dated and it never produced a great camera. This model of creating bespoke ultra-luxury phone made far more sense 10 years ago before high-powered smartphones were the norm, but in the past few years this model was becoming increasingly unsustainable.

Even multi-millionaires, with all of their conspicuous consumption, typically just use the same iPhone 7 or Galaxy S8 that you and I do because they're simply the best phones. These flagship smartphones are really good, and having a phone made out of calf leather, titanium, sapphire and diamonds actually isn't worth using subpar software and a mediocre camera.

Vertu's Turkish owner will retain the rights to the Vertu brand as well as its in-house technology and licenses, but it isn't yet known if he plans to do anything with it. For now, the select few who own a Vertu have an (even more) extremely limited edition piece of smartphone history.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

31 Comments
  • I don't understand for the prices they commanded why they couldn't put top of the line internals and paid a company like cyanogen to handle their OS. Rich people would have gladly bought them if they weren't terrible software experiences.
  • It makes me wonder who was handling the internals and OS. Were they doing it themselves, or were they outsourcing to some no-name company in China? Could it be possible that they really didn't know much about the actual phone design, beyond the outer shell? Perhaps they had a vendor build the internals, another vendor develop the software, and then they'd build the outer shell themselves and assemble the parts. As for allowing Cyanogen to handle the OS and software, that assumes they knew who Cyanogen is. If they're outsourcing everything but the outside of the phone and the concierge service, then they might not know more than the contract vendor is telling them.
  • I agree with @fuzzylumpkin below. No company who ever partnered with Cyanogen ever came back for a second term. One year's worth of phones, and that was it. In hindsight, I'm thankful OnePlus moved to OxygenOS.
  • Probably a combination of R&D time and parts sourcing for the hardware... On the software, I see where you're coming from, but Cyanogen is a terrible example. They proved every time someone made the poor choice to partner with them that they were incredibly undependable.
  • I think you also got a 24/7 concierge service as well with these phones. That level of service doesn't come cheap.
  • "A fool and his money are soon parted."
  • The person who come up with this idea is a most stupid genius.
  • Goodbye useless company.
  • I agree with everything in the article. It basically was dumb to showcase these on an older Android platform and hardware. It is a shame though that they couldn't go on to develop a proper cutting edge device internally (diamond pun not intended) to go with the external finish and concierge / support. Wealthy people who want to bling everything will get a case or have specialised companies emboss their iPhone with all manner of finishes. I aspire to own a plane, a Porsche and a yacht but I can no longer aspire to the next Vertu :sob: (not really)
  • High end smartphones lmao they are a utility device ! How foolish have I been to pay anymore than $499.99 for ANY phone! They go out of style, they easily break, lost, stolen, etc. I'm not putting a case on my phone- defeats the design purpose - a holster to carry when out and about yes, but that's it. The general consumer is slowly waking up - this will be Samsung and Apple soon if they don't stop being greedy. I refuse to pay near $1,000 for a d*@; cellphone no matter what it does! Then to only have it forgotten in 6 months when it's successor is out lol ahahaha fools - this market is way too saturated to waste $
  • They're not greedy. That's market price. Don't like it, don't pay it.
  • They are greedy...lol -it goes without mention, if a consumer finds a price to be inflated (regardless to what 'you' think) for an item they more than likely will not purchase said product, but this doesn't absolve them from having an opinion......
  • While I agree with you on the cost of Samsung and Apple on their phone's, at least they're a good product. Vertu was charging crazy prices basically for high end external materials.
  • Absolutely, it is all a gimmick if you ask me, for the most part the products are "good" but they are still inflated (because they can) - just look at how big the prices drop after only a few months. There is no longevity, no loyalty, and they did this to themselves.... I saw this coming years ago, we have way too many devices being released too frequently. The market is highly over saturated and the prices continue to increase o_O - greed - and brand commands the price- either way the premiums tacked on said devices is highly egregious
  • A move that should shock no one
  • Gee, I'm shocked. 😱 LOL.
  • wtf?! i still have 6 months of concierge left..
  • Thank god some one out there has some common sense. the www hype surrounding these polished turds was pathetic. High end 18 month disposable industry... Brilliant.
  • List of companies next to die (not in any specific order): LeEco (already dead man walking)
    Sears/KMart (D.M.W. too)
    Target
    Macy's
    HTC
    Fiat/Chrysler (again)
    Zynga (will anyone even notice?)
    Uber (will merge with Lyft, quote me on it)
    Blue Apron (the first second gen dot.com bubble pops that will start the second bubble burst)
    One of the biggest wireless phone providers...Sprint will get bought by Verizon...can you hear me now?
    United Airlines (won't be able to weather the negative PR and will merge with like Delta...)
  • You must work for LG Life's good eh? /4 KEYᵒⁿᵉ
  • As I've explained when Android Central reviewed this phone: billionaires DID NOT buy this phone.
    In fact, you'd be surprised by the sort of phones billionaires actually buy. The only people who were buying this were New Rich people. Think classless buffoons like football players, Middle-Eastern oil tycoons etc. And that, allied with the fact that the phones actually haven't been anything special since Vertu was cut from Nokia, only herald this result. I'm actually surprised this lasted this long....
  • Im "new rich" but sane enough to know better than to buy this companies product. Get better concierge services from other things that actually really matter. They possibly, might be worth something now as collectors items much like my near mint Iron Man #1 signed by Stan Lee, but I doubt they will command real dollars or have a real secondary market like most collectibles.
  • Their model made no sense. In order to sell enough to be profitable, they'd need to be able to sell the same model for 2-3 years. In the flip-phone era that may have been doable. In the smartphone era? Heck no. 6 months is a lifetime in mobile now, and only the very best phones can expect significant sales after that timeframe. Vertu certainly couldn't, not when they didn't have the size to compete on software either. Their phones were luxurious, but out of date before they were ever released.
  • If this company wanted to stand a chance, they should have done two things: 1. Give the phones specifications that are on par or better than the Pixel phones. 2. Release an affordable/regular brand to fund their luxurious line! They clearly saw that the have premium-only phones in their lines has done nothing, but put them in circles. If they had been willing to do this, they could have at least had that line afloat, but nope! They let pride and poor specifications get the better of them.
  • Damnit just when I was done saving enough for one. Well guess will settle with couple hundred Moto e4s instead
  • Not even a billionaire would buy one. It's a classic case of style without substance.
  • Was waiting for this to happen lol. I didn't understand how they were still standing, turns out they've been crawling all along.
  • I had the idea that Vertu could just make upscale versions of otherr manufactures phones. A Vertu Samsung Galaxy S8 for example. A device with a stainless steel or titanium frame with a sapphire screen and ruby buttons. Call it the S8 Vertue Edition.
  • This company is 5 minutes walk from my front door. I should be mortified. But the failure is long overdue. Unlike Nokia, (who also had an office a few miles from me) I'm not even surprised
  • Spencer Pratt ALMOST got me to buy one.
  • This just goes to show that people who have money to burn also have some sense of value. If you're going to spend $6k on a phone, get something at the top of the line and then customize it a the nth degree. And the concierge service is only useful for people who can't consider a $6k phone - The ones that can don't need it, because they are the ones that still have personal assistants to do this kind of work.