Skip to main content

The quick take

Made of premium materials with a solid design, the Vertu Signature Touch is an impressive piece of hardware with some cool services to back it up. But it's hobbled by inconsistent performance that hurts the value proposition.

The Good

  • Sapphire screen, titanium and leather body
  • One-touch concierge access
  • Nearly stock Android

The Bad

  • Frequent lagging glitches
  • Still a normal smartphone inside
  • Poor camera performance
  • 4.7-inch HD display
  • 1920x1080 resolution (473ppi)
  • Sapphire crystal cover
  • 16MP, Hasselblad certified
  • 2.1MP front-facing camera
  • 2275 mAh battery
  • 15 hours talk time, 380 hours standby
  • Qi wireless charging
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
  • Quad-core 2.3GHz
  • 2GB RAM
  • 64GB internal storage
  • 24/7 concierge: phone, email, or chat
  • Vertu Life curated privileges and services

Just what does $9,000 get you in a smartphone?

Vertu Signature Touch Full Review

"Hey, what phone is that?" Normally conversations I have with friends about phones come down to why I carry two at any one point or why those two are constantly changing. But it's rare that a just any phone sitting on a table prompts conversation like that. But the Vertu Signature Touch isn't just any phone.

Truth be told, this wasn't the first time I'd had this very conversation. I'd only had the phone for a few days and had gone through the process of explaining it a few times over. So I did it again, starting by casually handing them the phone.

"This is the Vertu Signature Touch."

"Ver-who?"

"Vertu."

He turned the phone over in his hands, "This is really nice. How much is it?"

"Well …" I pointed at the display, "The screen is covered with sapphire crystal. The body is made out of titanium," I turned the phone over in his hand, "And real calf leather." I took the phone back, hooked my thumbnail into the D-ring on the back, "It was handmade in England." A twist of the D-ring popped open the metal SIM card door, and I pointed at the inside of the door, "And that's the signature of the guy who put it together."

"Whaaaaat?" He leaned in close to inspect the engraved mark.

I snapped the SIM door closed, turned to the right side of the phone, and tapped my finger right next to the transparent red button by the power button "And this button is a ruby; it opens a 24/7 concierge."

He looked down at the phone, up at me, back at the phone, and then back up at me, "Seriously?"

I handed the phone back to him, "Seriously. Now how much is it?"

He flipped the phone over in his hands, running his fingers over the stitching in the leather back, "A thousand dollars."

"Okay, for comparison: your iPhone is really a $650 phone."

"Hmmm … two-thousand."

"Higher." I let a bit of a smirk show on my face.

"Five-thousand?" I shook my head back and forth, prompting a "Good lord, how much is it?"

I smiled, "Nine-thousand dollars."

He shouted, "What?" A few people around us turned to see what the commotion was about, finding a guy holding a phone. He gingerly set it on the table, "Nine-thousand dollars? How the … wha t…" He picked it back up and said softly, "That's a really nice phone."

"Yeah, it is."

About this review

We're writing this review after about two weeks using the Vertu Signature Touch. Ours was the jet black calf leather model. During this time we had the phone connected to a Moto 360 smartwatch over Bluetooth.

The Vertu Signature Touch was released in summer 2014, but with the solid gold Apple Watch Edition making waves in luxury technology, we thought it was time to take a look at what Vertu has to offer for users of a certain tax bracket.

Titanium, sapphire, leather …

Vertu Signature Touch Hardware

Your standard flagship phone in 2014 is made out of one of a few materials: chemically-strengthened glass, plastic/polycarbonate, and/or aluminum. There are a few outliers, like the wood backs available on the Moto X or the leather on it or the LG G4. But no phone you can buy from your local carrier store is made of materials as nice as the Vertu Signature Touch.

We'll start with the display, which is a 4.7-inch 1080p LCD. It's not a large display, but it's flanked by substantial bezels on all sides. The screen itself offers true colors and a bright enough backlight, but it was easily overpowered by direct sunlight. Overtop of that LCD panel is a sheet of sapphire crystal, inset slightly on all sides. Sapphire is used here for the same reason it's used in luxury watches: it offers better optical clarity and stronger damage resistance than glass, even of the Gorilla variety. Sapphire is remarkably difficult to scratch, sitting at 9 on the Mohs hardness scale (with moissanite (9.25) and diamond (10) as the only minerals that rank as harder).

MORE: The science behind smartphone glass, in our Smartphone Futurology series

Sapphire is also notoriously hard to manufacture in mass quantities. Apple reportedly intended to use sapphire as the covering material for the iPhone 6, and spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to get the factory to make sapphire covers up and running in time. In the end, the company they were contracting with couldn't deliver at the scale and price Apple needed and went bankrupt.

Vertu has been using sapphire crystal to cover the displays on its phones for years

Vertu, meanwhile, has been using sapphire crystal to cover the displays on its phones for years — though they have the advantage of being able to charge much more than Apple does while working at a significantly smaller scale.

Above the display on the Signature Touch is the phone earpiece, surrounded by a brushed metal overlay on the bottom and black ceramic plates on the top and sides (Vertu calls this the "pillow"). The arrangement is ever so slightly pointed down; the downward-pointing triangle has long been a signature design element of Vertu phones, though they've seriously toned down the aggressiveness of the point in recent years. To the right of the speaker is the front-facing 2.1MP camera, while the left side houses a multi-color notification light.

Below the screen is another design flourish in the front-facing stereo speakers. There's a small metal block in the center with a hole for the microphone, flanked on either side by pitched metallic covers for the speakers. Dolby is responsible for the tuning of these speakers, and they pump out quite loud audio for the size of the phone, though it can distort noticeably if things get too loud.

On either side of the Signature Touch run Grade 5 titanium rails, polished on the front, sides, and back with a light brushed finish on the large bezels. The left side houses the headphone jack, which sits at the top and sticks straight out the side. It's a frustrating positioning, making it awkward to slide the phone into your pocket while using headphones, though the included Bang & Olufsen-tuned earbuds have a 90-degree plug. Below the headphone jack is a pair of silver volume buttons. On both sides you'll also find three exposed screws, lending a bit of an industrial look to the phone.

The right side includes the Micro USB port (like the headphone jack, it sticks out to the side), a power button, and a small, red, trapezoidal button: that'd be the ruby button that's dedicated to launching the Concierge app. Each of the three silver buttons offers a decent click, though there's a disappointing amount of wiggle with each for the overall construction of the phone. The ruby button, however, is firmly placed and actuates with an audible click. Far too often, though, I found that I had pressed either the power or ruby buttons in my pocket and managed to unlock the phone.

Turn the phone over and it's as much of a visual feast as on the front. The lower half of the phone is dominated by soft black leather with a quartet of stitch lines running down the middle. The titanium frame cuts back on the sides, letting the leather wrap over a bit, while on the lower corners the metal cuts in, offering a hard response to any damaging blows (we've seen the leather corners on the LG G4 suffer from visible damage after just a few weeks).

The leather is the nicest we've seen on any smartphone, easily outclassing the thin, industrial leather on the Moto X and LG G4.

The leather wraps around the bottom of the phone and forms a chin on the front, with a second little metal accent at the point on the very bottom. The leather here is the nicest we've seen on any smartphone, easily outclassing the thin, industrial leather on the Moto X and LG G4. There's another swath of leather at the top of the back, wrapping around to meet the ceramic plate from the front.

Up on the top half of the back you'll find the camera module and SIM card door. While these would be ho-hum design elements on a normal smartphone, Vertu makes them elements of design flourish. The camera sits on the right with a dual-LED flash on the left, both set behind glass and surrounded by a black metal frame with screws on either side.

Below that is the brushed metal SIM card door, which is etched with the Vertu wordmark, the words "Handmade in England," and the phone's serial number. The door is large, about an inch wide, and is secured by a D-ring latch to the right. Pop up the ring, twist it counter-clockwise, and the latch releases to let the door pop loose. Flipping it open you'll find a Micro SIM slot (Vertu helpfully includes a Nano SIM adapter in the box), and on the inside of the door an attached plate bearing the name and signature of the worker that put the phone together. Mine was assembled by one H. Nguyen, and he or she did a fine job.

Inside the SIM door is the name and signature of the worker that assembled the phone

Compared to every other phone I've owned, the Vertu Signature Touch stands out, at least visually. In a world of black slabs with unibody designs, Vertu's offering up a phone that's visually complicated, and yet really nice looking. It could have easily been overdesigned, and there's an argument to be made that it is when you compare it with something like the iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S6, but there's also an argument to be made for the quality of the design.

All of this makes for a phone that is not small. Despite having a screen the same size as the iPhone 6, the Signature Touch is larger than that phone in all dimensions — and the iPhone 6 was derided for its own tall upper and lower bezels. It's also not a light phone, weighing in at 192 grams (6.77oz), or close to 20 percent more than the Galaxy S6. And yet, despite being bulkier and heavier, the Signature Touch only feels solid in the hand, not heavy. Perhaps it's owing to the unique construction, which gives your hand and fingers more to feel than just a seamless expanse of metal. Regardless, holding the phone just feels nice, and the materials only play a part in that.

An experience in and of itself

Vertu Signature Touch Unboxing

Normally we don't put too much thought into unboxing a smartphone. After all, what are we going to find inside other than the phone, a USB charger, some documentation, and a set of barely adequate headphones (maybe)? Not so with Vertu.

First off, the box is huge. Like, four-times-the-size-of-a-normal-smartphone-box huge. That hugeness is partly because it contains much more, and partly for unboxing experience purposes. Pull off the black cover sleeve and you're still not at the phone — it's inside a large hinged box, lined with suede. The presentation's not unlike a really nice necklace or bracelet, though in this case it's a phone. Below the phone box is a leather sleeve that's stitched to match the back of the phone.

That's just the top third of this box. The bottom half is a drawer that pulls out, presenting first a set of manuals and materials, as well as a certificate of authenticity. Few question if the iPhone you're holding is authentic, but if you're trying to resell a phone that retails for thousands of dollars, you can expect the person to whom you're selling to demand proof that it's the real deal. There are also two microfiber cloths (one small, one huge), and then an array of international power adapters and a 2-amp USB charger.

Also in that drawer is a set of Bang & Olufsen-tuned earbuds. They're styled to match the handset, with shiny metal accents and a flat black cable. Audio response is excellent, and there's an array of inserts to let you adapt the fit to your ears. Vertu sells these earbuds for $230 on their own, and we'd say they're on par with other earbuds in that price range.

It's actually a pretty standard smartphone

Vertu Signature Touch Specs

For a $9,000 phone, you might be expecting something special in the tech department. More than once I was asked if it would wipe my butt or provide other *ahem* services, but as a smartphone the insides of the Vertu Signature Touch aren't exactly special. And that's fine — Qualcomm makes quality processors, after all, and even rich people need something they know is going to work.

The chips inside the Vertu Signature Touch aren't exactly special, nor should they be.

And so inside the Signature Touch you'll find a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.3GHz. It's backed up by 2GB of RAM, which as we've seen in flagship plenty of smartphones is enough to reliably drive a 1080p screen and Android 4.4. Storage is set at 64GB, and there's no microSD expansion to be found here.

As mentioned earlier, the screen is a 4.7-inch 1080p LCD. It offers accurate colors, dark blacks, a and a decently-bright backlight. But owing to a combination of factors, including the inherent higher reflectivity of the sapphire cover, it's all but impossible to use in direct sunlight.

Making all of this run is a built-in 2275mAh battery. That's not a substantial cell in by any measure, in fact it's right about the size of the battery in the Moto X (which isn't exactly highly-regarded for its battery life). That might be forgivable if this phone was as thin as the Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6, but at 10.6mm it's more than 50 percent thicker. That there's not a more capacious battery inside the Signature Touch, especially at this size and price, is something of a travesty.

The phone does offer Qi wireless charging through that leather back, though (take that, LG and Motorola), and though you can buy a Vertu-branded Qi charging pad, it'll work with any other Qi charger as you'd expect. Though it's worth looking at their charger: it's an aluminum wedge with a leather pad on which you can rest your phone and get the inductive charge flowing. It's $530, and it'll charge the Signature Touch just as well as a $20 Qi puck will. Though it's certainly more fancy.

CategoryFeatures
Operating SystemAndroid 4.4.2 KitKat
Display4.7-inch 1080p LCD (473ppi)
Sapphire crystal cover
ProcessorQuad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
RAM2GB
Storage64GB (non-expandable)
Rear Camera13MP, Hasselblad certified, dual-LED flash
Front Camera2.1MP
NetworkGSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz), WCDMA (Bands I, II, IV, V, VIII), HSPA+ 42Mbps, LTE Cat 4 (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 17, 20, 25)
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.0 LE
GPS, NFC
SensorsAccelerometer, compass, gyroscope, proximity
Battery2275mAh, Qi wireless charging
Dimensions145 x 69 x 10.65mm (5.71 x 2.72 x 0.42 inches)
Weight192g (6.77oz)
CollectionsPolished titanium, jet calf leather, black ceramic pillow: $9,000
Polished titanium, claret calf leather, black ceramic pillow: $9,000
Polished titanium, seaspray lizard skin, black ceramic pillow: $10,100
Polished titanium, damson lizard skin, black ceramic pillow: $10,100
Black PVD titanium, jet calf leather, black ceramic pillow: $11,200
Polished titanium, jet alligator skin, black ceramic pillow: $12,200
Navy PCD titanium, navy lizard skin, black ceramic pillow: $13,000
Diamond knurled titanium, newmarket tan diamond quilted calf leather, exclusive Bentley content: $14,200
Clous de Paris-engraved titanium, jet alligator skin, black ceramic pillow: $15,600
124 white diamonds and white gold pillow, black PVD titanium, jet alligator skin, jet ceramic pillow: $17,900
Black PVD titanium, red gold detailing, jet calf leather, black ceramic pillow: $19,000

Vertu Signature Touch

Stock Android, with a nice glass of chianti

Vertu Signature Touch Software and Performance

As the above specifications show, once you peel away the titanium and leather and sapphire, you get a device that's pretty much a standard smartphone. To go one step further in the standard, it runs close to stock Android 4.4. Vertu's made a handful of customizations in the form of their own navigation buttons (they're more square than the squat rectangles Google provides) and building in support for Concierge and Dolby tuning of the speakers. There's also a turn-off animation that replaces the winking-out CRT with a Vertu "V" that closes in from the top and bottom and blinks out with a small flash. But all-in-all, it's a pretty light touch to the customizations.

That Vertu took a mostly hands-off approach to customizing Android on the Signature Touch is appreciated, except that it also appears that the mostly hands-off approach went towards performance optimization as well. As we said earlier, this phone is packing a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, a chip that's been more than up to the task in its contemporaries. But in the Signature Touch we find ourselves afflicted with annoying lag that comes and goes, at times seizing up the entire phone for seconds.

When you pay $9,000 for a phone, you expect and should get rock solid performance

In the grand scheme, a few seconds here or there shouldn't matter. But when you pay $9,000 or more for a smartphone, you expect rock solid performance. That we didn't get that is an incredible disappointment. Vertu told us that they're working on an update to Lollipop 5.0 (aside: it's weird to be talking dessert codenames like "Lollipop" on a phone this expensive) and but it's not expected for a few more months. Why? Vertu says its customers demand stability above all else and Vertu's relatively small engineering team can't process through optimizing an update as quickly as their competitors might.

Stability was generally there, though on one day we were afflicted with a series of frustrating camera app crashes that were solved only briefly by rebooting the phone. Frustratingly, this was on the day that we'd set aside to test the camera.

The Signature Touch's battery is woefully small for a phone of this size, price, or stature

The biggest issue, however, is the battery. As noted previously, the 2275mAh battery in the Signature Touch is woefully small for a phone of this size, price, or stature. And battery life expectedly suffered. With screen brightness set to auto and a connection to an Android Wear smartwatch running, we consistently found ourselves having to return to the charger before the day was out. On average we got about 12 to 14 hours of normal use out of the Signature Touch. At least it has Qi wireless charging built in, so topping off wasn't a terrible issue.

If Vertu customers demand stability first and foremost, battery life must be the second demand. What good is a stable smartphone for running your vast corporate empire while on the go if the battery's dead before you've sat down for dinner?

Vertu even called after our first few days because they had noticed on their end an authentication issue that was causing the phone to ping their servers every few seconds and was killing my battery life, remotely took control with my permission, and helped to correct the issue. So Vertu gets points for customer service, but they don't quite make up for it with impressive technical chops.

Making luxury phones since 1998

Vertu was created as an arm of Nokia back in 1998, manufacturing candy bar-style handsets running Symbian OS. With Nokia's fortunes turning in 2012, Nokia sold Vertu to a private equity firm for a rumored $200 million. John Stanley, Vertu's head of PR, described the move as the best thing that could have happened to Vertu.

The move away from Nokia allowed Vertu to explore new avenues, which led to their first Android smartphone in the Vertu Ti.

On the subject of customer service, that's what the Signature Touch, and Vertu in general, are about. You see it right from the home screen: there's a nice big analog clock widget that with a ring that lights up when you have appointments scheduled, buttons to launch into Vertu Life, Certainty, Concierge, and then the Google Search bar.

Press the ruby button and the Vertu Concierge app smoothly slides in from the left, offering buttons to access Vertu Life, Vertu Certainty, and Vertu Concierge. Vertu Life is all about providing access to exclusive experiences, be they spas or dinners or concerts. We're talking high-end experiences here, like having a private tour and tea in the penthouse of Diane Von Furstenberg (designer of the DVF wrap dress, apparently) … for just $5,250 per person. Or dine at Marc Forgione's American Cut steakhouse in New York and get priority booking, complimentary dessert and sparkling wine, and a tour of the kitchen. It pays to know people, and Vertu knows people.

Vertu Life also has a widget on the second home screen (right now it's telling us about VIP tickets available for the Glastonbury Festival in the UK), plus notifications when new things are available. Vertu Life has nine broad interest categories with which you can register your tastes: arts and culture, fashion and style, business intelligence, champagne and fine wine, elite world sport, fine dining and gastronomy, VIP entertainment, travel, and technology and gadgets.

Vertu Certainty is part support and part security. The support aspect comes in the form of 24/7 service support via phone or email, plus remote assistance (used in the aforementioned battery life issue). Under security it simply offers to install a variety of tools, some more useful than others, to ensure the integrity and safety of your data, including Kaspersky Mobile Security, secure calling and messaging from Silent Circle (makers of the Blackphone), and iPass Open Mobile global Wi-Fi. These too will prompt you to install them, though you only have to dismiss each once and be done with it.

Lastly there is Vertu Concierge, the marquee app and service of Vertu. Concierge starts with a phone call scheduled while you're setting up the phone with a Vertu staffer — mine was scheduled for 4 p.m. the day the phone was received, and Karina from Vertu called at exactly 4 p.m. to introduce herself, explain the service, and get an accounting for the kind of things I regularly do, what sort of entertainment I do, how often I travel, any kids or significant others I need to keep in mind, and other info that would be useful for such a concierge. I must have bored poor Karina with my "anything goes" taste in food and otherwise homebody lifestyle. Maybe a Vertu phone isn't for me.

I used the concierge service a few times in my time with the Signature Touch, though it always felt weird to use it. Perhaps it comes from always doing these sort of things myself, but it was nice to be able to ask for a tailor recommendation to repair a ripped jacket and shortly thereafter get a list of well-reviewed tailors in my area.

Concierge works in three modes: you can call and have a phone conversation right then and there, you can send an email and get a response back, or you can have a text chat through the app. It's a service that's wasted on somebody like me, I suppose. But I can see it being useful for the busy executive that forgot their anniversary was coming up and needs to book a flight for two to Paris immediately and get exclusive restaurant reservations at places that have months-long waiting lists. Or you can ask for a veterinarian because your dog is behaving more weirdly than normal and the concierge will find the best vets in your area.

Concierge is promised as a 24/7 service with staffers all around the globe ready to take your call at any time. During regular working hours in your area there's an assigned concierge for your account (Karina, in my case), though if I called in at 3 a.m. and she's not there I'd get another equally capable concierge. The global distribution isn't just for time zone coverage — if I'm planning a trip to Istanbul, for example, I could be transferred to a concierge with knowledge of the area to help set things up for me.

Services like Vertu Life and Concierge are what help to justify the price tag of a Vertu phone. The question is if they're worth it to you. Concierge is included with the first year of the phone, and is then $3,000/year afterwards — so you best use it.

The camera module on the Vertu Signature Touch

More like Hasselbad

Vertu Signature Touch Cameras

Vertu is quick to tout the Hasselblad-certification of the 13-megapixel rear camera on the Signature Touch, though it's not exactly clear what that entails. Hasselblad is a strong name in quality imaging, offering cameras that run upwards of $40,000 and lenses at $50,000. So their stamp of approval on the Signature Touch's camera should mean something.

But using the camera wasn't all that great of an experience. For starters, it's painfully slow to load, taking up to five seconds on most loads to offer a preview, and then around a second of lag from the time that you tap the shutter button to the moment the photo is captured. And don't turn on HDR if you want quick photos — those took 3 to 5 seconds to process before you could take another photo, even though the three exposures were generally captured in rapid enough procession to not be tripped up by movement. Even the viewfinder preview was afflicted with lag. We installed a few other camera apps just to be sure and they were hit with the same performance issues as well.

The camera also had a tendency to noticeably oversaturate reds and undersaturate yellows. Thankfully, the camera has little trouble focusing and was able to retain much sharpness when processing images. The front camera, at 2.1 megapixels, was adequate, but nothing to write home about.

Vertu does employ its own custom camera app with a custom interface. It's laid out nicely, with a big shutter button with previous images and mode button at the bottom of the phone and flash, scene, front/rear, and quick settings at the top. Those settings offer a variety of controls, letting you adjust the exposure compensation, white balance, metering zone, and ISO, or you can just do as most people will do and leave those on auto.

Like the battery, it's practically inexcusable for a smartphone of this size and cost to have this poor of a camera experience. The only saving grace is the stock Gallery app, with its detailed controls for adjusting the image after the fact, but that's not the sort of thing that owners of $500 smartphones should have to worry about, much less owners of $10,000 smartphones.

Vertu Signature Touch

Feeling like a mogul, even if not living like one

Vertu Signature Touch in real life

So what's it like taking a $9,000 phone and slipping it into your pocket every day? Well, it's just like doing that with a $500 phone. In fact, despite the materials and edges and size, we have no issue carrying around the Signature Touch or putting it into our pockets. Never once did we fear that it would slip out of our hands or that we had to be careful putting it down. The solid build quality and heft was reassuring — we didn't feel any need to put the phone through a durability test (we'd rather not be on the hook for that repair bill), but it felt like the phone could take whatever normal life would throw at it. Or whatever people who can afford these phones consider to be normal life.

That said, the Signature Touch takes its place as the number two most-attention-grabbing phone I've used. First place goes to the iPhone 6 in the first few weeks of availability — plenty of strangers asking if that was the new iPhone — while the Vertu gets the number two slot out of sheer uniqueness. How many people to you know that have one of these? Yeah, that's what I thought. (Vertu's sold fewer than 500,000 phones since their inception, so they're not exactly common.)

Aside from the disappointing battery life and abysmal camera performance, the Signature Touch was a solid performer in daily use. Keeping a cellular or Wi-Fi connection was never an issue, and only when the phone was glitching out and repeatedly pinging at Vertu's servers did it get noticeably warm (despite having a blanket of insulating leather around the back).

But carrying this phone around made me feel like I had to step up my game. Perhaps it comes just from knowing how much the phone costs (it would be the third-most-expensive thing I'd have bought, after my house and car) and how exclusive it is. I felt weird wearing jeans and a t-shirt while using this phone, though I suppose oil barons wear t-shirts at points too. I felt like I should be jetting off to galas in my private jet and rubbing elbows with my fellow rich and famous. Instead I went to Taco Bell.

I felt like I should be jetting off to galas in my private jet and rubbing elbows with my fellow rich and famous.

At least, that's how I felt initially. After the first several days, that feeling of "this is so fancy" started to wear off. Nothing had changed about the phone, it hadn't been overshadowed by the announcement of a new luxury smartphone, but the novelty had apparently faded. It could still impress people who had never seen one before, but that too was for the sheer novelty.

Concierge was difficult for somebody like me to integrate into my life. I tend not to frequently visit places where I can't get in unless I've booked months in advance and the vast majority of things I need to arrange I can do myself with a simple Google search. But there's something to be said for the convenience of being able to have somebody, at a moment's notice, pick up and help you with something, anything. Take finding a tailor. I could do a search for best tailors in Cincinnati, but very few tailors in the town are rated on Google — I wouldn't know where to start. Maybe I should look at Angie's List or ask for recommendations on a forum? Or I could just ask the Vertu Concierge and get a list of recommended tailors in 30 minutes.

$9,000 gets you a lot of smartphone, and not enough

Vertu Signature Touch: The Bottom Line

The Vertu Signature Touch is an interesting value proposition. On one hand you have incredible materials and build quality making a phone that looks great (or at least unique), feels great, and can take more of a beating than most other phones. On the other hand there's nothing special tech-wise about it — it's a standard Snapdragon 801 phone with a 1080p screen and LTE. But on the other other hand, there's the services side of the Vertu equation, offering unique (if pricey) experiences, proactive support, and a Concierge service that will help you to get what you need any time and any place.

There are things that a smartphone simply will not have a better version of, regardless of how expensive it is. Vertu put the then top-of-the-line mobile processor in the Signature Touch, and at the 4.7-inch screen size there still aren't higher-resolution displays. But as with the gold Apple Watch Edition, it's frustrating that there's not more premium technology at play here. Take battery tech: there's a practical limit when it comes to what Samsung can afford to put in a $700 Galaxy S6, but a company like Vertu selling a phone that runs for thousands of dollars could feasibly afford to buy more advanced batteries or put in 3GB or even 4GB of RAM or include 128GB of storage.

We expect flawless performance from a phone you can buy from the carrier for $200 on a contract, and we should expect the same from a phone that costs 50 times as much. That the Signature Touch is afflicted with glitches and lag at all should be a travesty, not something we should just accept. Granted, the vast majority of us don't have to accept it at all — we're never going to be able consider owning one, let alone have to think about whether it will be up to the task.

And that's worth considering: this isn't a phone made for people like me, and it's probably not meant for people like you either. (Maybe it is, I don't know what your financial situation is.) But the question is if the exclusivity and included services are worth the cost for you over a more standard smartphone.

Regardless, it's still money better spent than on a fancy gold Apple Watch.

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm (the old one), and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

124 Comments
  • Did... Did you guys actually pay for one of these? Posted via the AC App on my LG G3
  • Vertu was gracious enough to loan us a Signature Touch for review.
  • So, what i am hearing is that i wont be able to win this in a on site raffle?
  • That is correct.
  • Phil robbed a Wall Street CEO.
  • Lol, picturing that is priceless. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Phil doesn't like to get his hands dirty, he'll send Jerry. I get to be his distraction sometimes.
  • Ha-ha Posted via the Android Central App
  • I am totally picturing The Italian Job with you, Phil, Jerry, Russel, and Darek right now. That would be an awesome movie. lol. EDIT:  And Kevin.  We totally need Kevin in this movie.
  • A whole MI set up XD
  • I'll just pretend....just as I do with my car.
  • My Toyota is a Lexus :) Posted via the Android Central App
  • Lol. I like that. Posted via the Android Central App
  • My Scion FRS is actually an LF-A lol
  • I tell my wife that my LFA cost as much as an FRS...
  • Just a normal car inside ;)
  • I wish I could afford it or I wish I was Kevin (which is the same thing)
  • I also wish I could afford it. But if I could, I still wouldn't buy one. Wubba lubba dub dub!
  • So it's like an Apple Watch Edition.. Overpriced Nexus 5 (AT&T)
  • But more useful than an apple watch Posted via the Android Central App
  • Yea... So I want that wallpaper and that clock widget. Just so I can fake it until I make it, though, I'll never drop that kind of cash on a phone regardless of my tax bracket. Who am I kidding? I'm contemplating robbing a few banks just so I can buy one... Any good getaway drivers?? Posted via the Android Central App
  • I hear Jack Bauer is for hire as a getaway driver ;)
  • Franklin Clinton is the best Posted via the Android Central App
  • I definitely like the way it looks. Guaranteed.
  • Taste. I think it looks like a train wreck of conflicting angles and materials. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Is it just me or is it that the design is awful? I'm all for luxury stuff if I have the bucks but this one doesn't look that luxurious to me...
  • They actually look a lot better in the flesh. They feel really good in the hand as well.
    No way that I'd buy one myself, but I can see why people would. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You'd need to be an utter cock to buy one of these Posted via the Android Central App
  • Not even sure what that means
  • Must be a British expression ?
  • A genetically improved rooster that can produce milk?
  • sorry, that would be an udder cock. my bad.
  • BAAAAHAHAHAAAAA Posted via the Android Central App
  • I lolled Posted via the Android Central App
  • $9k for a phone that's already dated.
  • All phones are dated after about a week. Looks like this one really needs an upgrade but it is a nice solid phone with the services added in. A tech update every 2 years would be a good idea. Too bad display tech is changing significantly every year at the moment. A 64bit cpu and 4k display on the next one I bet.
  • There website shows other phones. Maybe the other ones have faired better in terms of performance. Posted via Android Central App
  • The Aster is the exact same phone specs-wise, but less premium. The Constellation is even older.
  • I think if I saw someone with one of these, it would almost be an instant reaction to punch them in the face. For a high-end price of $9k+, you get mid-range specs inside a fugly shell. BUT, it has premium materials, so when you hold it, you get that extra smug feeling you get when you're rich and you blew your money on something that serves only as a status symbol.
  • So do you assault people that drive a Bentley? Fly first class? Wear a Rolex? Date Super Models? Stay at a suite at the Ritz? These are all on the relatively same price scale as buying this phone. People want to pay for something to set them apart. If you truly disagree i expect to see you in Jeans and white t-shirt and a pair of generic shoes using an Iphone 3g you picked up off of Craig's list for $50.
  • Spooky. It's like you know me, except that the jeans and t-shirt would have been purchased at second-hand store.
  • I did not want to be condescending ;)
  • Wow, I was mostly ambivalent about the activities you listed before I read your comment. Now they seem even douchier than before. I like how you listed dating supermodels as a prestige purchase. Maybe true, but pretty gross.
  • I think it's all relative. Showed this to my friend who thought it was outrageous. Same friend will gladly pay several hundred bucks for sneakers he'll encase, display and never wear but thinks someone who can afford and willing to drop 9k on a phone is ridiculous... To each their own
  • Yup, just like luxury cars, headphones that audiophiles would drool over, guitars, and enthusiast level gear for hobbies. For instance, new entry level mountain bikes start between 500 to 1000 USD, the sweet spot for most is usually around $1500 to $3000, and the bikes the experts and pros use (probably given) are somewhere in the $5,000 and up. A few range in the $10,000+ range. Posted via Android Central App
  • I bike. I've logged over 5000 miles, including two double centuries, on my 2007 Trek hybrid I bought for $325 on Craigslist a couple years ago. I'm not going to race it but it has 27 speeds and is relatively light (about 23 pounds, light for a hybrid). In fact I rode it to work today. I see guys all the time with $3000+ road bikes. Some even commute on them. The only good reason to drop that kind of money on a bike is if you are a racer and need to shave every possible gram off the weight. The others are just doing it for bragging rights with their buddies. I solved that problem. I don't have buddies, at least not ones that care about bikes. It keeps me out of trouble.
  • The issue here is the internals/camera/display. There could absolutely be a market for a high end smartphone, but when you buy a Ferrari or Lamborghini, you are not just getting fancy materials, you are also getting an awesome engine and performance. If Apple made an Edition version of the iPhone, people would definitely buy it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I totally agree. Adegbenro Agoro. Galaxy Note 4.
  • "Regardless, it's still money better spent than on a fancy gold Apple Watch." This line pretty much sums up Vertu for me. This was a really nice review, I'm glad to read Vertu still strives for quality hardware and service after leaving Nokia's ownership (unlike some other companies which shall remain unnamed). And basically the Concierge is what would sell this phone to me. As for the software side of things, Vertu has adopted Android quite recently (they obviously used to run Nokia's Symbian) and the company isn't that big. It will take some time to improve everything, including the camera tech. But it will eventually get there.
    Will that make this a phone for the regular Android user? No.
    Will it make the experience of those which buy it better? Of course.
  • I'd buy two
  • What an ugly phone.
  • Very, very nice photos of the phone, great product photography!
  • "For those in a certain tax bracket" Silly Derek, only the bourgeois pay taxes. Anyone buying this phone probably has an effective tax rate of a fast food worker. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Effective tax rate <> Tax Bracket
  • Not really. If you reduce your taxable income due to write-offs you can effectively move down into a lower tax bracket. In other words, one's bracket is always based on taxable income and not total income.
  • Effective tax rate is not based off of Taxable income it is based off of Total Income. As a said, Effective tax rate <> Tax Bracket. Edit: apparently I can be a little wrong at times, For an individual it is based off of taxable income.
  • Great review! Now can you post the apk for the Vertu concierge app? I will bedazzle my g4 with a ruby;)
  • You still need a Vertu account for it to be any good.
  • Apparently someone ACTUALLY did worse than HTC in terms of camera performance. What an absolute shame. A killer phone with good performance that is (camera wise,) blind. A bummer because it was a Hasselblad, then again big names don't guarantee a direct translation to excellent camera chops (Oppo N3 was a bit underwhelming despite the Schneider Kreuznach backed rotating lens. Still waiting on a real Leica assisted camera phone though.)
  • This would be a nice backup device for when I'm forced to go somewhere that has enough poors that I'm not comfortable carrying my Goldvish phone.
  • Snapdragon 801 with 2GB of RAM? For $9,000 I'd want nothing less than 2 8-core 64-bit CPUs with 8GB of RAM, custom processors that stay cool and never get throttled. And a built-in tea maker. Among other things. Titanium, leather and ruby button doesn't make a phone work better.
  • I'm curious, is Virtu a GSM or CDMA network? I'm curious if they only allow devices on their network that have their signature Concierge button and/or service.
  • Vertu phones are unlocked and work on most any GSM network. They don't have their own network.
  • I was disappointed to see that you didn't put it through the only test that matters - the bend test.
  • Speaking with Vertu they did joke that they've seen phones come in bent before... though that was after it'd been crushed between a Rolls Royce and a curb.
  • What is their repair policy?
    Do people obsessivley get small scratches repaired?
    Is it free? Is is shockingly expensive?
    While you wait? An exchange phone?
  • Good question. It should have a very good extended warranty Posted via Android Central App
  • "You know what would be a great idea? Let's put this $9,000 phone face down on a rock!" "I think that's a wise decision, good sir... Very wise indeed." Posted via the Android Central App
  • Sapphire screen, baby.
  • Yea I get that...But still, I also see you guys do that a lot with phones that don't have the luxury of sapphire screens, and it makes me cringe every time. I know I know, not my phone so what do I care... Still makes me cringe :-P Posted via the Android Central App
  • I mean, we still make sure it's an okay , set them down gently on these surfaces, and don't slide them around.
  • Fair enough Posted via the Android Central App
  • The concierge service isn't the perk, its the point. The hardware is basically just a carrier for that service.
  • Except for the RAM. Note 3 had 3 GB. However I admit this phone isn't a phablet . Adegbenro Agoro. Galaxy Note 4.
  • I can't see people who buy this having to learn Android and join a forum.
    An iPhone or Blackberry version maybe. Vertu also can have no excuse for not maximising the hardware or updating the OS, but know these customers won't doubt the specs. I would like to see how this behaves longer term.
    Let's have a forum for Vertu and their complaints. Do you send it back to get a new one, I suppose so, but will it be unique. Harrods in London will sell these, to enough people who have money and don't care if it freezes, or they can't work it, down the line. They will throw / give it away and buy something else. (Harrods were showcasing a Vertu running 4.0 or 4.1 very recently, honest) Android may deter many though - for tis the OS of the common people. :) We Android devotees, well users anyway, know better. If they brought out a device with top notch specs and silky software, a 5"+ 2k screen, massive battery and accompanying power banks, docks and chargers, would they sell more? Probably, even at 20k, but they are too small to develop it, and they will be happy with the margin on these that will sell. Shame they couldn't go the whole hog and make a class leading phone for a few (k) dollars more. Posted via the Android Central App
  • To me.. 5k is the most i can thing for this phone Posted via the Android Central App
  • Deal. Send us a cheque. Vertu. Posted via the Android Central App
  • The most I will pay for a phone (service excluded) is $500.
  • Interesting phone. People know you spent a lot of money on a Porsche or a Lexus or a Ferrari or whatever. Anyone seeing this phone will just know it isn't an iPhone or a Galaxy series phone and think it's a cheap Android something or other which means only the person buying it knows how much it really cost, yet it is a mid range phone. I just cannot see who would buy it.
  • The whole point of this phone isn't the hardware itself, its the concierge service, the phone is just a carrier for that service. Its basically an on demand international butler.
  • That's a poor excuse, they could make a simple dumb phone with a concierge button that sends an sms to an automated system that then calls the device. This is a smart phone, if I am rich, I want the "best" to be the best. In every way.
  • That's what they used to do Posted via the Android Central App
  • Not entirely, their old phones were Nokia Symbian S60 based, not dumb (frankly less dumb than iPhones until about iOS6).
  • Why do these luxury phones always look like a BB Pearl? Posted via the Android Central App
  • I applaud the people at Vertu, because in today's day and age, rich stupid fools and their money MUST be parted.
  • It's not a phone for you.
  • Everyone is missing the point of this phone. The service it comes with, the Concierge service is the point of it, the hardware is just a means to get the service.
  • It seems silly to pay that much for something that performs poorly. I have met some multimillionaire people and had dinner/conversation with them. They like iphones and sometimes android if they are in the tech space. If this phone was the best of the best everything, they sure would buy it, but this isn't. They could have spent the extra few bucks and upgraded the processor, and camera. Paid a few more engineers to work the software, and this would be a suitable phone for the rich.
  • $9000 buys quite a few flagship phones for the entire family tree.
  • Overpriced? Absolutely. Gorgeous, beautiful, unique industrial design and yet still sexy? ZOMG yes. Do I want something that "looks" like this for a normal or even slightly elevated price? You bet your arse I do. Man, get this esthetic styling into a package with Droid Turbo or better specs and I'll pay my early termination fee without blinking. Edit: I recently paid right at 1/3 of this for an 80 inch LED TV. I can only dream of being able to afford this kind of of money for a phone. And to ME, "afford" doesn't mean I have it in the checking/savings account, it means, yeah I bought one; didn't notice the change in my checking account balance.
  • No Posted via the Android Central App
  • Seeing the photos on a pc, I do like it and the home screens and widgets.
    If I had a spare 9000 after a lottery win, would I buy it - possibly, but I would feel short changed knowing a bit more of what's available on an Android device. So Vertu can blame Android Central for losing some sales! Nicely written article btw.
    I like the style, being critical where it's due, and favourable where that's due. So maybe you didn't have to give it back if they liked your review ? Joke :) Posted via the Android Central App
  • We're spec junkies in a place like this. It's not a phone for us.
    I'd buy this for the concierge service, if I was busy and rich and had no time to book things.
  • They need to acquire some good Apple, Sony or Samsung engineers. Get those weak spots solved.
    Or, quietly buy entire Samsung S6 phones and reskin them with leather and so forth. I wish i had the kind of money where the concierge would be useful.
  • Side load " Vertu Concierge" on Nexus 6 ?
  • You'll still need a vertu account Posted via the Android Central App
  • I prefer the S6 Edge Iron Man edition thank you very much.
  • You are not the target
  • Funny thing is the phone looks so gaudy. Wouldn't by it even if I had the money. Posted via the Android Central App
  • My boss actually has one of these. Using it parallel to an iPhone.
  • Surely they would have a market for just the service. $3grad a year for a personal servant on the other end of a phone call. Make Android and iPhone apps.
  • This is a one sleek and high-end phone! It could be a strong competitor of iPhone, we'll see. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/undersea-glider-crab-launching/id8194730...
  • I'm sorry if you want to buy one and they're out of stock. I just bought 20 for drop testing.
  • So apart from nicer materials used. This phone is worse in every way from my last year LG G3... Also wasn't aware stock android could lag... I've always thought that the various BS phonemakers put in their devices bog the OS down? Styling wise? If I had the money, and I felt and overwhelming desire to show off my wealth... I'd go with either a gold iPhone, or just tape a 100 dollar bill to a Moto E. The Vertu just looks overwrought, though it would look fitting in an Aventador.
  • Bought a couple of them for the kids as backup phones.
  • I'd rather spend $9k buying the next 10 or so high end Android phones from Samsung, Motorola and HTC. Posted via the Android Central App from whatever device I'm testing at the moment.
  • if you have the money and really want a unique phone, you'll get a high end flagship phone that's actually good and get it customized with whatever you want. gold trim. diamond encrusted home button, etc.
  • I'm no stranger to dropping too much money for an item based solely on what it is (I have montblanc fountain pen I use at work and several items from Burberry in my closet) But I expect a better phone here. This seems like a mid-grade device, and really should be the cutting edge of technology to demand this sort of price. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Reminds me of this Dilbert cartoon.
    http://dilbert.com/strip/2005-09-19 Our target market - The stupid rich.
    On the positive side, a lot of us at work had a good laugh at this review. So if nothing else the phone does bring limited enjoyment to a few.
  • I love the idea of the concierge services ice and can see why rich people or executives would use this. If you're travelling a lot and your secretary isn't available because of time zone differences you don't want to spend too much time researching and evaluating places. You w got meetings to go to etc that are more important than doing some research. However, a bit more of an updated battery and smoothness in operation could be expected. I'm so happy tho that you guys made a review of a phone like this to break the mold from the usual. Thank k you very much for that. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's not much of a looker IMO.
  • if I use this phone exclusively for business calls, is it tax deductible?
  • They shipped over a guy from Vietnam so they can say it was made in England. As if made in England is something to be proud of. Posted via the Android Central App
  • awesome, a $9000 leather galaxy s4!
  • The phone sounds like it's made of really good material and the concierge service adds value to the phone, but I can't believe they're selling a $19000 phone that can get laggy running mostly stock Android and sounds like the camera doesn't stack up to other flagships that came out at the same year or even the year before. It can't only be about cosmetics when you're spending that much money Posted via Android Central App
  • Nah not me....I wouldn't pay that much for a phone like that lol
  • I'd like to buy one. 1 question tho. Can this phone do my laundry?
  • No, but I think it will blend.
  • ...it looks like the blackberry storm :'D Posted via Android Central App
  • This is the kind of thing that Kevin Michaluk would buy on an impulse.
  • If I had 9k for a smartphone, I'd buy a Galaxy S6 and the edge version and a couple backups ;) lol
  • The specs on this are crap for how much it cost, even if its "handmade" would expect better specs/screen quality..
  • You bought a $9000 phone? Congratulations, you are amongst the most selish people in the world. $9000 while a 100 African families could be cured of malaria for that money. P.s. A ruby is dark strong red, not purplish. That is NOT a ruby. And it's not the lighting that shifts the colour either, as that does not happen with rubies.
  • Im not understanding the price tag with such mid range specs. Especially the screen resolution. Next.... Posted via the Android Central App