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09 June 2023

Phones that cost more than luxury cars

By Maha Obeid

Top-end mobile phones encrusted with diamonds and other precious stones are more bling-bling than ring-ring.

Luxury handsets costing up to Dh400,000, supplied in soft leather pouches are a niche market for the jet-set accounting for just two per cent of sales. Nokia entered this exclusive sector in 1998 when it launched Vertu, a wholly owned subsidiary. Its phones are so pricey you would do well to call your bank manager to make sure you can afford one.

The top-of-the-line Signature collection retails for between Dh36,000 and Dh395,000 depending on the specification.

The latest designs feature rose gold, pink diamonds and sapphires and are made to order. The diamond version has 923 stones with an average of 7.2 carats on each phone.

The sapphire version has 385 stones with an average of 2.1 carats per handset. Each stone is different in size and shape and is chosen specifically to fit the pattern on the mobile. If the Signature models are a bit too costly you can choose from the more affordable Ascent collection, priced between Dh21,000 and Dh26,000. Models include the Strawberry Edition, in deep pink, and the Cream Edition. The high cost of the phones is driven by the precious stones as well as the craftsmanship – the Vertu custom-built workshops in England make each phone by hand.

A handset is made of between 150 and more than 400 parts and the designs are protected by ironclad copyrights – a Vertu is covered by 74 patents. The entire range is limited to 50,000 phones a year, making the phones even more exclusive.

The manufacturer promises reliability and the latest technology. Each phone is fitted with a 2cm speaker – double the size of those in standard handsets. The speaker is tuned to produce extended bass response for hi-fi performance.

The phones are designed to appeal to both men and women. The new Ti model – part of the Ascent range – has been designed with a “distinctly masculine edge”, says Vertu. It is said to offer precision, balance and strength and takes its design cues from high-performance sports cars.

And Vertu customers have 24-hour-access to a “concierge” service that can deal with the sort of problems that trouble the super-rich, such as having a tyre changed on the Ferrari or booking a treatment at an exclusive spa. A special key on the side of the phone puts the customer in touch with this service, which is available worldwide in a number of local languages.

Vertu guarantees the assistance arranged by its concierges by establishing exclusive partnerships with leading establishments around the world.

Other makes of luxury phone are available, including ones with gold-plated casings from the English firm Obsession. The Aphrodite range launched earlier this year offers a choice of 18-carat white gold and 24-carat yellow silk gold. Each mobile is fitted with 2.1 carats of cultured diamonds, each set by hand. Again the emphasis is on advanced technology as well as extravagant materials and design. Information can be synchronised between an Aphrodite and a computer using a USB cable.

And the phones have a dual SIM card feature enabling two cards to be active at the same time. So, if money’s no object, forget about GSM phones and go for a gem encrusted one instead.