Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006

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August 4, 2008 • Reviews

The Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation: A Pictorial

Some time ago, I wrote a semi-mocking post about a just announced Vertu phone which was encrusted with gemstones and that had a price tag in the $100,000 neighborhood; not only was this phone priced way out of my galaxy, it was priced out of my universe. In that post’s comments, Drew came in and mentioned that he had owned a few Vertus, and that they were in fact actually excellent phones – despite their astronomical price tag. He also said that it wasn’t necessary to get them encrusted in stones, and that there were some which were (relatively) reasonably priced, especially if you bought them slightly used on eBay.

My curiosity was up, but I still wasn’t about to spend approximately $2500 (or more!) for a used “dumb phone” on eBay just to see if I liked the brand; amazingly enough, I didn’t have to. Even though I had written to Vertu (on Alison’s suggestion) to request a review unit, and had never heard back from them, around December, Drew mentioned he had an Ascent he would be willing to send me to try “for a few months”. Heh…okay!

A few months turned into a much longer time because I liked the Ascent so much, and because Drew was so accommodating. No, the Ascent didn’t have built-in GPS, I couldn’t read eBooks on it, and I couldn’t surf the web…but the phone had excellent battery life, it was simple to use, and it had extremely clear sound. Above all, it was easily the best mobile phone I had ever used: it had excellent reception in San Angelo, it was the best speakerphone I’ve yet tried, and even more surprising – considering its weight and rather blocky shape – the Ascent was pleasing to hold and caressable.

Recognizing that the Ascent was only a tri-band (just fine for US T-Mobile users, not so much for US AT&T users like me), Drew recently offered to trade the Ascent out for a barely used quad-band Constellation he had just scored on eBay. I was honestly unsure if I would like the Constellation as much, because other than a few dead-air spots in between San Angelo and Eldorado I was completely enamored with the Ascent; but I would soon learn that the Constellation possesses a few of its own charms.

I haven’t seen any comparisons of the two devices, so I thought I would share one while I still have both in my possession. Understand up front that I am not trying to explain or justify why someone would want to pay full price (or even eBay prices) for one of these play-pretties; they each retail for about $6,000 (for the Ascent) and $5000 (for the Vertu Constellation), which could buy so many other things. But just as you can’t explain to those who don’t understand why a Porsche or Ferrari “speaks” to you, why a Barenia Hermes Birkin is so desirable, or why an isolated house with a scenic view on a high hilltop strums your heartstrings, the same can be said of these phones. You either like them, or you don’t; if you have the disposable income, then buying one might be something you’d consider.

Either way, I hope you enjoy this glimpse into a brand which can best be described as the ΓΌber-elite of mobile phones…

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation
left to right: the Vertu Ascent and Vertu Constellation

Both Vertus come in elegant presentation boxes; the Ascent was a 2005 model, so its packaging may have been since updated. I’ll start with it. There is a thin black paper outer box that when opened reveals a thick black paper presentation box.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

Opening the presentation box reveals two separate compartments.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

The one on the left contains a foam insert which cradles the Ascent.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

The one on the right has all of the paperwork, including a software CD, an (unfilled) ownership form, warranty info, and a user manual.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

Inside the box there is a microfiber drawstring pouch, a UK charger, the battery, a wired headset, the battery door key, and in my case – an extra battery door. Even though a wired headset is included, the Ascent does have Bluetooth, so you can use a favorite BT headset instead, if you would prefer.

True story: shortly after Drew sent me the Ascent, I dropped it on a gravel road! The phone was absolutely undamaged, but I put a small ding in the bottom of the battery door. In a panic, I ordered a replacement; I would rather not say what that moment of klutz cost me, but I suppose it could have been much worse.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

The Vertu Ascent measures exactly 4.3″ tall x 1.7″ wide x 0.8″ thick, and it weighs 5.4 ounces. Make no mistake about it: the Ascent is a chunk of a phone. As Drew and I joked to each other, it would make a good weapon in a fist fight. The phone is composed of what Vertu calls “liquid metal”; best I can tell, it is a type of matte or satin stainless steel. The finish is not easily scratchable, but it will show faint rubs. The buttons are also made of this metal, with the numbers and letters micro-perforated to allow the white backlight to show through when on.

The button on the left is the “Concierge” button, which connects the user to Vertu’s service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For those who are unfamiliar with how a concierge service works, it is basically a means to get things done when you are unsure of how to do them. Let’s say you want tickets to a Broadway show, but it’s sold out; you would ask the concierge to get them for you, and if there were any way in the world to do so, they would. You would pay for the tickets themselves, but the cost of one year’s subscription to the service is included with the phone. I am not sure how much it costs to renew, but I suspect that it must be in the neighborhood of $3000 – $4,000; I could be wrong, though.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

The buttons on the right are volume up and volume down.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

There are 20mm AKG Yamaha speakers on either side of the Ascent, and as I previously mentioned, this phone is the absolute best speakerphone I have ever used.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

The sides and back of the Ascent are covered in black leather; the back has contrasting white stitching and a liquid metal battery door.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

In order to open the door, you must use the special key which is provided with the phone.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

The Ascent is the model used for so many of the Vertu special racing editions, and as such it has many features and screens which emulate an automobile’s gauges. It’s hard to explain why this chunky phone is so much fun, but I’ll admit that at least a small part of it is knowing that it costs a small fortune, and you are carrying one; go figure.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

The Vertu Constellation that I received is a 2007 model, so I am fairly certain that the packaging is current. I didn’t get a thin paper outer box, but once again, there was a thicker heavy paper presentation box.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

Inside the presentation box was a black lacquer Vertu box, similar to what might hold a fine watch. As you can see, the protective film was still on my box, hence its bubbly appearance.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

Inside this box is the Vertu Constellation, named for the Lockheed Constellation aircraft. As you might have guessed by its name, the theme on this phone is air travel.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

Under the phone are the documents: a software CD, user manual, warranty information…

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

…and the authenticity certificate.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

Under the paper goods section, there is a tray holding the AC charger, the battery door key, and the battery (which I had already placed in the phone).

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

There were two screen protectors included with the Vertu Constellation, but I haven’t bothered installing them; I figure that the sapphire face should be sufficient.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

The Constellation measures exactly 4.3″ tall x 1.8″ wide x 0.6″ thick, and it weighs 5.0 ounces; although the Constellation has substantial size and heft, it feels much smaller than the Ascent.

The Constellation is the first Vertu to have a directional pad with center select, which makes navigation through the menus, screens, and texts much more efficient. The microphone under the 0 button is made to look like a propeller, and once again, the metal keys are micro-perforated to allow the backlight to shine through when buttons are pressed.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

Again on the right, there is the Concierge button…which I have never used on either phone.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

The Constellation has a satin stainless steel case, which shows some rubs from typical usage. I am not sure if there is a special polishing cloth which can fix those spots, but I suspect there might be.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

Once again, there is a ceramic ear rest, and the screen is composed of hard sapphire.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

The 20mm speakers are once again located on either side of the phone, and although the Constellation is a very good speakerphone, I think that the Ascent was even better. Otherwise, I have greatly enjoyed the much better signal reception I have been getting with this quad-band Vertu.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

Here is the propeller theme; the soft buttons on either side of the phone can be set to display options the user chooses, and the entire menu can be arranged in the order the user wishes. The Constellation uses Nokia’s S40 operating system, and I have greatly enjoyed being able to sync contacts, calendar items, and ToDos to my MacBook Air via Bluetooth.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

So let’s look at the two Vertus side by side. As you can see, there are definite differences between the two models, other than just what’s under the hood. The Constellation has a slightly larger screen, the directional pad with center select…

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

…the Ascent is thicker, slightly blockier…

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

Both phones use the same charger…

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

And both phones have power buttons located in the same position on their tops.

Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation

The Vertu Ascent and Vertu Constellation are both extremely well made, they scream “expensive quality” when you hold them, but I don’t think anything can really prepare you for the sticker shock of a new one…other than a couple million in the bank, perhaps. πŸ˜‰

13 Responses to " The Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation: A Pictorial "

  1. David Goodspeed says:

    I think Cadillac makes a car that looks like their phones. I think they call it the CTS-V πŸ˜›

  2. Mitchell Oke says:

    I liked the Nokia 8800 Arte for the same reason, it was an absolutely fabulous phone.

  3. I am afraid to ask what the Cadillac costs, then. πŸ˜‰

  4. questionfear says:

    I played with some vertu phones when I went to las vegas. gf thought i was nuts but I wanted to play with the fancy phones. the store staff were incredibly nice, definitely service that matches the price tag. I walked in and said that I’d seen pictures online of them, and that I couldn’t believe a phone commands that price tag. IMMEDIATELY the saleswoman said, “Oh great, you know the brand! Here, check out this one, Terri Hatcher has it” and started whipping phones out of the case for us to fondle.

    What impressed me is that it was obvious we were window shopping and neither of us was dropping several k on a phone, but they still let us play with them and chat about them. The salespeople obviously knew what they were talking about, and they were quite pleased that I knew the brand, and that was enough to let me hold one.

    (And having held one: If I didn’t want/need a smartphone, and I had the cash, I’d absolutely buy one. I could not believe how good they felt in my hands.)

  5. TrvlngDrew says:

    Okay I’m embarassed.. πŸ™‚

    I never used the concierge service either, its included as part of the purchase price for the first year and is transferrable during that time. I believe its around $1k a year.. Right.. AND its an international LD call to the UK.. The one button is just a dial to a +44 number.. πŸ™

    Serious lust for the Ascent Ti, the latest model.. :-))

  6. questionfear – That’s the experience I get when I go into a Louis Vuitton Boutique; everyone is so nice that if you have the money, you might just spend it. πŸ˜‰ I am impressed with you, though. I was too intimidated to do anything other than peek at the Vertus in the Frankfurt Airport back in 2006. They offered to show them to me, and I just shook my head in awe. πŸ˜›

    Drew – You have created a monster! But then, you knew that. πŸ˜‰ If it is only $1K a year, then I am quite impressed with the concierge service’s price. If money were no object… :mrgreen:

    And yes…the Ascent Ti. That’s on both of our wish lists. πŸ˜‰

  7. Joel McLaughlin says:

    Hmm….looks like a dressed up cheap Nokia… πŸ˜›

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertu

    It IS nice looking. If your into that thing! πŸ˜‰

  8. Yep, the guts are Nokia; but definitely not a cheap one’s. πŸ˜‰

  9. Back On the iPhone | Device Diary says:

    […] had to send my Vertu Constellation in for repairs – the leather on the battery cover was peeling up and I dropped it (!!!) which […]

  10. […] level.I’ve owned and written about three different styles of Vertu phones in the past, the Ascent, Constellation, and the Ascent Ti. Drew owned all three of those before me, as well as the Ayxta, Vertu’s […]

  11. […] of you who read my comparison of the Vertu Ascent and the Vertu Constellation may recall that in the comments section, Drew and I both mentioned we were interested in the Vertu […]

  12. […] got my Vertu Constellation in a round about way, and while I have greatly enjoyed owning it there has never been a day when I […]

  13. […] owned and written about three different styles of Vertu phones in the past, the Ascent, the Constellation, and the Ascent Ti. Drew owned all three of those before me, as well as the Ayxta, Vertu’s […]

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