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 über-elite of mobile phones…
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.
Opening the presentation box reveals two separate compartments.
The one on the left contains a foam insert which cradles the Ascent.
The one on the right has all of the paperwork, including a software CD, an (unfilled) ownership form, warranty info, and a user manual.
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.
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.
The buttons on the right are volume up and volume down.
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.
The sides and back of the Ascent are covered in black leather; the back has contrasting white stitching and a liquid metal battery door.
In order to open the door, you must use the special key which is provided with the phone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Under the phone are the documents: a software CD, user manual, warranty information…
…and the authenticity certificate.
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).
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.
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.
Again on the right, there is the Concierge button…which I have never used on either phone.
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.
Once again, there is a ceramic ear rest, and the screen is composed of hard sapphire.
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.
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.
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…
…the Ascent is thicker, slightly blockier…
Both phones use the same charger…
And both phones have power buttons located in the same position on their tops.
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.