The 2017 demise of Vertu was the passing of a thing of beauty. The British firm’s hefty phones – clad in hand-stitched leather, hand-polished metal and (presumably) a hand-adorned ruby button – were a fascinating balance of tasteful and campy. Hit that crimson ‘concierge’ button and a butler who was familiar with your tastes and preferences would pick up within seconds. Gull-wing doors – like the ones in Back to the Future’s iconic DeLorean – popped up to reveal your SIM card slot and the laser-engraved signature of the wizened English craftsman who oversaw the assembly of your five-figure investment.

We’re not gonna lie – these looked and felt (and smelled) great.

These were quite easily the perfect smartphones – until, of course, you actually tried using them. I spent a week with one of its flagship phones back in the day. It overheated frequently, struggled when running many apps , and generally strained the wrist after prolonged usage (its weight: 1.3 iPhone Xs).  It almost boggled the mind as to who would pass up so much functionality for sheer bragging rights.

“No one, apparently” was the answer to that question back in 2017. The company shuttered production and filed for bankruptcy, and so began the era of hiking iPhone prices (at least, we like to think Apple smelled the blue blood in the water).

Barely a year later and the phone company is back on its feet with a new flagship, the Aster P. Not many details are available on who’s funding Vertu 2.0, but it appears they’ve revised the aforementioned answer to “maybe the Chinese”; the brand has abandoned all its traditional markets to retail exclusively in mainland China.

The Aster Ps: After a decade-long dominion of the boring black slab, these are certainly a sight for sore eyes.

So what’s new in these 2018 models? Hardware upgrades, mostly, and a set of fancy colour schemes, the priciest of which is Dazzling Gold (below) at CNY98,000 ($19,500). The actual specs of the phone strictly belong to the middle-of-the-pack range in the current year, with the exception of a 20MP selfie cam that trumps even the single 12MP camera in the rear. Score one for narcissism.

P.S. The phones are a whole 5 grams lighter than their Signature Touch predecessors. Science, baby!

Credit where it’s due, though. They’ve at least given it some modern functions like fast charging and NFC capabilities, plus a suite of privacy-focused software to safeguard one’s private dealings. They haven’t given up on the whole ‘personalised concierge’ USP either. If you’ve the spare cash to splash, it’d make a decent Christmas gift.

Feeling it yet? Head on over to one of the Chinese retail sites to snag one. Now we just need to watch if this iteration of the company takes off.

written by.

Xiangjun Liao

XJ is the associate digital editor and works the F&B, tech, watch and motoring beats. Correspondingly, he's an alcoholic carnivore with a boyish fascination for all things mechanical. No prizes for guessing which Jaguar he wishes to commandeer.
Vertu’s $19,500 smartphones are back from the dead
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