The million dollar review: Going window-shopping
Vertu is a British-based manufacturer and retailer of luxury mobile phones and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nokia. They seem to have been around forever (7 years is ages in mobile phone terms), working towards their goal of making mobile phones in the same vein as luxury watch manufacturers.
The Vertu handsets are unique for their supplemental Concierge feature - a 24-hour service, accessed by a single press of a dedicated button. It connects you to an operator who's there to help you with virtually anything you need - for a private jet press one. Money has no accent but the service is available in several languages.
Of course it is hard to imagine that a person who buys a Vertu won't have staff to do that for them so the real pull of Vertu are the materials used and of course the status they convey. The first model we are going to look at is even harder to imagine in the hands of someone driving a Porsche as for Vertu it's Ferrari all the way.
Vertu Ascent Ti Ferrari: Luxury in the fast lane
The black titanium body of the Vertu Ascent Ti Ferrari feels incredibly nice in the hand. It's perfectly complemented by the hand-stitched leather which is identical to that used in Ferrari interiors, and coming from the same Italian tanneries. If all that sounds too pretentious and pointlessly over the top, then you better stop reading - it's all downhill from here.
Or maybe not quite after all: the Vertu Ascent Ti series - and the Ferrari edition - are the most technologically advanced of all the phones in this article. But it's important to get this into perspective - in the world of luxury handsets a 3MP camera and a display that's actually usable are rarer than a giant panda (Pandas are unfortunate creatures).
Now the question that needs to be asked is this: won't a Vertu user feel robbed when a 100 buck handset does tricks that their high-priced handset can't? It's kinda like driving your Ferrari on the highway only to find out that every other sedan out there can go faster than you. Granted, they don't look as impressive doing so, but you still feel like you should have been treated better.
Going back to the Vertu exquisite exterior we come to one of the two things we are not really fond of. The chevrons on the sides of the Giallo and Rosso Editions are said to recall the front of a Ferrari, but it's something of a letdown to discover they are made of rubber.
We cannot complain at all about the other reference to the red cars though - the battery cover echoes the sweeping bonnet of a Ferrari and looks really nice.
The front panel of the handset is where its Vertu heritage really shines through. The sapphire crystal display and the stainless steel keys are a typical part of all handsets from the British maker and very impressive they look too.
This time they also come with a really nice backlighting that is located under each wave of buttons and directed upwards. Photos hardly do any justice to the wonderful effect they create in the dark, so we are afraid you will have to see it to believe how brilliant that actually looks.
Unfortunately, the comfortable and attractive keypad cannot make up for the sins of the disastrous joystick. It's so hard to use in any direction that we would easily place it in the top three worst phone controls ever.
Now, a sloppy gear stick does not exactly make any car a joy to drive, right? We are absolutely baffled why a company that takes such pride in its passion for design, engineering and performance would let such a shoddy decision make it to the final product, let alone a 9000 dollar piece of gear.
But leaving those worries aside, at least the display of the Vertu Ascent Ti is half-decent, except for the size of course. Small though it is, at least it's fine in terms of contrast and brightness.
The final noteworthy part of the Vertu Ascent Ti Ferrari bodywork are the two 11x15mm loudspeakers, located either side of the device. Their output is really pleasing, although we cannot see how much better (if at all) it is than other handsets since we didn't have the time to carry out a proper test.
Our tour of Luxury City was off to a great start in the yellow Ascent Ti Ferrari and the bar was raised quite high design-wise. Luxury and simplicity are in fine balance and the handset does look impressive. Usability though is a whole different story: the appalling joystick almost makes us wish this Ferrari had automatic transmission.
Packaging and extra goodies
The paper cover of the Vertu Ascent Ti Ferrari retail package is hardly impressive, but the (we're guessing hand-sewn again) leather below certainly is. Extraordinary and exquisite, it leaves no doubt that there's a really expensive handset waiting for you inside.
The accessories aren't quite as inspiring - Vertu have only gone as far as rebranding the Nokia chargers, data cables, etc. The second battery is a nice bonus and there's also a really slick Ferrari-branded key for unlocking the battery compartment.
The user interface used by the Vertu Ascent Ti is good old S40 - yes, it has received a slight face lift and some Vertu branding but that's basically it. We were pretty disappointed at first, with the S40 being quite dated and not really competitive, only to find out later that this was by far the best interface used in the whole luxury bunch.
One would think that having splashed thousands of dollars on hardware and with no limitations on either compactness or weight would make it easy to create a functional and user friendly handset.
Yet software development is obviously something that the makers featured here have little interest in. And the Vertu Ascent Ti has already shown just how little thought they gave to it, using the ready-made S40 solution from Nokia.
The final feature of the Vertu Ascent Ti that we are going to discuss before moving on (there's quite a lot of handsets waiting) is the camera. Yep - you heard it right. The big fella has a 3.2 MP autofocus camera, a first in the Vertu family. As you might guess, this doesn't make it the best cameraphone money can buy. But think of it this way: it's the most expensive one you'll ever find and the price tag just won't peel off.