If the first thing to cross your mind at first sight of the Vertu Signature was a TV remote control, it may be reassuring to know you're not alone. But don't go telling everyone and making a big deal out of it. The elongated handset is the key product in the company portfolio and the Brits are taking great pride in it.
And when a company like Vertu feels that a handset is worthy of being called "a masterpiece of craftsmanship" we are obliged to take a look. The handset is said to be the epitome of Vertu creativity and excellence and we really wanted to see how that worked out. Besides, having Wi-Fi onboard surely didn't hurt its chances of making it in the article.
The Vertu Signature is the first line of phones to be hand-built by a single craftsman. The company trusted their very best and most experienced craftsmen with the task and so each handset is signed by the person who painstakingly created it. Now, if that isn't screaming exclusivity we don't know what does. Here goes a video that we snatched from the Vertu official web site, than should walk you through the manufacturing process.
The face of the handset is covered by a "Sea of Sapphire", or more simply said, sapphire crystal glass. The manufacturer claims this alone takes more than two weeks to create in a 2000°C furnace. It is said to be so hard to scratch, that it has to be cut, ground and polished with diamond-tipped tools. We are willing to believe the good people at Vertu on that, simply because we didn't have the nerve (or the budget) to test it out.
We did have the opportunity to test the patented keypad of the Vertu Signature though and we have to agree with the maker. It is simply great to touch and use. And we are not saying that because we know that there are 4.75 carats of solid ruby bearings below each button. Really, ergonomics are as good as they get at the size.
These ruby bearings slide on pure sapphire crystal surfaces that are aligned so that no part of the metal keys touches the sapphire face of the phone. The result is no friction, no wear and a really pleasant clicking sound, which Vertu call the "world's most satisfying click". We guess that's exactly what the world's most expensive click should be.
The D-pad doesn't have a Ruby bearing of its own but is still comfortable enough to use. We are starting to suspect that this V-shaped alignment is a pretty good idea that might find a good place in the regular handsets as well.
The display of the Vertu Signature S is certainly the best we saw for the whole review, and even more so in the dark. Sure enough, the keypad backlighting is not as impressive as on the Ferrari edition, but the usability of two cannot be compared.
In fact we were pretty surprised to find out that the weight of the elongated handset is well balanced and it doesn't feel head-heavy at all. We have seen several such handsets that tend to have a higher center of mass and are thus rather easy to drop. This is certainly not the case here and the Signature S feels much better in the hand than one might suspect by looking at it.
Again, the number of buttons on the sides of the phone is pretty limited. You've got the concierge button on one side and the volume rocker on the other.
The back of the Vertu Signature S is finished in stainless steel and black leather and sports a battery cover lock that's different from the other Vertu handsets. If you find steel too plain, you can of course opt for platinum, white or yellow gold. The platinum version even has a diamond in the D-pad center.
The two batteries and the typical Vertu branded peripherals are no longer a surprise. However Wi-Fi connectivity is certainly nice to have onboard for a change. It is a unique feature for the class at the very least, and uniqueness is certainly appreciated here.
Another unique feature of the Vertu Signature S is the selection of ringtones. They are all from a piece of music composed exclusively for Vertu by Academy Award winning composer Dario Marianelli. The pieces were performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and all the flute solos were performed by Andrea Griminelli, one of the world's leading flautists.
The software package is also somewhat more advanced with some extra Vertu services complimenting the Concierge in the S40 UI. You have the Vertu Fortress secure backup service and the Worldmate travel application. The menu icons have been nicely redesigned too. Anyway, the software is the very last reason why anyone will go for a Vertu.
Now Vertu Signature is the most expensive (at about 25,000 US dollars) of the Vertu lot that we meet today. It's 7 years old and all of its features are long outdated, but let's face it - a phone made of gold hardly needs a confidence boost and it hardly goes out of fashion.
The design of the original Vertu Signature is still impressive enough but the signs of age are inevitable. The most notable is of course the unfolding antenna at the top of the handset.
We cannot quite remember the last time we saw a phone like that. Eventually, some things old-fashioned do make comebacks but phones with pull-out antennas are still waiting their turn. Owners of this Vertu Signature edition who haven't upgraded aren't likely to be too upset though. Getting giggles from passers-by is not exactly the desired effect but hey, it's still a solid gold handset on the other end.
The ergonomics of the phone are pretty decent but a quick glance at the display is enough to tell it's an ancient unit you're dealing with (in mobile phone terms anyway). Underneath the scratch-proof sapphire crystal lays a mediocre 4K color TFD display. The Signature is one of the first handsets to use the transflexive technology that made Nokia's name in cellphone displays, but considering its poor indoor performance, it's hardly a great consolation.
Now we won't go in much more detail as there are a couple of other brands waiting. We are just going to say that the original Vertu Signature's design is somewhat more attractive to us than its overly-long and flat successor.
So that was that about British virtue, we now head to the land of chocolate, banks and watches.