Vertu is famous -- or should that be infamous? -- for creating wildly overpriced mobiles, cranking up the price tag of strictly mediocre smart phones by slathering them with gems and precious metals.
Up until now, Vertu's blowers have largely resembled the Nokia bricks of old -- not surprising, given that the firm was a Nokia subsidiary until last year. This time the British-based company is trying something different, crafting a 3.7-inch smart phone that runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich. I haven't had long enough with the Vertu Ti to properly review it, so these are my first impressions.
The idea of a handcrafted luxury British smart phone might be appealing, but this phone costs a nonsensical £6,700 for the cheapest version, with the priciest model costing nearly £14,000. You'd have to be loopy to consider the Ti over the host of incredibly good sub-£500 smart phones out there, but if you're curious as to what kind of mobile thousands of pounds buys you, read on for everything you need to know about the ludicrous Vertu Ti.
The Ti looks like it was beamed directly from an unaired episode of Stargate, thanks to angular metallic edges and an arrow-shaped top bezel that makes it look as if the phone is making a frowny face.
Around the back is a 'ruby key' that summons access to Vertu's fancy-pants extra services, which we'll cover in the software section below.
'Timeless elegance' is what Vertu is going for with the Ti, which in practical terms means you get titanium casing and leather accents, which wrap the back of the phone and the area beneath the screen.
Beneath that panel, which Vertu boasts is made of sapphire crystal, lies a screen that measures 3.7 inches on the diagonal. I'll be interested to know if the luxury materials make a difference when you're looking at the screen or when prodding it with your finger, but Vertu reckons the fancy crystal will make this panel 'virtually scratch-proof'. Having shelled out over six grand for the privilege of owning the Ti, I can't see many buyers putting that claim to the test.
If you're willing to pay even more, you can get the Ti in different materials. Titanium Black Leather is the default model, while Titanium Pure Black costs £8,000, Titanium Black Alligator (ethically sourced, I'm informed) £8,900 and Black PVD Titanium Red Gold Mixed Metals will set you back a laughable £13,900.
In the flesh, the Ti does look -- and feel -- very posh. It feels weighty to hold, and build quality seems high, while the bright screen makes on-screen action look good. At those prices I wouldn't say the Ti is good value, but it certainly gives off luxurious vibes.
The Ti is running on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which gives you a merciful amount of customisation, and access to thousands of downloadable apps via Google's Play Store.
Ice Cream Sandwich isn't the latest version of Google's mobile operating system -- an honour currently held by version 4.2 Jelly Bean. As such, Ti owners will miss out on features like Photo Sphere, and the smooth interface Jelly Bean brings. If you want the latest, greatest version of Android, I'd recommend saving yourself thousands of pounds and opting for the more powerful Google Nexus 4.
Android gives you several homescreens to fill with apps and widgets, navigated using swipes of the finger and by tapping the physical buttons beneath the display. Most Android phones use capacitive or on-screen keys for these controls, making the Ti feel positively retro by comparison.
Vertu has pre-loaded some of its own software features, including Vertu Life, which claims to offer articles and tailored information you'll find of interest, and Vertu Certainty, which looks to be a cloud-storage service for backing up your device.
Vertu Concierge is a feature the firm has long touted, and puts real-life staff at your beck and call, who will do things like sort out travel and accommodation bookings. All three Vertu services are triggered by pressing the ruby button on the side of the phone.
A 1.7GHz dual-core processor powers this pricey pocketable pal. That's not as potent as the chips you'll find in rival smart phones, but to the Ti's credit it felt slick to use, with no noticeable lag when swiping through homescreens and menus. Browsing also felt smooth.
On the inside you get a healthy 64GB of storage, but at this cost, plenty of capacity is the very least you'd expect. There's an NFC chip inside the Ti too, which could one day prove useful if tapping your phone against an NFC-enabled till to pay for sandwiches ever takes off.
There's an 8-megapixel camera strapped onto the Ti's rear, while a 1.3-megapixel snapper sits on the front. The rear camera will shoot video in 1080p, though number of megapixels or video resolution rarely give a clear idea of the kind of snaps you can expect a smart phone to muster.
The Ti is technically a smart phone, though the hardware and software it brings to the table are significantly less impressive than what other devices such as the iPhone 5, Galaxy S3, Nexus 4 or Nokia Lumia 920 offer at a fraction of the price.
The Ti's expensive materials and concierge features may prove a tangible benefit, but if they're worth shelling out the price of a small car for, I'd be absolutely flabbergasted. Even oil barons and goldmine tycoons would likely be better off shopping elsewhere.