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Vertu signals the end

Vertu signature cobra

Bafflingly expensive mobile handset brand Vertu seems to have finally called it a day following numerous reports of its demise.

You could be forgiven for not being familiar with the brand created by Nokia in 1998 because it’s not aimed at you, or indeed anyone for whom money has any finite meaning. By encrusting an otherwise bog-standard feature phone with gems and general bling, the idea was to tap the ultra top-end of the market occupied by oligarchs, oil barons and the compulsively ostentatious.

The fact that the brand has been able to survive for almost 20 years is a sad indictment of our materialistic times. The Telegraph has been at the forefront of reporting on its unsurprising demise, flagging its bid for bankruptcy protection at the start of this month and then noting the failure of that bid this week, with liquidation the only outcome left.

The Beeb subsequently picked up on the story and even got through to an un-named Vertu spokesperson who simply said: “”Well it’s gone into liquidation and I’m not being paid by them anymore.” The company employs almost 200 people at its UK manufacturing facility.

Regular Vertu phones cost around £10k, although the company seems to have recently halved that price in a misguided attempt to shift more stock. If the whole point of the phone is that it’s shamelessly over-priced then what’s the point of discounting it? Even the most expensive iPhone costs under a grand, while the Vertu Signature Cobra (above – a feature phone!) would apparently set you back $310,000.

While Vertu’s business model somehow survived the feature phone era, the arrival of the iPhone and Android was surely the beginning of the end. Not only are they infinitely superior phones in terms of functionality, but the trend towards handsets that are essentially large screens severely limits the available real estate onto which bling can be applied. It seems even the mega-rich have a limit to their profligacy.

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