Vertu is the epitome of the mobile phone world and with every new offering, it gets a little harder to budge it from its comfy seat at the top. Hutch Hutchison has been with the brand from the beginning so here he offers us insight into the tech world as we deconstruct what makes a phone a luxury item.
Tell us about the brand...
Five of us started this company as a huge experiment. We put forth the question: 'Is there such a thing as a luxury mobile phone?' The fact that we are still here proves that there is. In fact Dubai was one of the inspirations. I came here in 1998 and I met a gentleman who had the most magnificent car, the most magnificent shoes, the most magnificent watch but he had a blue plastic Alcatel phone! I had a better phone than him despite his other luxuries. How is that possible? That was when it really clicked and we knew for sure there is a market and we can make that phone.
Are there misconceptions about Vertu?
Yes, many. I still meet people who don't know that we make Smartphones. They have a picture of it being a dad's phone, you know something with buttons. We sold our last phone with buttons in 2008. However, we could never have imagined that it would still be selling in 2015. It has become an icon and an art piece, yet it still has a place in modern life.
"I met a guy last year who has seven of our phones. real collectors not only choose their customisation options but they also choose who assembles it!"
If the old phone is still in demand, why make the new Signature Touch?
We have come to a point where we have perfected what we are doing, in our minds, the form factor has stabilised; touchphones are the winner. And how we built them has been a process of refinement. So it's very much an evolutionary step. Every single part is new on the new Signature Touch. Everything has been re-engineered and re-thought.
So what's new from the previous model?
Some people go 'it's the same as last year' but no, we've spent a year dreaming of how we can get to this point. In terms of processing power, we've actually had to turn it down because all it was doing was burning electricity for no reason. Right now it will do anything in real time without any stutters.
One of our standard features with this new phone is the sort of gull-wing doors which give you access to the SIM and memory card. It also has one nice little by-product; it acts as a stand for when you're watching movies. Also the screen is completely scratch-proof because of the sapphire screen — here Hutch proceeds to throw the phone onto the floor and when he realises it's carpet, aims beyond that to prove his point.
What about the Vertu extras?
There was a point where people were very dismissive of us because they saw no added value in what we do but now you buy a phone that does give you a very comprehensive range of services.
There is a 'services' key at the side and every phone now comes with 18 months of dedicated concierge. This is a one-to-one relationship so you have your own PA, available 24/7. There is also free global Wi-Fi. I walk in anywhere the phone will connect automatically without any passwords required. This is all about being globally connected.
How long does it take to make one phone?
The emphasis is never on how long it takes. Before the people at the production line can start making phones for customers, they have to build 20 phones perfectly in a row. One strike and you start back from zero. You must build it 20 times perfectly. It does not really matter how long you take to build these 20 phones, just as long as they're perfect.
Has the Vertu clientele changed?
Yeah. Something very weird has happened in just the last year. The Vertu Signature of 2008 fame started selling to 25-year-olds. That for me is a real eye-opener because the brand is going younger with not just a big computer phone but with that particular piece. That to me shows that the brand is getting somewhere.
Where is Vertu heading?
I have cancelled as many products as I have finished but that's a good thing because if you wait to see the future, you will be late. We've set off in many different directions and we've looked at wearables, we've looked at pads and we've looked at all kinds of things that are in a comfortable space around the marriage of technology and luxury. I dream of a future where the things that we make add to functionality, things that comfortably fit in the marriage of luxury and technology which adds something to your life.