Vertu's new Constellation is its second Android phone, and you still can't afford it

With the Ti liberating Vertu from the Symbian shackles, it was only a matter of time before the luxury phone maker released its second Android device. The Constellation, as it's called (instead of "Constellation V" as listed by the FCC), takes a small but bold step away from Vertu's usual design language, as it lacks the iconic ceramic pillow on the earpiece. What it gains instead is the largest piece of tough sapphire glass that Vertu -- or any phone maker for that matter -- has ever crafted, as well as a layer of soft but durable calf leather wrapping around the Grade 5 titanium body. It'll also come in five colors: dark brown, orange (our favorite so far), black, light brown and cherry.

Vertu's CEO Massimiliano Pogliani told us that this "less is more" approach is to have a more neutral, less showy offer that he believes will appeal to a larger audience.

"It tested extremely well [in study groups] in China and Russia," said the exec. "In terms of design and appearance, it is being luxury but not too bling, too wild, too pushy, so I'm very happy and very confident."

Vertu's new Constellation is its second Android phone, and you still can't afford it
Vertu's new Constellation is its second Android phone, and you still can't afford it

Of course, the relatively more affordable €4,900 (about $6,630) Constellation will co-exist with the more masculine Ti that comes with extra goodies.

"The service proposition is also different," continued Pogliani. "You want the full monty, concierge? You go for the Ti. You want a more easy approach, still belong to the group with privileged access, sleekier design, more unisex? You go for the Constellation."

In terms of specs, the Constellation is actually slightly more powerful than the Ti. For one, it comes with a newer but still lightly customized Android 4.2, which runs on top of a larger 4.3-inch 720p display and a 1.7GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 SoC -- but with a more powerful graphics processor than the Ti's MSM8260A, so this is likely the MSM8260A Pro with Adreno 320. There are also a 13-megapixel camera with dual LED flash, a 1.3-megapixel front imager, a larger 1,800mAh battery (which is, sadly, still dwarfed by many new phones) and the usual radios like NFC, WiFi plus Bluetooth 4.0 (with aptX audio support). On the cellular side you get WCDMA 850/900/1700/1900/2100, so it'll work just fine on AT&T and T-Mobile's networks.

Vertu's new Constellation is its second Android phone, and you still can't afford it

Alas, you only get 32GB of built-in storage instead of 64GB, and there's still no LTE radio to please the speed freaks (though this is good news for the battery), as many of Vertu's active markets lack LTE service. The pin-eject SIM tray is also a slight let-down compared to Vertu's more convenient pop-out back panel on previous models, so hopefully the latter is here to stay.

As part of the Vertu Certainty offering, the Constellation comes with the option to subscribe to "a unique offer of global, unlimited Wi-Fi access" from iPass, as well as an advanced version of Kaspersky anti-virus app. Users can also sign up with security company Protector Services Group to enable personal tracking and an alert button on the phone, which can be very handy if you're entering a high risk area -- especially for insurance purposes. Like the Ti, the newer phone also supports Silent Circle's encrypted VoIP call service, and it'll soon include encrypted instant messaging, too.

For those interested, the Constellation will be available in select Vertu boutiques starting this month, but you're advised to make an appointment ahead of time should you wish to check it out. You'll probably also want to start looking into suitcases that can carry all your cash.

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 Vertu launches the new Constellation smartphone; handmade in England, combining premium materials and contemporary styling
 Launch supported by 'extraordinary' advertising campaign, shot by leading fashion photographer, Kristian Schuller
 Launch follows 12 months of transformation at the world's foremost luxury mobile phone manufacturer
 Constellation available in stores from October 2013, priced from €4,900

Vertu Constellation

Constellation is a modern smartphone that combines all of Vertu's expertise in fine materials, craftsmanship, technology and services. Its sleek, contemporary form has been designed and engineered to appeal equally to male and female customers.

Vertu Chief Executive Officer, Massimiliano Pogliani, said: "This is a vibrant time for Vertu. This is our second major product launch of 2013 and it helps define a clear segmentation strategy which identifies distinct product lines in the Vertu portfolio. This will broaden Vertu's appeal, attracting new customers to the brand as well as increasing the choice for our existing global customer base."

Vertu's Head of Total Product Offering, Ignacio Germade, said: "Constellation moves Vertu design into a contemporary realm. When we created VERTU Ti, we used a very elegant design language that visually connects to our heritage and that gives the product a timeless quality. Conversely, in Constellation, we have designed a modern, minimal phone that is sleek and understated. While Constellation takes Vertu in a new design direction, materially it embodies everything for which the brand has become renowned – tactile materials, outstanding engineering and craftsmanship and modern technology."

Sapphire crystal is a well-established part of the Vertu story. Constellation uses a 5.1 inch piece – weighing more than 100 carats – to cover the entire front of the phone and under which sits a 4.3 inch 720p high definition screen. The sapphire is resistant to scratching from anything other than diamond, ensuring that the screen remains virtually flawless throughout the life of the phone.

Surrounding the sapphire crystal is an engineered grade 5 titanium casing, a material two and a half times stronger than stainless steel yet only half the weight. It is the durability and lightweight nature of grade 5 titanium, coupled with its immaculate finish once polished, that makes it a perfect material for Vertu handsets.

Constellation is swathed in high quality calf leather. Vertu has carefully selected the finest hides available from the Alps region of Europe, working with a tannery with more than 150 years' experience. Constellation will launch in five exquisite colours that make stunning use of the single piece of leather used - Cappuccino, Black, Orange, Mocha and Raspberry.

Technically, Vertu Constellation offers everything for the modern smartphone user: Android™ 4.2 Jelly Bean, Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ dual core 1.7 GHz CPU, 32GB of internal memory, 13MP rear-facing camera with full HD video (1080p), a front-facing Skype™ compliant 1.3MP camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC.

Constellation also features a portfolio of melodic ringtones especially composed for Vertu and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The portfolio also includes a set featuring English bird song. All of these ringtones benefit from Vertu engineers' meticulous approach to mobile audio engineering, resulting in unparalleled acoustic clarity. Constellation also features uplink noise cancellation software, as well as aptX® support, which guarantees superior playback quality when streaming audio to Bluetooth® headphones or speakers.

Alongside Constellation's comprehensive technical offering, sits Vertu's range of exclusive services, grouped as Vertu LIFE and Vertu CERTAINTY.

Vertu LIFE offers customers a personalised selection of exclusive privileges and unrestricted access to elite events available directly on device. Features include complimentary entry to the most exclusive Private Members' Clubs around the world, access to invitation-only events and closed-door shopping experiences.

Vertu CERTAINTY protects the customer, their Vertu phone and their data through best-in-class technology and expert partners. This includes encrypted communications in partnership with Silent Circle, global Wi-Fi access via iPass, personal and corporate security with Protector Services Group and anti-virus by Kaspersky.

Vertu Campaign

Vertu Constellation will be supported by a vibrant new global advertising campaign. The campaign has been designed to play on Vertu's English heritage, use of fine materials, hand craftsmanship, technology and the brand's unique service offering. Shot by renowned photographer Kristian Schuller, the campaign imagery focuses on extraordinary scenes that reference specific aspects of the Vertu brand.

Vertu Chief Executive Officer, Massimiliano Pogliani, said: "The new campaign marks a fundamental change in Vertu's advertising. It is reflective of our own confidence as well as our desire to clearly express the extraordinary world that we create for our customers. The rich imagery shines a light on a fantasy landscape that captures the imagination but also frames rational aspects of our brand, such as our meticulous craftsmanship and our carefully curated services."

The campaign, VERTU EXTRAORDINARY, was created by London based CHI & Partners, who were appointed by Vertu as its lead creative agency in July 2013.

Vertu – October 2012 to October 2013

Vertu has now operated for a year as a stand-alone company following its purchase by EQT this time last year. Constellation marks the second major product launch for the company in this period. A number of senior management changes have also been made during the last 12 months.

Massimiliano Pogliani, formerly Vertu's Chief Marketing Officer, was appointed Chief Executive Officer in June. Also in June, Jonathan Sinclair joined Vertu from Jimmy Choo as Chief Operating Officer.

Massimiliano Pogliani said: "It has been a very busy period for all of us at Vertu as we have reshaped the business, equipping it for a stronger, brighter future. There have been changes across the core of the business following the sale of the company and we have taken the same, innovative approach that we use in our product development to every area of our operation. In particular, we have worked on our manufacturing processes where we need to balance the artisan world of the luxury industry with the fast-paced world of mobile technology. This is a period of positive transformation for the company, during which we are defining our future product range, streamlining our global operation and ensuring that we are continually developing the luxury mobile category in the most relevant way for our customers."

Pogliani continues: "Vertu is on an incredible journey that sees us build on our heritage while fundamentally reshaping our brand for the future. Vertu was born of a pioneering spirit, a simple idea that the mobile phone – today, the most ubiquitous of devices – could be something more than it currently is. At Vertu we are continuing to innovate with our materials and services and combining these elements with stylish, contemporary design and modern technology. We will
continue to place our consumers at the heart of our company and our thinking, working to ensure that every aspect of their Vertu experience is extraordinary, from our retail environments to the on-device experiences and to the products themselves. I am proud to be leading the brand at such an exciting time."

Vertu pioneered the luxury mobile phone category with the launch of the iconic 'Signature' phone in 2002. Since then it has dominated the category that it created, despite competition from many larger brands over the years. Each phone is handmade in a state-of-the-art facility in Hampshire, England, and on completion is signed by the craftsman that created it – an indication of the passion, pride and dedication that goes into each product.