Mobile luxuries

On the face of it, the idea of phone as status symbol runs fairly contrary to the general reality of the phone market now: anybody can own an iPhone, Blackberry or any one of the plethora of good-looking, ingeniously engineered smartphones out there, and most of us do.

But there are those looking for something that little bit more special, and a growing number of ultra-swanky phones have emerged to cater to them.

The concept has been pioneered by British company Vertu, which has this week made a crucial move into the smartphone market with the launch of its Blackberry-resembling Constellation Quest. For over 10 years, Vertu has been producing phones reflecting the best qualities of the fine luxury goods: all its phones are completely handmade at its Hampshire workshop, using rarefied materials like carbon fibres, ceramics and fine leathers. The qwerty keys of the Constellation Quest, for instance, are made from specially-grown crystals, while the screen is made of the same unscratchable sapphire glass used to make top-end watches.

It’s also a winner for functionality, with a cool interface and lots of interesting little utilities. Running on Symbian software, it can do all the normal emailing, social networking and web navigating you’d expect – including your own Vertu email account that’s centrally backed-up – and you can configure things to your own preferences. The screen resolution, with that sapphire crystal covering and 325 pixels per inch, is stunning, while 16 internal antennae boost connectivity no end.

It’s also a concierge in your pocket, with a button on the side of the phone to hook you up with Vertu’s luxury living experts, and a City Brief function providing high-life guides to pretty much every major city in the world.

Vertu isn’t the only company in the luxury phone market. Swiss watch company TAG Heuer’s Meridiist phone, launched two years ago with its groovy clock screen on top, has improved software in its latest phone.

At the out-of-this-world end of the market, meanwhile, is the LeDix phone from French company Celsius X VI II, which combines a sleek clam-shape phone with a minutely-engineered tourbillon clock built into it – a collectors’ item for haute horology connoisseurs with very deep pockets.