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Waste or worth? $10,000 smartphone

By Ramy Inocencio, for CNN
February 13, 2013 -- Updated 0930 GMT (1730 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Vertu Ti boasts sapphire-crystal screen, titanium casing
  • $10,000 price tag includes personal concierge service, voice encrypted calls
  • CEO Oosting: "We're not after market share"
  • CNN's dos Santos: Only 320,000 Vertu smartphones have been sold

Hong Kong (CNN) -- If new is a necessity, tech is your god and money no object then a $10,000 Vertu smartphone will probably catch your eye.

The British-based luxury mobile phone maker unveiled the Vertu Ti this week. Its sapphire-crystal screen is virtually scratchproof, says the company, while a titanium casing helps keep data safe and sound.

But in this 21st century mobile phone paradigm in which consumers buy a new phone every few years -- and where new products roll out every year (or even less) -- does it make sense to splurge on a swank smartphone with a price tag closer to that of a small car or several months' apartment rent?

"If you are interested in something which is different, unique" then this device might be for you, said Vertu CEO Perry Oosting to CNN's Nina dos Santos.

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The Vertu Ti (pronounced "tee-eye") emphasizes the value of "durable" over "disposable" materials that a consumer might expect from the luxury category, added Oosting. "More the touch and the feel and the sensory experience."

And with the sensory experience comes luxury services that go beyond that of a mainstream smartphone including a concierge service at the push of a button and encrypted voice calls to protect your company trade secrets.

Yet another selling point is the software that powers the Ti.

Former Vertu phones ran on the now-passé Symbian software. The Vertu Ti, meanwhile, runs on an Android operating system in a sign of its separation from former parent company Nokia. The flailing Finnish mobile giant lost $2.7 billion in the first nine months of 2012 and announced last June that it would sell Vertu to private equity group EQT VI.

"We live in a world where there's open operating systems that are quite open to use," explained Oosting on the new angle to Android. "Android is just delivering great software. It's very democratic."

But while the operating system is open to all, the costly Vertu clearly is not.

Around the world, only about 320,000 Vertu smartphones have been sold, said CNN's dos Santos, a number that pales in comparison to Samsung and Apple, the global smartphone market leaders.

For all of 2012, Samsung sold more than 215 million smartphones for a 30.3% global market share and top ranking, according to IDC Worldwide. Apple sold nearly 136 million smartphones in 2012 for a 19.1% slice of global market share. Even Vertu's former parent company Nokia sold more than 35 million smartphones last year.

But Vertu's CEO simply says he does not envisage the masses talking and texting on a Ti.

"Absolutely not. That's never our drive. We're not after market share. We're not after high quantities," said Oosting. "We want to deliver an authentic, made in Hampshire, made by one person, a unique proposition that is a true sensory experience in terms of the experience of the device."

And consumers who buy the Ti will surely want to avoid losing their pricy purchase.

Then again, if they can afford one, they might be well-positioned to afford a replacement.

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