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Luxury Phone Maker Loses Battle with Consumers

The company made cellphones with ostrich leather. Now, it's liquidating.

The formula was perfect in 1998: cell phones were really just toeing the mainstream, and so when Nokia launched a luxury brand called Vertu, the elite came calling.

According to Tech Crunch, at the time Vertu sold luxury phones at boutiques almost like they were accessories. It wasn’t uncommon to see devices made with hand-cut leather and encrusted with jewels, selling from $10,000 and up.

But there were two eras for Vertu, says Tech Crunch, best defined as Before iPhone and After iPhone. If you recall, there was a time when functionality differences between brands weren’t that dramatic and people cared a lot about things like weight and size. But when the smart phone entered our purview – specifically Apple’s take – things changed for everyone.

The Vertu is uniquely luxurious with its designs and materials and it’s handcrafted in the UK at a plant where customers can actually call and talk to the person who is producing their specific phone. And yet the technology platform – an old version of Android – just didn’t cut the mustard with today’s high-end clients who seemingly value functionality over style – if ostrich leather is your style.

But despite this roadblock, Vertu managed to stick around for an astonishing length of time before the inevitable came – earlier this month, the company announced that it would be liquidating after an offer of an infusion of cash by its owner was rejected by a British high court as not being viable. Tech website The Verge said the offer was to pay few million dollars to its creditors when the company was, in fact, saddled with debt in the $170 million range. So… it’s a no, then?

Vertu has since announced it will be shutting down its UK manufacturing operations and eliminating around 200 jobs. But don’t worry glamour girls and guys – the owner, Turkish businessman Hakan Uzan, says he hopes to maintain the brand and ultimately rebuild the company.

This is IEN Now with Anna Wells. 

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