The market for luxury technology has become broader following the launch of higher priced versions of Apple’s iPhone, according to the maker of the world’s most expensive smartphones. Vertu, the British luxury smartphone maker, will on Thursday unveil the Signature Touch, its latest model, which will cost almost £7,000 for the most basic edition. Customers wanting to buy a rose gold frame will need to pay nearer £17,000, or more if they want bespoke colours.
Such devices have traditionally been aimed at the wealthy. However, Max Pogliani, chief executive, said the market for luxury phones had expanded in the past year. He pointed at how Apple was “talking about luxury and the retail experience”.
“You do not have to be a millionaire to own a Vertu,” he said.
The company has spent the past two years rethinking its position in the market to escape criticism that its products were “bling” and broaden its potential customer base.
“I sell a luxury lifestyle object, but it needs the same standard of technology as the others,” he said, pointing to a trend among his customers to do a more “subtle showing off of wealth” than in previous years.
Mr Pogliani said that sales were growing in the Middle East, Europe and the US. He added that the company had broadened its reach already with phones aimed more at a female audience and younger people.
Analysts agreed that Vertu needed to open up its market. “The global slowdown in luxury goods, particularly in markets such as China and Russia, has affected any manufacturer targeting premium segments. With demand dropping, it’s logical for Vertu to broaden it horizons,” said Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight.
“Furthermore, some high-net-worth individuals no longer see enough benefits in a bespoke Vertu phone versus an Apple iPhone, which has likely further softened demand. Vertu needs to respond to this by widening its appeal.”
Mr Pogliani admitted a basic Vertu model that only made calls still comprised more than a quarter of its sales, which suggests that not all wealthy phone users need to access their own emails or use the internet.
EQT, the private equity firm that acquired the company from Nokia more than two years ago, had invested in the group’s development, Mr Pogliani added.
By Daniel Thomas Courtesy FT.com