The ultra-luxe cellphone

  @FortuneMagazine April 11, 2013: 6:35 AM ET
FIO29 virtu ti cellphone

At Vertu's factory in England, only one person assembles each phone, then buffs the titanium to a high sheen.


A dozen craftsmen sit in neat rows, hushed, squinting, judiciously turning minuscule titanium screws. They are assembling smartphones. After fitting all 184 parts, they buff the edges of the device, then laser-engrave their name onto a titanium plate where the SIM card goes, snapping it into place.

Vertu, which has been producing premium gadgets for over a decade, began selling the Ti, an Android-based phone with a base price of $9,600, earlier this spring. Lately, the company's Church Crookham, Hampshire, England manufacturing center has been hosting customers to show off this scene: a single craftsman carefully constructing a single phone. The story behind a pricey phone can be very valuable, too.

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