LONDON — The bling wasn’t enough in the end.
Luxury smartphone maker Vertu has gone into liquidation following a failed attempt by its latest owner, Hakan Uzan, to salvage the struggling maker of bejeweled, high-end phones.
The company said it would “focus on developing a new, next generation suite of services, exclusively for our customers. We plan to launch these services from September 2017.”
As a result of the liquidation, the company will close its manufacturing facility in Hampshire, England, leading to the loss of up to 200 jobs.
The company had been facing ongoing struggles to keep its product relevant in a fast-paced, competitive market. Vertu occupied a small niche in the market and its clientele was only the very rich. Its smartphones were encased in materials such as alligator skin, platinum or gold, while some even sparkled with sapphires.
Prices ranged from 11,100 pounds for a stainless-steel and leather model to 39,100 pounds for a gold one. Other features included a concierge service, similar to those offered by most high-end credit-card companies. It offered access to restaurants, hotels or exclusive clubs.
Its failure to keep up with the pace of technology meant that its already-limited clientele was starting to look elsewhere.
From a technology point of view, Vertu’s operating systems were often outdated and the company failed to keep up to date with models released by competitors.
In the last few years, the company tried to court a younger consumer with a lower-priced device, the Aster, which was priced at 4,900 euros, and offered a wide selection of colored leather cases and customization services.
The company had also tried to align itself with fashion over the years, sponsoring the Vogue Festival in London, the British Fashion Council and GQ’s men’s wear fund.
Vogue and the BFC declined to comment.
“It was one of the most expensive phones on the market, but its price tag wasn’t justifiable as in terms of function. It wouldn’t even do what a normal phone does,” said retail consultant Paul Thomas, adding that the phone’s camera couldn’t stand up to the competition and the functions were not as smooth.
He said Vertu suffered a fall in sales in the last year, with customers choosing to move to other brands.
“There was a Middle Eastern and Asian following, but those people are now buying gold iPhones or the Porsche design BlackBerry, which has been in high demand in Harrods,” he said.