The (in)utility of luxury mobile phones

It appears that the process of luxury branding will never come to an end, more so it is gaining more and more force by the year. It started in the last decade with designer kitchens, then it moved on to hotels, holiday resorts, private residences, bicycles, automobile interiors and in recent years mobile phones. This craze for branding cell phones is understandable; after all we are living in the era of technology.

The latest thing on the luxury branded mobile phone market comes from the house of Versace. At the beginning of this year, they launched their line of mobile phones and made a great deal of fuss about it. Now, finally, they will be available in certain selected stores in just a couple of days. But don’t let yourselves be fooled; Versace has done only the designing part of the phone, while the actual production is done by the French company ModeLabs. This manufacturer has had previous experience with luxury mobile phones, as it has been the producer of the Dior and Tag Heuer lines of fancy cell phones. As always, Versace is trying to top everyone else when it comes to extravagance in any line, thus the price of one their cell phones can even go up to €7000. This is a rather flagrant attempt to get ahead of the house of Dior, which launched their own line of luxury mobile phones in 2008 and put a €3500 price tag on them.

Regardless of the steep prices, there were still many brand fanatics who rushed to buy the never before seen luxury mobile phones. And the outcome was totally predictable. The vast majority of clients were highly displeased with the quality of the products and their rudimentary functions. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Judging from this, many customers should feel ashamed for falling for the same trick twice. As we all remember, some years ago the illustrious Vertu mobile phone brand exploded onto the market and took everyone’s breath away. The company hurried into a partnership with the legendary jewelry house Boucheron and designed numerous models thinking that they will fly off the shelves. However, they omitted one detail: they should have attached a pin to it, so that customers who paid an astronomical amount for it could wear the diamond and ruby incrusted device as a brooch, because it certainly wasn’t fit to be used as mobile phone. In a time when everyone was struggling to achieve as many breakthroughs in the field of communication, Vertu settled for launching a phone whose most ‘technological’ aspects were the MMS service and a poor quality camera. In this context, a music player or internet access are not even worth mentioning. So it came as no surprise that sales never took off the ground and the only customers who opted for this brand (obviously for the cheapest model possible) were the highly ostentatious nouveaux riches from Eastern European countries who still needed to solidify their social status by boasting a yellow gold plated phone.

Truth be told, ModeLabs have learnt their lesson from the previous luxury mobile phone fiascos and have advised Versace to create a cell with all the modern applications such as 3G, email access and video player; unlike the Dior one from only two years ago, which did not even have a camera and ‘rivaled’ the Nokia models from the early 2000s. And now, who knows, maybe Versace will have more luck in selling the branded mobile phones than their rivals. However, taking into consideration the very pricy approach they took to the whole matter, this luxury consultant still has serious doubts. After all, for the staggering sum of 6000 or €7000, the brand obsessed client to whom this mobile phone is obviously addressed, can buy a Dior python bag, a moderately priced Cartier watch or even a regular Birkin if there is enough patience to wait for it months at a time. And if we are to measure which will boost your social status, an Hermès on your arm or a Versace mobile phone in your hand, the cell is out of the question.

Mircea Filimon