Technically, Android is a free and open source mobile operating system, but there's still plenty of opportunities out there to pay gobs of money for an Android phone. The most exorbitant way to show you're both a member of the Android faithful and a big spender is with the new Vertu Ti.
Vertu is perhaps the leading maker of "luxury" smartphones and the Ti is the company's acknowledgement that the global demand for Android phones is impossible to ignore, and perhaps that focusing on Symbian phones – Vertu was once a division of Symbian phone King Nokia – is a strategy for an earlier decade.
The Ti runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich inside a polished titanium case with leather accents and a "virtually scratch proof " sapphire crystal screen, all for just €7,900 or about US$10,500.
Vertu claims the sapphire screen is the largest ever engineered at 3.7 inches, and resists impact four times better than other smartphones. The titanium case is also reputed to be five times stronger than the competition, making it a better candidate for a fill-in hockey puck than the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3 (although I still wouldn't try that at home).
The materials that make up the innards aren't quite as impressive. Key specs include a 1.7 GHz processor, 8MP rear camera with auto focus and twin LED flash, a 1.3MP front facing Skype-compliant camera, 64GB internal memory and NFC. That's a decent component lineup, but not too different from what you'd find today in phones that cost one-twentieth the price of one Vertu Ti.
What Vertu does offer that no other competitor can claim, besides the titanium and sapphire crystal, is what amounts to a live personal assistant on-call at the press of just a single button. Vertu's Concierge Services outsource a lot of the functions – such as booking exclusive hotels and dinner reservations – that the rest of us do via apps, to a live person on the ground in the same region of the world.
While Vertu customer service can be outsourced to just about anywhere in the world, the manufacture of the phones still takes place in England, where a single craftsman makes each unit by hand at the company headquarters in Hampshire.
If a $10,000 smartphone doesn't quite sound like your style, don't worry. You can add some bling and upgrade to the "Titanium Red Gold Mixed Metals" variant for a grand total of nearly $20,000. Always good to have options.