Metawatch Aims For The High End With New Smartwatches By A Former Vertu Designer

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Metawatch, one of the first working smart watches that interfaced directly with Android and iOS cellphones, has announced plans to expand their line with the new Meta. Designed by former Vertu/Nokia designer Frank Nuovo, the new pieces have stainless steel hardware enclosing a rectangular watch body and bold black face.

The pieces will feature better materials than the traditional smart watch including leather bands and nicer crystals. The company has launched a new web campaign for the timepieces and is hoping to distance itself from cheaper, mostly plastic smart watches.

Metawatch announced the partnership last February and this is the first of the pieces to come out of Nuovo’s workshop.

“The new Meta line provides a visibly unique, classically influenced style, which is inspired and driven by our theme: ‘Art of the Glance,’” Nuovo said in a release.

As the idea of a usable wearable devices becomes commonplace, companies like Metawatch have a distinct advantage. Founded by former Fossil engineers, the company’s earlier watches were at the forefront of smart watch tech and, although it took the Pebble to truly define the market, they have succeeded in doing some excellent work. This decision to go into these yet-unpriced luxury pieces makes perfect sense. By aiming at the higher end, it seems, they sidestep all competition from later players and rocket firmly into a very interesting and lucrative niche.

There’s no much more info right now but we’ll keep our eye on these pieces and hopefully have hands on at CES 2014.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Luxury Phone Brand Vertu Launches Its First Android-Powered Handset — For Those With $10,000+ To Spend

Vertu logo

Vertu, the formerly-owned-by-Nokia maker of eye-wateringly expensive, leather-clad, gem-encrusted, handmade-in-the-U.K. ‘luxury’ smartphones, has launched an Android-powered device: the Vertu Ti.

After leaving the Nokia fold, back in October, it was rumoured that Vertu planned to do what many a Nokia fan still wishes that company would do: ditch Symbian and adopt Android. Today Vertu unveiled its first Android-powered phone, along with a new slogan: “Handmade in England. Powered by Android”.

The Vertu Ti runs Android 4.0, skinned with a dedicated Vertu UI. The handset costs from a whopping €7,900 — approaching $ 11,000 — for which you also get a 3.7 inch “virtually scratchproof sapphire crystal screen”; a grade 5 titanium strong-but-lightweight casing; a dual-core 1.7 GHz processor and 1GB of RAM; an 8 megapixel rear camera with 1080p video capture plus a 1.3 megapixel front-facing lens; 64GB of internal memory; and ‘Bang & Olufsen tuned’ sound. What you don’t get: 4G. 

Speaking to the BBC, Vertu CEO Perry Oosting explained why the company decided to adopt Android, rather than follow Nokia’s lead and opt for Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform. “You need to be part of an ecosystem,” he said. ”Your device will have to integrate with other devices. I think the Windows phone will have success but it is still a relatively small market share. At the moment it doesn’t have the global reach of Android — which is about 60 per cent of the market.”

Oosting didn’t mention Android’s openness to being customised but Microsoft’s refusal to allow mobile makers to skin Windows Phone with their own UIs may well rule out any luxury brand tie-ins, since Windows Phone currently offers limited scope for branding — beyond being able to display a branded homescreen Live Tile.

Despite (finally) reaching the conclusion that ecosystems are king, Vertu still obviously sells to a very exclusive club of buyers — with huge amounts of cash to spend on a phone. There are just 326,000 Vertu smartphone owners globally after 10 years in the industry, according to the BBC. China is said to be Vertu’s biggest market.


TechCrunch » android

Luxury Phone Brand Vertu Launches Its First Android-Powered Handset — For Those With $10,000+ To Spend

Vertu logo

Vertu, the formerly-owned-by-Nokia maker of eye-wateringly expensive, leather-clad, gem-encrusted, handmade-in-the-U.K. ‘luxury’ smartphones, has launched an Android-powered device: the Vertu Ti.

After leaving the Nokia fold, back in October, it was rumoured that Vertu planned to do what many a Nokia fan still wishes that company would do: ditch Symbian and adopt Android. Today Vertu unveiled its first Android-powered phone, along with a new slogan: “Handmade in England. Powered by Android”.

The Vertu Ti runs Android 4.0, skinned with a dedicated Vertu UI. The handset costs from a whopping €7,900 — approaching $ 11,000 — for which you also get a 3.7 inch “virtually scratchproof sapphire crystal screen”; a grade 5 titanium strong-but-lightweight casing; a dual-core 1.7 GHz processor and 1GB of RAM; an 8 megapixel rear camera with 1080p video capture plus a 1.3 megapixel front-facing lens; 64GB of internal memory; and ‘Bang & Olufsen tuned’ sound. What you don’t get: 4G. 

Speaking to the BBC, Vertu CEO Perry Oosting explained why the company decided to adopt Android, rather than follow Nokia’s lead and opt for Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform. “You need to be part of an ecosystem,” he said. ”Your device will have to integrate with other devices. I think the Windows phone will have success but it is still a relatively small market share. At the moment it doesn’t have the global reach of Android — which is about 60 per cent of the market.”

Oosting didn’t mention Android’s openness to being customised but Microsoft’s refusal to allow mobile makers to skin Windows Phone with their own UIs may well rule out any luxury brand tie-ins, since Windows Phone currently offers limited scope for branding — beyond being able to display a branded homescreen Live Tile.

Despite (finally) reaching the conclusion that ecosystems are king, Vertu still obviously sells to a very exclusive club of buyers — with huge amounts of cash to spend on a phone. There are just 326,000 Vertu smartphone owners globally after 10 years in the industry, according to the BBC. China is said to be Vertu’s biggest market.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Luxury Smartphone Brand Vertu Keeps Current CEO, Names Nokia Alum Anssi Vanjoki Chairman

Vertu-Constellation-Quest-FCC

Nokia finally managed to offload its luxury-oriented Vertu brand to private equity firm EQT-VI late last week, but the parties involved seemed content to keep quiet at the time. Not so anymore — Vertu has just issued an official statement on the matter, and shed a bit of new light on its executive structure going forward.

Sources told TechCrunch late last week that Nokia alum Anssi Vanjoki would take over Vertu’s CEO spot, but that no longer seems to be the case. Instead, he has been appointed chairman of a new, non-executive board intended to support current Vertu chief Perry Oosting as he continues to run the show.

So what’s next for the newly transferred business unit? Vertu’s statement also points to the existence of a “strong product roadmap in development,” though there was no further explanation on the matter. The company is probably best known for tricking out otherwise droll feature phones with ridiculously ostentatious trim (to their credit, they never took the easy route and blinged up commonly-available hardware), but recent hardware forays like the Constellation line have underlined a shift in the company’s understanding of the mobile market. Paying a ridiculous sum of money for a phone is one thing, but paying a ridiculous sum of money for a phone that’s technically inferior to more common devices doesn’t seem to be a philosophy Vertu will be clinging to for much longer.

To wit: recent rumblings point to Vertu’s adoption of Android for use in powering its future handsets. It’s a savvy move, if true — it’s highly customizable for one (which means that Vertu owners could soon have a gaudy smartphone UI to go with their device’s gaudy industrial design), not to mention that the shift could finally put Vertu hardware on the same level as other modern smartphones. Then again, I’m not sure how many people actually bought Vertu handsets for their functionality, so who knows how this will all play out.


TechCrunch » Gadgets