I remember hearing, a decade ago, about the Vertu being the world's most expensive phone. A phone studded with gold and diamonds is meant solely as a style statement and is more an ornament than a communication device. Yet one wonders, can ultra-luxury phones be more than just super-luxe toys? Mobiado thinks so. Launching in India through Mihaus, devices from Mobiado are targeted at an audience that looks to balance opulence and functionality.
Being an Android user, I am a little sceptical about using a Symbian mobile phone. From T9 to QWERTY to touch - I am not ready to reverse that progression. The Classic 712 GCB Rose, which comes in a sumptuous leather box, wrapped in a soft cloth, looks slightly strange. I realise why - the keys are little, round buttons, nothing like anything I have seen on a mobile phone. As I pick the weighty phone up, I see that the tiny buttons are sapphires, with the alphabet printed onto the body rather than the buttons. The back of the phone is again sapphire crystal. While sliding the cover out, I fear it would break, so brittle it feels. The tiny battery in this Symbian phone is quite easy on the eyes, with the classy Mobiado logo printed on its black body. I pluck it out and look for the SIM card slot.
I locate a slot that says "SIM" and I dig out my micro-SIM from my phone to slot it into the Mobiado. I take the tiny SIM and slip it into the Mobiado slot - and it turns out that the Canadian device needs an old-style SIM-card, not the micro version that its slot size hinted at. That's when the problem starts. I cannot prise my SIM out. And that's also when I realise that Mobiado really means it when they say that you can't disassemble any model on your own. For once though, it doesn't seem like an advantage. The phone has to be sent to the service centre at Ghittorni, near Gurgaon, and it is a few hours before I am connected to the world again.
I begin to wonder why I didn't reach out for the Grand Touch Executive Android phone instead because that would have definitely accepted my micro-SIM. The answer is clear - I had instinctively reached for the Classic because I couldn't imagine why a luxury phone, especially one that costs Rs 4.72 lakh, would not have at least a QWERTY keypad, let alone a touchscreen. Besides, the QWERTY and touchscreen versions are, in fact, priced lower than the Classic.
Charu Makin, the national head of sales and marketing at Mihaus, describes the Classic as "a phone that a more mature user would appreciate". It lacks several features that one would get with a smartphone, but it's relatively feature-laden for a Symbian model. The camera quality isn't spectacular, but it isn't very disappointing either - the 5 megapixel delivers average pictures. For a smartphone user, however, the 205-carat sapphire crystals or the 18-carat hand-painted gold body notwithstanding, the Symbian is a definite downgrade. Besides, the phones, across various models, are much heavier than the lightweight smartphones available in the market. But as Makin explains, for a "mature user", the phone can be the perfect blend of style and utility. This is particularly true for the service experience, which Mihaus will handle itself, promising to continue the luxury experience even after a handset is bought. As if to prove the point, I do get my SIM card back. It is delivered to me from Gurgaon despite it being late in the evening.
The phones, ranging from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh (for limited-edition models), are definitely not for anyone who peers at a bill twice or thrice. But in the luxury mobile phone market, they seem to be better alternatives to equally blingy handsets that don't offer much utility. Available across touchscreen, QWERTY and the good, old T9 keypad, some models are also 3G-enabled, allowing users to choose whichever technological timezone they want to belong to. Now should one buy them? That depends on your bank balance.