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Review of Vertu Constellation Quest GSM/UMTS

Live photos of Vertu Constellation Quest

Contents:

  1. In the box:
  2. Positioning
  3. Design, dimensions and controls
  4. Display
  5. Keypad
  6. Memory and memory cards
  7. Battery
  8. USB, Bluetooth
  9. Camera
  10. Concierge
  11. Menu and software details
  12. Impressions

In the box:

  • Phone
  • 1500 mAh Li-Pol BP-4LV battery
  • Charger
  • USB cable
  • 32 GB microSD memory card
  • Wired stereo headset
  • TV Out cable
  • User Guide
  • Cloth
  • Certificate

Positioning

During a typical year Vertu launches several models in different variations, which emphasizes the status when the manufacturer doesn't try launching handsets in different form factors with little technical peculiarities. Starting with 2010 Vertu increased the speed of new models introductions and form factors became more versatile too. The first clamshell Ayxta was followed by new Ascent X and QWERTY model in the shape of Quest.

Vertu market position was always easy to decide. They sell expensive premium phones for those who can afford them. Best and unique materials were accompanied by simple software features. Vertu never aspired to offer the best technologies, but opted for reliable models, which were easy to use. A subsidiary of Nokia has to employ S40 and S60 platforms for its products. The deterioration in the quality of these platforms translated into appropriate negative changes of Vertu gadgets. Software mistakes led to complains from users. Quest is an attempt to offer tools for independent correction of mistakes (remote testing of features and correction of mistakes), but it is merely a step to decrease the load of Vertu services rather than a real help in the issue.

Quest surprises in another respect. It is the second model on S60 and the first QWERTY handset from Vertu. The model was supposed to be met with optimism by business people, who do not trust their PAs in daily planning and prefer checking e-mails independently and answer messages from their phones. It is a substitute of Blackberry and its rivals, which underlines the status. Unfortunately, the business world belongs to Blackberry or Apple iPhone. More importantly, high flying entrepreneurs are not shy to admit they like these models.

What is the target audience of Vertu Quest? I guess the company aims at rich young people, who not necessarily want a phone for work, but try to show off with such a device. Some ladies may choose it as a present for themselves if their partners ask them to choose something expensive and nice. The choice is predetermined by price and not design and features. Choosing between Ascent and Quest girls prefer the first one when they compare them in real life, while Quest attracts with its higher price if you look at its pictures online or in magazines.

Vertu always provided premium solutions, but starting with the second part of 2010 the company began expanding its range to boost sales. New form factors were boosted by direct advertising. In big cities you can see billboards above major highways with Quest ads.

I had a question why, let's say, Maybach doesn't use similar advertising. The same applies to other status brands. They never used street advertising and target their potential customers only. Vertu always followed this strategy, but the situation changed in 2010. The brand attempts to increase its market presence, even though some people may cease viewing its products as elite. It becomes ordinary, albeit an expensive brand.

Another similar move makes me smile. When you register Quest (and other models from Vertu), a mailbox from vertu.me. is offered. My address is eldar.murtazin@vertu.me, but I don't use it. It is funny to imagine, that when you buy a Bentley an xxx@bentley.me address will accompany the purchase.

Vertu believes that people will use this mailbox and show everybody that they have a Vertu handset. At the same time this insistent demonstration of status is considered to be bad taste. A girl who got Vertu as a present and could never afford such a purchase can do that, but business tycoons and top managers would never follow suit. This solution is quite dubious and I am not sure Vertu will succeed here.

All in all Vertu Quest can be better used as a gift, where the price is the most important, while the subsequent fate of a gadget is another matter. It is also a good solution for rich youngsters, who care about the price and not the features. We cannot consider the model useful for business customers as it lags the market tendencies by a year and a half.

Design, dimensions and controls

This ordinary candybar is massive due to materials and weighs from 165 to 185 g depending on a variation. The body is always made of polished stainless steel. Shiny surfaces are easily soiled with traces of fingers and cheeks. Every side of a phone suffers from it Ц a sapphire glass covering the screen, ceramic logo at the top and sides. After 5 minutes you feel like cleaning it with a cloth. Ascent X and Ayxta are not as bad as Quest in this respect.


Dimensions are 116.2х60.8х12.7 mm. Quest is not the most compact of models, but it conveniently slides into a jeans pocket. The phone is too heavy for a shirt pocket though. In general I like the size and the design is pure Vertu. There are no changes here. Some may like it, while others will stay unmoved. Tastes differ after all.

The back side is covered with leather and the same material is used on the front near the bottom. We have three variants of colors Ц black, brown and pink leather for a model with sapphire buttons (И7100). Matte stainless steel comes with metal buttons and black or grey leather elements (И6000). The top version offers golden body, sapphire buttons and black leather (И21500).

I have no complaints about the build. The back cover stays in its place even if the phone falls down. The top has an on/off button, which is sunk into the body and not convenient to use. The keypad unblocking lever is placed nearby and doesn't provide the required convenience (its location is weird as well), as you have to press it with a finger. A 3.5 mm jack is also there.

Standard Vertu speakers of 11х15 mm are on sides. I think that speakers are similar to those of Ascent 2010 X. They are inferior to older ones in volume, which is especially obvious due to a quieter selection of ringtones.

The left side hosts a button, which can be assigned any operation. For example, it can launch an app. By default it activates the Concierge service. Near it we see a microUSB jack. On the left side we find a paired volume control rocker.

Under the battery there is a SIM card slot. It moves out and the card goes in with contacts up. The metal plate has a name (signature) of an engineer who made this sample.

Display

The handset features a 2.46″ TFT screen. Many believed it to have a QVGA resolution similar to that of Nokia E72 (2.36″). Nevertheless Vertu added a 640х480 screen, which is a record-breaking resolution for Symbian without a touchscreen.

The screen is protected by a sapphire glass and boasts good viewing angles. The picture is bright and colorful with well-crafted icons. I was pleasantly surprised to come across this excellent screen in the model. Nokia had similar plans for E73, but then this idea was dropped due to the increase in price, while here this question was not relevant.

The screen fits up to 12 text lines together with 3 service lines. In separate modes you can get up to 18 text lines. Fonts are easy to read.

Keypad

Buttons are made of sapphires and according to Vertu one handset requires around 25 hours of exquisite craftsmanship. Symbols are applied by silk screen printing. Buttons are curvy and resemble Nokia E71 (another hint at the date of development). In 2009 Nokia changed the keypad into a more convenient one and it can be seen in all modern handset from the Finnish manufacturer.

The keypad is convenient until you have to push low row buttons. The space is big, but clumsy. You require additional force to push it. You cannot enter texts quickly. The process is not smooth, because you have to press buttons differently and cannot get into a groove. I could not get accustomed to it even after one month.

The metal keypad has a laser perforation for the backlight similar to Ascent, but buttons are also curvy and the same low row problem persists here.

Backlight is not bright, but I like it. Navigation key is convenient to use, despite different levels of its elements.

Memory and memory cards

An ordinary handset has 240 MB of memory for apps. Apart from that we have 8 GB of inbuilt memory and a 32 GB card in the box. The smartphone sports 256 MB of RAM with 130 MB available after the start. This model is more stable than Nokia E72, but there is room for improvement Ц applications can collapse or work slowly (for example, the camera operates slowly, which is probably connected with the screen resolution and picture details).

Battery

In the box you can find a 1500 mAh BP-4LV battery. The manufacturer claims up to 349 hours on standby and 7.5 hours of talktime. In real life the model offers 2 days with average talktime (up to one hour during 2 days) and the minimum use of other features. Full charging takes around 3 hours. The active use of EDGE/3G cuts the operation time by 50%.

USB, Bluetooth

USB. In USB setting you can select one of three available modes:

  • Data Transfer (Mass Storage USB) – the phone memory and memory cards are detected; no drivers requires and the OS recognizes the handset without additional help.
  • PC Suite – work with Nokia PC Suite, access to all phone features, data backup and so on.
  • Image Print – photo printing.

Data transfer speed reaches 2 Mbps.

Bluetooth. Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR supports the following modules:

  • A2DP
  • AVCRP
  • BIP-ImagePush
  • DUN-GW
  • FT-Server
  • HandsFree-AG (1.0)
  • Headset-AG
  • OBEX
  • OPP-Client
  • OPP-Server
  • SIM Access-Server

Data transfer speed via Bluetooth reaches on average 100 Kb/s. We tested the transfer of stereo to a headset like Sony Ericsson DS970. Tracks handling, rewinding and skipping work without any problems, but the name of the track played at that time is not displayed on the screen.

WiFi. The phone features WiFi (IEEE 802.11g) with all security standards (WEP, WPA, WPA2) capable of maximum settings. For the first time Universal PnP (UPnP) is supported from the box. WiFi networks wizard can search for networks in the background mode and connect to them if necessary.

Camera

An ordinary 5 MP camera has autofocus, but the photos don't look impressive on a PC screen. At the same time high screen resolution makes for a good viewing quality on the handset. I will not describe camera settings and flash operation as it is not important for the product. Look at photo samples on screens of both a phone and a PC. Samples of video are given as well. I think you can make independent conclusions.

Samples of camera shots:

Concierge

Frankly speaking, nothing has changed in this service over the past years, so I will just repeat what I have written in the Constellation review.

By clicking the Concierge button you will see an icon with a tray and can immediately dial the concierge service. The call is international and will be charged at your operator's rates (the service itself is based in London). You can call at any time of the day or night; the operator will answer in Russian or will switch to one of the European languages (depending on where you're calling from and if your number is in the system). When purchasing a new Vertu phone, you get a one year's subscription to the Concierge service free of charge. When registering, you just need to enter the phone purchase date and the number engraved on the back side and also give your last name.

The operator (they call him a "secretary") can help you out on various issues from booking air tickets to hotel reservations, car rent, purchase of flowers, search for points of interest and information etc. Some operations will require registering your credit card number, and you will be charged for the purchase. Prices are premium which is a synonym of Ђexpensiveї. Of course, Vertu clients are rich people; however, saving up to 30 per cent of the amount in some cases is really nice. The Concierge provides high level of services, no question about it, and the price tag is just equivalent to it. Your own secretary will most probably solve your issues for the same time (or slightly longer) but in a more cost-effective way.

Without pretending to be exact or trying to ensure the integrity of test, I asked my friends who have Vertu phones about how often they use or had used this service and if they were planning to re-subscribe when the subscription term expires. Out of the total of 11 respondents, six called the Concierge service only once trying to figure out what the whole thing is about and eventually never used their services at all. Three respondents used the Concierge services in other countries mostly when looking for a good restaurant or searching for the store they needed. Two persons noted that they used the service as kind of 'yellow pages" to get online information about something. Out of the 11 persons, only one has re-subscribed to the Concierge service after the first year's free subscription. I would expect the most optimistic number of re-subscribers to be around 10 per cent of all Vertu users. Knowing similar markets, I can assume that the number is probably lower. I personally can say I've had enough of the Concierge after a month; for a number of reasons I did not need it.

For those who decide to re-subscribe, there are two tariff plans available, namely, basic and VIP. Given the company location, the services are charged in GBP.

Basic: infrequent requests, upper limit is not officially declared anywhere but actually it's about 20 calls per month. The price tag is 60 GBP or 89 EURO per month or 1,068 EURO per annum. By the way, that's where a quarter of the phone's price goes to cover the extra service. You pay 6 months' subscription fee or more.

VIP: you will have a personal secretary, and this rate is recommended for those who call the Concierge service 10 to 20 times a month. The personal secretary will be available 9 hours a day; all night requests shall be processed by other operators. The price tag is 200 GBP or 300 EURO per month or 3,600 EURO per annum. You pay 6 months' subscription fee or more. New clients can get a discount on VIP package and pay 150 GBP per month. A simple calculation shows that new Vertu clients get a 15 percent discount on the basic rate in the first year based on the difference in the rates. There is no difference in quality between these two tariff plans. Response time, databases, services suppliers etc. are all the same.

Unlike the exterior, brand and design, the Concierge service, though being an "image" thing, is not as visible and understandable by others. All operators in all countries have similar local services. If we take global players, they also offer similar solutions, but these are much more expensive (however, the service class is also higher).

Let's imagine we're trying to find two theater tickets for a matinee for two boys, both aged 5, in Moscow. I call the Concierge service, it takes approximately one minute to explain what I want. The operator promises to call back before next morning (we're calling at 15.50, local time). I hang up and call a local operator's paid service (short number). It takes one minute to explain what I want; the operator asks me to leave the phone number as the expert on culture is currently busy. The specialist calls back in five minutes (incoming call is free, there are no charges for consulting) and consults on this issue. For instance, he inquires once again about the gender and age of children and suggests several options in different regions of Moscow. I get 10 options in 5 minutes (then I stop the listing); tickets can be booked for three of these (approx. 20 percent price increase). Knowledge of the events and their age audience by the operator is an advantage (he even knew what is worth seeing and what is not; maybe I was just lucky, anyway, the operator was experienced on this subject). Please see the consolidated table of time and money expenses on search for information below.

Service Concierge Operator
Task explanation time 1 minute 1 minute
Call cost Call to Europe at local operator’s tariff (1.68 USD per minute) 1 minute cost: 1.18 USD including VAT
Response time 6 hours 5 minutes
Scope and comprehensiveness of information 7 options, no additional information on the events Over 10 options, knowledge of the events
Total costs 1.68 USD 1.18 USD
* Taking into consideration the basic subscription (20 requests), cost of one inquiry included into the subscription fee is 5.50 USD (add this if you have re-subscribed)

Of course, this comparison is incorrect, as the Concierge information is more diverse as opposed to being focused on some particular areas, and that's where local services are obviously inferior to the Concierge, which is quite understandable. For instance, you can't book your air tickets or make hotel reservations via local services, and that's a disadvantage. However, you can well do it via your personal secretary. I really doubt that a Vertu owner for some reason doesn't have one; it seems strange, though there are such users, too. The Concierge service makes sense when you're traveling around the world and you've already got the demands but do not have adequate income and services. The question is then: do you really need this product?

Doing all this Concierge-related surveys I suddenly thought that, had this service not been included in the standard package, it would probably have died out from the lack of clients pretty soon. Generally, the Concierge is a very specific type of service aimed at a narrow group of Vertu users. Including it in the scope of supply is a test run of the whole concept aimed at showing that this is a deluxe solution and highlighting the value of the brand. No matter how hard the phone maker tries to underline the importance of this service and its uniqueness, we understand that this is far from being the most important feature of the phone.

Vertu Fortress. This is a usual SyncML client with the remote service, where you can store all phone data from notes to contacts. In ordinary Nokia phones third party services are available, but here we see Vertu branded service. There is no difference in this respect and within minutes I downloaded data from my account and started using it, which is quite convenient. It does not differ from other synchronization services.

Vertu Select is a range of images and themes to be used in Vertu phones only. Certain samples are quite nice.

Vertu City Brief offers many cities guides with recommendations on different places to visit.

Travels. This WorldMate application allows viewing weather forecasts for selected cities, plane schedules, world time and currency rates. It works via GPRS connection.

Menu and software details

The handset is built on S60 3rd Edition. There are no differences here apart from themes. If you are familiar with modern Nokia phones you can scroll down straight to the Conclusions section.

Let's mention key changes in features for you to be aware of the model's capabilities. I also refer you to the dedicated article in order not to repeat standard options of the platform typical of all associated models.

S60 3rd edition Feature Pack 2

Desktop. The desktop mode got a bit of a facelift. At the bottom you see three icons for events, missed calls and voice mail. If events are absent an icon disappears. If you select an icon a popup window will display the related info. It is easy and convenient. Information is displayed differently in comparison with Nokia E71. For example, you don't see any information about SMS apart from the name or number. To view detailed information you have to go to a particular message.

Now you can customize up to 14 applications, which is very convenient. Add two Mode options to have even more apps and variants of their display.

Mode. It is a virtual desktop popular on all PCs. You create several screens for themes, pictures, apps, plug-ins and so on. With one touch you can switch between them. For example, in your work mode you need an office mailbox with alerts, while in an ordinary mode another theme (without corporate symbols) and player controls will be more welcome. It can be done easily on this model. The transition between modes takes around 6-7 seconds.

Phonebook. On standby select a letter from the keypad to see the contacts list with this letter in a name or family name. In the contacts list you can search by entered letters, which is a more traditional approach to this issue.

Groups of callers have different capabilities. You can add a number for voice conferences, a password and a PIN code. It saves dialing time for corporate users who favor conference calls. They can forget whether they are in an office or in travels. A group can also be assigned a ringtone, but there is no similar option for pictures.

Call to many feature is also supported for groups when your call initiates a conference call. Different types of mass mailing are also available.

In the general list callers are always represented by family and personal names. You can sort entries in accordance with these fields. Additional display options are absent. You cannot show at least one phone number. Once chosen it will be not displayed on the screen. At the same time you can activate a popup menu and send a message or make a call. Depending upon stored numbers you will see particular items. A picture assigned to a contact is shown as a small square when selected.

Fields are standard for all entries, but we have better representation of addresses now, including zip codes. BlackBerry PIN is a default option too.

Office applications. Corporate users may find Intranet app useful as it offers VPN client settings, which are quite traditional.

Unfortunately, office documents are still handled by QuickOffice, though it is enough for many. The phone comes with a 6.х version. It is fully functional and allows not only reading, but editing office documents as well.

Then we get a ZIP archiver, dictionary and PDF app. Search 4.0 application can be placed onto the desktop. There are also standard notes together with Active Notes. The dictionary gives description of entries and provides the pronunciation of key words.

Data encryption. Another innovation is an opportunity to encrypt data both on a memory card (microSD, no size limitation) and in the phone memory. This way you will not have troubles if the phone gets into hands of a stranger, who knows how to deal with standard passwords. If you forget the password the data will be lost. It is an inevitable downside of all similar systems.

Music features. A 3.5 mm jack makes it possible to choose your own headphones. There are equalizers, while the music chip is similar to that of Nokia E72 and the overall sound is the same.

Maps. Third version of Nokia Maps is complemented by an inbuilt compass for proper map orientation during navigation. In the box you find a life-long pedestrian navigation and 10 day car navigation option.

Impressions

Speech reproduction quality is excellent, but the ringtone is weaker than in older Vertu models. The same happened to Ascent 2010. To make matters worse standard ringtones come from Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The arrangement is intriguing, but the volume is not enough. In their quest to offer exquisite features Vertu forgot that ringtones must be loud after all. Here ringtones resemble music samples for enjoyment. In the video you can observe several ringtones. The vibro is average and doesn't differ from classic Vertu solutions.

Did I like the model? I don't know. My feelings were mixed. I enjoyed the build, materials and screen, but the body gets soiled way too easily. Inside we have a 2009 phone, at least if we look at features and their implementation. Vertu added a Facebook link. It is not a client, but a link to the mobile version. Luckily it works well. My inbuilt Twitter client suffered from authorization errors (if you remember Twitter has changed the type of authorization some months ago, which was somehow a surprise for Vertu! I wonder how they test products). The camera is average, but this product doesn't aim at photo excellence. iPhone 4 boasts a much better quality, though its camera is hardly a flagship solution.

This handset is a niche model even for Vertu. Subsequently, the company promotes it quite heavily. If you are a rich young adult and want to show off your impressive bank account no matter how it looks then you can easily choose Vertu Quest. Those who require a fully operational and feature rich handset will not be happy with this outdated phone and even the luxurious materials cannot hide the fact.

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Related links

Vertu Ц strategy change and plans for 2010

Review of GSM/UMTS Phone Vertu Ascent 2010 (Vertu X)

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Twitter    Livejournal
Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net)

Published — 10 January 2010

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com

 

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