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Apple makes a $17,000 Apple Watch — why not a luxury iPhone too?

That gold iPhone costs no more than one in silver or space gray, and it does nothing else different. Apple also makes a solid gold Apple Watch. It costs much more than a standard aluminum or steel Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Edition has a nicer buying experience and improved customer support (not that Apple's ever been lacking in that department). But even at up to $17,000 it too does nothing that a $350 Apple Watch Sport doesn't do.

Well, the Apple Watch Edition is exclusive and brings the bling, it has that going for it. But luxury can be much more than that, as the Vertu Signature Touch smartphone I recently reviewed for Android Central demonstrates.

If Apple can make a fancy gold Apple Watch, why not a luxury Apple iPhone Edition too?

The marquee features of the Signature Touch include premium materials and premium services. On the materials front, the screen is covered with sapphire crystal (recall that Apple sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into getting mass sapphire production going in a rare public failure). The body is wrapped in Grade 5 titanium and premium calf leather.

As for service, it goes far beyond just support, which is available 24/7 via phone or text chat and includes a remote assistance option that lets a Vertu support agent control the phone. What's more, Vertu phones come with a real live person concierge service that you can call, chat with, or email and get all the things a concierge can do. And it's accessed via a ruby button on the phone's side. A real ruby.

But inside it's still a pretty standard smartphone, with a Qualcomm processor and 64GB of storage, plus an anemic battery and a disappointing camera. All of this adds up to a phone that retails for $9,000 in this configuration, and can push $19,000 if you go for the versions with diamonds or red gold. This is truly a luxury smartphone, even if it's a regular old smartphone inside that sapphire and leather. Which leads us to the question: if Apple can make a fancy gold Apple Watch, why not a luxury Apple iPhone 6 Edition too?

Imagine an iPhone with a solid gold body, or maybe one in titanium, a material Apple has worked with before in PowerBook G4. Or one wrapped in the same quality leather they're using for the Apple Watch bands.

Gold Genie's gold iPhone 6

Of course, there are technical hurdles that Apple would have to overcome, like weight and heat dissipation. But when you're able to charge thousands of dollars for a device that you know the local billionaire will find interesting, you can afford to spend a bit more on the engineering and materials to work on those issues.

Apple has advantages in this department that a company like Vertu does not. They can dedicate enormous resources and flex their supply chain might, to get the designs and materials needed to pull of this sort of feat. And unlike Vertu, Apple could and should pull higher technology into its more expensive products. Take battery tech, for instance. It's always slowly evolving, but the next generation of battery tech is too expensive to include in a standard iPhone or Apple Watch. But what about packing a more expensive higher density cell into an iPhone Edition or Apple Watch Edition? Give the customer plopping down ten grand on technology more than just a fancier case and buying experience.

And the support has to go beyond just the buying experience. Vertu's concierge service does just that — with a single tap you connect to a real live person who can help you with everything from finding a tailor to booking a last-minute private jet to Paris. There's no indication that Apple has anything like that in mind for their premium products, but it could go a long way in cementing Edition products as truly premium and worth the cost.

As was repeatedly parroted before the launch of the Apple Watch Edition, the solid gold watch could be a hard sell for Apple. Luxury products in that price range aren't purchased merely as tools or fashion accessories; they're also an investment. Spend that much on a Panerai and you can expect that the value will increase over time. Spend that much on an Apple Watch Edition or iPhone Edition and it's likely going to be supplanted by a new model in a year. But build in services that make it valuable to the user regardless of the street value… that's a proposition worth considering.

The question is this, though: should there be an Apple iPhone Edition at all? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Read Android Central's review of the $9,000 Vertu Signature Touch

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

22 Comments
  • Not a fan of classism. Would've preferred if Apple didn't start with the Edition watches in the first place, to be frank. But hey, as long as they're giving the same internals and user experience across all "classes", I couldn't care less. Go knock yourself out with your tacky 24k Watch and tacky 24k swakorsky (or however its spelled) encrusted iPhone Edition sitting next to your tacky collared chihuahua in your tacky handbag.
  • this comment almost made me spit my caviar all over the deck on my yacht. /s lol
  • The Watch Edition is Apple attempting to be Vertu. Sent from the iMore App
  • I dunno. Gold is a traditional watch material, thus more accepted by normal society. A gold smartphone just screams "Bling". Although, some now consider bling to be the new "normal".
  • yeah maybe if you have skin that is on the opposite side of the color spectrum than white.
  • No.
  • No. The reason for luxury watches is because watches are clothing. You wear them on your body. The Apple Watch Edition is for people who would normally buy a $10,000 watch. The same people who spend a ton of money on clothes. There's no reason to have a luxury iPhone same as there's no reason to have luxury brands of computers or keyboards or anything tech. Apple's trying to treat the Watch like a regular watch with some technology not like technology on a watch. Sent from the iMore App
  • I mostly agree with the above but would say that Apple IS a 'luxury' or rather 'status' brand wrt phones and computers, I think many people pick it partially for its aesthetic/design/brand value along with the tech. But agree with the gist of your post that given the nature of pure technology products like computers and phones a conspicuously expensive version is not likely to be appealing like a conspicuously ex;pensive watch may be. The iPhone already defines the high end of phones in its current incarnations. IMHO.
  • I can see, and would consider, an iPhone with material upgrades if the pricing made sense. For example the stainless steel and sapphire improvements on the WATCH and the $200 premium for that but not the price gouging that comes with the Edition models. That's just pricing high for the exclusivity. You can do that with a watch that likely won't have a typically annual refresh. Sent from the iMore App
  • " Luxury products in that price range aren't purchased merely as tools or fashion accessories; they're also an investment." Depends on where in the world you are. It's pretty clear that the rose gold Watch Edition is designed for the Chinese market. Red is a lucky color in many Asian cultures. The rose gold Watch Edition comes with a red band, and that's no coincidence. What's that you say? China is a "worker's paradise" where everyone is equal? Well, no. China has its fair share of millionaires and billionaires, and there is no shame in conspicuously displaying wealth. I hear that's more or less true in Russia as well (at least among billionaire Moscow gangsters.) As for solid gold iPhones, I think Apple will leave that to third-party businesses. Like Feld & Volk. And, oh, surprise! They're based in Russia.
  • The rose gold watch does not come with a red band. The yellow gold one does.
  • Sure... why not? It wouldn't be something I'd look for, personally, but I'm not conceited enough to think everything revolves around me or my shopping habits. I doubt these would be mass produced, and there WOULD be some sold - plus the obligatory "celebrity giveaway" - and seen in the wild. People need to quit whining when companies make products or extensions to product lines that either aren't directed at them or their wallets. If someone is willing/able to spend that kind of money on a product that has the precedent set of annual updates/obsolescence, let them. Sent from the iMore App
  • A phone is not jewelry. Watches have been made out of gold for a long time. There's nothing unusual about a gold watch.
  • Well as long as they don't include exclusive features on it outside of rel gold i din't care lol Sent from the iMore App
  • The edition is not targeted at rolex wearers. There are a class of people for whom a steel rolex is low end.. There are people who wear 50,000 to 250,000 $ watches. They would be bummed if in the new tech watch revolution, they had to wear a watch that everybody else wears. And hence the edition. Its more about people's mindsets. They've wore exclusive watches. So now they need an exclusive tech watches. Phones does not have that problem as wearables.
  • If the sheeple will pay for it, why not.
  • Wow. ^5 +1 on such a great reference!
  • Quite a lot of nonsense. A Panerai"s value increases over time? No. It does not (a limited edition, maybe, but even that is rare). Actually, it loses 30% of its value the minute you take it out of the store. Second hand watch and jewelry prices are at an all time low, you can find top of the line Omegas, Rolexes and Breitlings less than a year old and in mint condition for 45 - 50% of their original price. Absolutely nobody buys this stuff as an investment. I go to second hand watch fairs regularly, and all these guys are packed with goods they can't sell. Good for buyers, I bought a Patek Philippe Officer's Watch, then 8 months old, invoice price 35k, for 12k just three months ago. The golden age of second hand premium watches ended some 15-20 years ago. There is just no demand. People buy these things new at these prices, because they want them and can afford them. And seriously, for the target audience, the Edition is cheap. People who spend $10k for a handbag, or $25k for a cocktail dress they are wearing once... pffft. Why does Apple not do what Vertu does? Because they would rather kill themselves. Even the tools and machines Apple uses to build the Apple Watch look better than what Vertu makes. The Edition was a stretch for them, far beyond the affordable luxury category they are normally playing in, and they know it. There was a reason they did not show the "gold" video during the Watch launch event.
  • I'm not against there being a luxury version of the iPhone made with more premium materials. I am 100% against a luxury iPhone being more advanced than non-luxury version.
  • As my wife said (quite loudly) in the Apple store once I explained that the watch itself is the same no matter the price... "So the amount of money spent on an Apple Watch directly correlates with size of one's ego?"
    I replied. "Correct." Reason #968,578,624 of why I love my wife.
  • A luxury iPhone? Sure. Makes it easier for robbers to know who to rob. Won't be me.
  • Can I still rob you though Posted via the iMore App for Android