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.
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.
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!
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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.