Hoping to capitalize on the reputation of Swiss watchmaking for quality and precision, 150-year-old luxury jeweler Tag Heuer is jumping into the smartphone business with a stainless steel-encased Android handset. The device is available with diamond, gold or platinum trim and an alligator-skin case.
The cost -- are you sitting down? -- is about $6,700, more than the cost of 10 unsubsidized, 16GB iPhone 4's from Apple. Then again, if you have to ask the price, you probably aren't getting one.
An Adventurer's Phone
Tag Heuer, based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, is a subsidiary of the French luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton S.A.
The Android Link, now available, is targeted at adventurers, sportsmen and business executives, the company says. But the specs of the bar-shaped, 3.5-inch touchscreen phone, which runs Google's Android 2.2, are fairly standard.
The screen resolution is 800 by 480 pixels, and it includes a fairly low 256 megabytes of internal storage with support for an 8GB memory card. The camera is a five-megapixel HD model equipped for video recording and playback. The 1400mAh battery is good for six hours and 30 minutes of talk time. The speed wasn't disclosed. The phone will be sold at Tag Heuer stores for GSM carriers, with Edge and HSUPA network speed.
"With luxury phones it is always more about the design, which means that the overall spec takes a back seat for the buyer," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president for consumer technologies and markets at Gartner Research. "However, in today's market I think you do need a minimum support for things like Twitter, Facebook and anything else a celeb might be after." The Android Link will have access to social media via from the Android Market.
Milanesi added that the United States is not likely a major market for the Tag Heuer phone. "Historically, the Middle East, Russia and Japan have been big markets for luxury phones," she said.
A big name in the luxury-phone realm is Vertu, based in Hampshire, England, and acquired by Finland-based Nokia in 2001. Vertu's offerings can easily range into five figures, with platinum casings and crystal glass screens. Motorola and Ericsson have also made luxury phones targeted at the superrich.
Ready for Upgrades
But a downside of previous phones is that despite the high cost, they are quickly outdated. As the first luxury Android phone, the Tag Heuer has the advantage of readiness for regular software updates from Google.
Despite the poor economy in much of the world, the luxury smartphone business is still viable.
"As the phone becomes a personal extension for some users, it has become the symbol for affluence, not dissimilar from the market for luxury watches, which is often the same venue where these devices are sold," said Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg. "As such, there's less emphasis on things such as feeds and speeds and far more on form, materials used in construction, and cachet of brand."