London - I'm standing outside the upmarket London members' club and entertainment venue Sketch on a Saturday evening, eyeing up the queue that's formed outside the door. But for the next few days I'm a VIP, and my small group of friends and I won't be joining it. I mention the manager's name to the doormen who fetch him. He strides outside to greet me with a firm handshake, “right on time Mr Jacques, please follow me,” I'm not, but it's good of him to say so. And with that, my astonished friends and I sail past the bouncers, along a corridor and are ushered into a luxurious, members-only cocktail bar.
This impressive meet-and-greet isn't down to me - my VIP status is zilch - but rather it's thanks to the assistance of Vertu. The luxury mobile-phone company has a rather smart trick up its sleeve: access to a global concierge phone and messaging service, available 24/7, via a dedicated button on its latest mobile-phone offering, the Vertu Ti. And I've been given four days with its new Android-powered model in an attempt to make the most of its claim to be able to arrange anything (legal) within a reasonable time frame: from granting last-minute access to a network of private-members' clubs, to arranging a shopping trip.
Back at Sketch, I'm reclining on a Louis XV chair in the “Parlour” room, sipping a £15 (about R200) champagne cocktail and feeling rather like a visiting oligarch on a night out. I get an email update from my on-call Vertu assistant Lisa, explaining what's next on the evening's itinerary: we've been booked into the newly opened Libertine club (formerly Chinawhite), for dancing and more cocktails, though it's yet to open officially, earning me further kudos with my friends.
From a nightlife perspective, then, Vertu's service is a resounding success, with the prowess of Lisa and her team far outstripping what my own (digital) assistant, Siri, can provide me with on my usual mobile, my iPhone 4: one of Siri's suggestions is a local night club dive which doesn't even have a guest list.
Of course, its not just high-end revelry that the Vertu service promises to unlock for its clients - I'm assured I can ask for anything within reason. So for my next challenge I try a little harder.
It's my girlfriend's birthday coming up and I'd heard a story about another concierge that helped arrange shopping trips, advising its clients how to blow £250 000 while they visited the likes of Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. I want Vertu to do the same, albeit with a rather more meagre budget of £100. So reluctantly I restrict my retail options to the likes of Oasis and River Island. I send Vanessa, my personal assistant, Facebook pictures of my girlfriend and within a few hours she delivers a dossier of 20 affordable dress suggestions from assorted retailers - one of which I end up buying.
Next up, sold-out venues. Over the weekend I ask the service to find me a last-minute ticket to The Audience stage show, starring Helen Mirren, and also procure a seat at the England vs Italy Six Nations game. Vertu comes up trumps for both, though with a premium price tag: £144 for a fully serviced package to the stage show, including champagne, and £500 per person for access to a box at Twickenham.
It's only when I start getting a little more creative with my requests that Vertu come unstuck: I've always wanted to appear in a TV drama, so I hit the concierge button and ask the eager assistant on the other end of the line to set me up in a show as an “extra”. But after a lengthy wait all I get is a listing of suggested agencies to approach - where's my personal introduction service? But, still, it's better than what Siri can muster, with the electronic assistant suggesting a random selection of location-based listings with the word “extras” in it.
Come Sunday night, my last night with the Vertu Ti, I can't sleep. Perhaps it's the fear of losing my very own concierge. So at 4:50am I reach for the leather-and-titanium-clad phone and access its live instant-messenger service, to explain to whoever's out there that I'm having trouble sleeping. The on-call assistant, Cassandra, takes five minutes to reply, before deciding she's not equipped to deal with insomnia cases and ducks out without uttering more than a few words. Lisa gets in touch some 25 minutes later (an age in the world of instant messaging) though and at least proves much more adept at banter, while also dispensing some relaxation advice. For research purposes I also activate my iPhone's Siri and ask it the same question. Its response alternates between, “I'm sorry to hear that” and “if you can't, you can't”.
It's Monday morning and my last day with the Ti. Following an early morning wake-up call from Vanessa, I make my final request. I try to imagine myself as a rich millionaire playboy and ask her for a private jet to take me and 10 friends for a long weekend in Paris. She comes back to me swiftly, offering to book one of several suggested flights (about £14,000 return for up to 13 people - not bad if you split it). I decline on account of my extensive overdraft.
Which brings me to a reluctant conclusion; to make the most of this impressive service you need bundles of spare cash. And while renewal of its service after one year is “only” £1,850, to enjoy the perks of money-can't-buy events and executive transport, you need the sort of disposable income that most of us don't have. But for those that do, its elegant styling will go well with your Patek Philippe watch and Ferrari 458 - and I recommend it. For everyone else, well, there's always Siri.
The Vertu Ti is priced at £6 700 for the handset and one year of service. vertu.com
APPS THAT CAN CONCIERGE:
You most likely can't afford Vertu's expensive service but an array of other apps can help you out, whether it's on-demand taxi services such as Hailo or Kabbee or restaurant reservations via Toptable.
Flower-delivery group Interflora has its own app if you need to send some stems, quick-sharp. And for car hire and other travel info, Kayak will work out the best deals and prices on hotels, cars, flights and more. - The Independent