Tabloids headlines may be filled with credit crunch doom-mongering, but oligarchs have more pressing concerns. For example, should they drop that spare three grand on a Vertu or Tag Heuer’s new Meridiist?
At £2650, Tag’s handset almost looks cheap in compared to the show ponies in Vertu’s stable, and there’s no concierge button either. But what you do get is the mobile equivalent of one of its desirable, high-priced watches.
Calls of steel
The Swiss-engineered, hand-assembled Meridiist is mostly clad in steel of the kind and quality used for upscale watches. While it’s certainly a chunky monkey, it feels unbelievably classy. The smooth angular casing fits the hand well, and the weight is solid and reassuring.
The steel cover neatly slides across to launch the 2megapixel camera and there screws on each side of the handset, just to confirm that this is an ‘avant garde communication instrument’ and not just a phone.
Unfortunately, the back is clad in crocodile leather, which won’t be to everyone’s taste. But, like Nokia’s 8800 Arte Sapphire, croc-friendly rubber and leather versions will also be available.
Apart from a host of timing functions, the Meridiist’s show-off feature is its screens. The main 1.9in display is made from 60.5 carats of sapphire crystal, making it apparently unscratchable. Well, it certainly survived life with a set of keys in the depths of our pocket.
A second OLED screen on top of the phone displays the time and exists so you can check the time when your Tag’s sitting in your top pocket. The fact that the screen blanks out when the phone goes into power-save mode makes it a little redundant, but press the dedicated Tag Heuer key on the side and it turns into a stopwatch that measures down to hundredths of a second and includes a lap counter.
Elsewhere, the steel keys feel nice under finger and the letters are in Russian as well as English, just to confirm that oligarchs are the target audience. Ringtones are also original and include a soprano singing a capella, though you can also choose from Vibrasound and Bueno Bongo. The rest of the operating system with Tag-red menus is accessible but not outstanding.
The Tag Heuer Meridiist feels great to hold and is simple and intuitive to use. It also provides exceptional standby time (28 days) and lives up to the claimed seven hours’ talk-time. But with vastly more affordable handsets like the Nokia E71 and 8800 Sapphire Arte offering either better features or comparable build quality, it remains a phone to file in the ‘money to burn’ category.