Cellphones, once luxury items, are now commonplace consumer goods. Even higher-end handsets are made of metal, plastic, and glass — nothing to get too excited about. But some cellphone makers, seeing an opportunity, have turned to more elite materials to spruce up their products and, of course, jack up their prices. Here, six of the more remarkable examples:
What does $8 million buy you in the mobile market? The Stuart Hughes iPhone 4, Diamond Rose Edition, from British firm Goldstriker — believed to be the world's most expensive cellphone. The sides of its rose-gold body are covered in 100 carats of flawless diamonds; yet more diamonds make up the phone's Apple logo and its home button features a rare 7.4 karat pink diamond. Other diamond-encrusted handsets are offered by Tiffany & Co., Swiss company GoldVish, Motorola, and even Disney. "Just remember that while a diamond is forever, eventually the iPhone will need a new battery," says gadget site Phone Arena.
For a relatively budget-minded $27,000, Nokia subsidiary Vertu will sell you an 18 karat gold–plated handset that's perfect for the "retrograde social climber," according to The Vile Plutocrat. Rival luxury phone maker Goldstriker will sell you their bottom-line 18k gold iPhone 4 for about $4,600, and for a mere $1,000, you can pick up a 24 karat gold–plated Nokia.
3. T-rex teeth
Also from Stuart Hughes and Goldstriker comes an iPhone featuring an actual tooth from a Tyrannosaurus Rex that's been splintered, shaved, and incorporated into the handset's backplate. Hughes describes the "History Edition" phone (which also features diamond-encrusted sides) as "fierce." If you want one, says Steven Mostyn in The Tech Herald, "all you need is an absolute lack of taste and $62,700."
4. African Blackwood
Gresso luxury phones are made from African Blackwood, the world's most expensive wood, which has been prized by everyone from woodwind instrument makers to ancient Egyptians for its durability and resilience. The Gresso Luxor Las Vegas Jackpot model, sprinkled (naturally) with yellow gold and black diamonds, sells for about $1 million. The Gresso line "is manufactured in Russia and has mob mistress written all over it," says Brian Brotarlo in Cell Phones Etc.
5. Space Shuttle–grade ceramics
Vertu markets unique devices constructed of the same ceramic material that was designed to protect the Space Shuttle, including the "gaudy" $310,000 ruby-encrusted Signature Cobra. One of the first entrants into the luxury cellphone market, Vertu was already selling a gold-and-diamond model in 2005 for $90,000: "For that price, it doesn't even come with a camera!" says the site Ubergizmo.
Not all innovative phones are conceived as high-ticket items. Inventor Randice-Lisa Altschul made a splash in 2001 with a prototype for her disposable Phone-Card-Phone, the first paper cellphone. Although Altschul had developed plans to sell the gadget for about $10, and found a company to build it, for some reason — possibly cost — it never made it to market. The phone would have been about the thickness of three credit cards and made from recycled paper. T-rex tooth sold separately.