Wileyfox Swift 2 & 2+ Review
Of their two initial offerings, it was the budget-conscious Swift which piqued the interest of critic and customer alike. Priced at just £129 the Swift, at the time, pulled the rug from under every other budget handset on the market.
Cheaper phones were of course available, but somewhere down the line sacrifices had to be made. Be that in build quality or customer service. The Swift was arguably the only device at this price to deliver decent specifications and performance.
Wileyfox’ promise of a UK/European warranty and distribution was also an excellent proposition. Sales were brilliant and thanks to some savvy marketing, still continue.
The mobile industry evolves rapidly however and it wasn’t long before competitors appeared. Wileyfox countered with the Spark range. These were even cheaper but inevitably lowered the specs.
With the Spark models sat in the same price tier as the original Swift, the new version has been moved up the ladder somewhat.
As such the Swift 2 isn’t the entry-level device its originator was. Instead Wileyfox have chosen to attack the tier above. The Swift 2 therefore wants to be the cheapest mid range phone you can buy. But does it pull it off?
Wileyfox Swift 2 & 2+ at a glance
- Cyanogen OS 13 / based on Android 6.0 (access to Google Play)
- 1.5 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor with Adreno 505 GPU
- 5″ HD Screen, micro SD support, 2,700 mAh battery
- PDAF assisted camera
- USB Type-C
- NFC for Android Pay
- Fingerprint sensor
- 16GB storage, 2GB RAM, 13MP main camera, 8 MP selfie camera
- 32GB storage, 3GB RAM, 16MP main camera, 8 MP selfie camera
In order to move up a weight class, you have to look the part. The first Swift wasn’t ugly by any definition; however the soft plastic finish, angular edges and removable back/battery don’t cut it in modern design.
Wileyfox chose a sealed metal construction for the second generation Swift. This might frustrate those who still want a removable battery. If you’re in that camp then I’ll have to divert your attention to the Spark range.
The resulting finish does look and feel more ‘premium’ (overused adjective of the year), however it’s not the most refined. Both the standard and Plus models have the same design and casing.
There’s a chamfer to the edges, although it’s a sharp angle rather than a smooth transition. It’s also tough to call this ‘unibody’ when there are a few gaps and lines where pieces are fitted together.
That said the RRP of £160/190 provides a preconception for build quality which is easily surpassed. Other than the aforementioned Honor, no-one else delivers a phone that looks as nice at this price.
The Midnight Blue finish I used was quite understated, being neither flashy nor gaudy. Gold and Pink models will be launching soon for those looking to make more of a statement. I haven’t had a chance to see these first hand, although the press images make them out to be fairly vibrant.
The power and volume buttons have satisfying travel and click too which is indicative of a good build. Holes for the speaker on the base, headphone jack and USB Type-C port are also all milled finely without sharp edges.
This has been one of the Marmite features on smartphones for the past few years. Even if many people might not need the sensor, every flagship simply has to have one, lest it be appear to be behind the times.
It’s been manufacturer’s choice at the mid-range though. Down at the lower prices, where profit margins are ever thinner, keeping a relatively expensive bit of hardware out of your costs is a simple decision.
Wileyfox are therefore making a statement by having the fingerprint sensor on a device this cheap.
Rather than dismissing it and getting as low a price as possible on good-looking phone, the sensor is a feature that interests enough potential buyers to warrant the phone’s total price being over £150.
The sensor itself is pretty standard. Placement on the back and under the camera is fairly normal. Your index finger rests here naturally.
Response is average. It’s definitely not the fastest I’ve used but had no issue differentiating between fingers. Like all sensors it doesn’t like wet hands or overly smooth skin. It won’t work if you’ve just washed your hands or come out of the shower.
Like a lot of people I’ve fully embraced contactless payments on debit card. In fact most of my daily transactions are done this way. Since the UK limit on contactless was raised to £30, I’ve found most of my food shopping or rounds at the bar being paid for with a simple beep.
Android Pay simply extends this. I downloaded the app, scanned my card with the camera and registered the details. Only a few minutes later I was able to buy a loaf of bread and some milk at Lidl with my phone. Hello 2016.
A few days letter Halifax sent me a letter (physical paper – in the post – ugh!) to confirm my registration with Android Pay.
Of course you need to have screen protection installed on the phone to use Android Pay. This is where the fingerprint sensor is useful.
Yes a password, code or pattern lock has the same effect. Yet you can drop your finger onto the sensor while the phone is in your pocket, so your handset is unlocked and ready to press against the terminal by the time you’ve lifted it up.
Simply put, using Android Pay on the Swift 2+ was simple. The combination of NFC, fingerprint sensor and app worked seamlessly.
The rest of the connectivity is fairly generic. UK/Europe LTE support, standard Wi-Fi (b/g/n) and Bluetooth 4.0 feature. FM radio is always nice to see; I do wonder why it is taken out of so many higher end devices.
Improved Wi-Fi (ac and/or dual-band), plus some additional LTE bands would be nice to see. This though would likely require a more advanced chip resulting in higher costs.
The Swift 2 remains on a par with its competition in these slightly more techy areas. Maybe next year we’ll see these less obvious specifications become more prominent in cheaper devices.
The new Swift has embraced two fairly new features though. One is fast-charging (thanks to the new Qualcomm processor) and the other USB Type-C. As 2016 has progressed, the new USB connector has been picked up by many manufacturers. It’s also had its share of ups and downs in tech reports.
First things first. USB Type-C is safe, although you should engage a little caution when buying new cables. Sadly, some manufacturers of cheap quality cables have not adhered to the specifications correctly.
With good quality cables you can enjoy fast transfer and charging speeds. Wileyfox don’t include a wall charger in the box with either new Swift. The included cable will work with any standard USB charger you may have for normal charging speeds. Fast chargers or USB 3.0 ports on computers will bump that charging speed up.
It’s a pretty nice cable they include too. The orange colour is on point with the Wileyfox branding and won’t get lost easily! It also uses flat wiring so doesn’t tangle.
Last year’s phone was already ticking over quite nicely with a quad-core Snapdragon 410. That has been improved with a new generation octa-core Snapdragon 430.
A higher clock speed and extra cores allow for better power management so if you do happen to be a big multitasker you should see improvement. The new processor also makes use of a new GPU (Adreno 505), allowing for better graphics reproduction.
It’s worth noting here that the Plus version of the Swift 2 has an extra GB of RAM. If your phone is in your hand a lot during the day, then this is probably worth the extra £30 alone. Double the storage to 32GB is useful too, although you can merge SD cards with this version of Cyanogen/Android.
The CyanogenOS 13 system is based on Android 6.0 with several extra tweaks. There’s a lot of fine control in the settings with options to modify aspects of the system such as notification icons and the displayed colour palette.
Security features highly too, with the Privacy Guard app providing finer control over permissions than is standard even in the new Android 7.0.
A powerful Themes engine is available too. Free and paid themes can be installed quickly, along with the ability to cherry pick from them. So you can have the icon pack, alarm sounds and font from 3 different sources if you like.
I could do deep into all of the options available in Cyanogen OS. It’s easier to say though that this is one of the more ‘complete’ phones available at this price range.
In comparison many of the lower tier phones from brands such as LG or Samsung have restrictive skins on top of older versions of Android. Even Motorola’s G4 is lacking in personalisation options compared to their higher Z series devices.
For this review I had the Wileyfox Swift 2+. The new models do have slightly different cameras each – 13 and 16MP for the 2 and 2+ respectively. The modules themselves come from the same family of Samsung imaging hardware however.
As they also utilise the same processor and software processing, the results should be very similar. The differences in having a few more megapixels should be in the finer details only.
Sadly torrential rain has made it difficult to pick a day to go and take many pictures. There’s a few outdoor shots in the gallery below, although most of our test shots were taken indoors and modelled by the 3 new arrivals to the Clove Technology family.
Overall I would say I’m pleased with the amount of detail the new camera can pick up, however the results are all a little dark. I think this might be aggressive post processing. A few outdoor shots brightened up.
Lighting is very important though, it only took a bit of excess light coming in to result in heavy overexposure. The software tries to compensate but only ends up making the lower contrast areas too dark, spoiling the final image.
Still, for a smartphone tacked onto a £190 phone, it’s better than others I’ve used!
I also got surprisingly good mileage out of the front facing camera. My selfie game may not be 100% on point, however with a few tips from the SO regarding angle and pout I think I managed to capture a couple of Snapchat ready poses.
Video is fairly decent too. You won’t be capturing F1 cars or recording in 4K at this price range. You can though get a fairly good quality 1080p shoot. As our willing models below are more than happy to show, moving subjects don’t pose too much of a problem if you keep a steady hand.
Similar to the main camera though, is the tendency to record a bit ‘dark’. It takes a while for the camera to adjust to a new or bright light source. The compensation for this creates a fairly dark and sometimes blue overtone to the whole capture.
Pound for pound it’s probably not as good a deal as the original Swift was, however Wileyfox were always unlikely to catch lightning in a bottle twice.
Plus when you take a proper look around at the competition, it’s still tough to pick out true contenders. Traditionally this has been Moto’s area, however the G4 raised the price and styling of Moto’s budget line earlier this year.
None of the major brands really offer anything compelling down at this price either. Samsung and LG’s budget phones are plastic Fisher Price affairs designed to appeal to those hunting low price monthly contracts through major retailers.
Mentioned more than once in this review is Honor, the Huawei subsidiary. Disregarding ‘own brand’ phones from Vodafone & EE, the Honor 5C and 5X are the only two phones officially on sale in the UK that can hold a candle to the new Swifts in terms of specifications and price.
Honor’s EMUI interface is garish though, and whilst the more expensive 5X has a fingerprint sensor, neither of these devices has the NFC interface for Android Pay or USB Type-C. The 3GB / 32GB configuration of the Swift 2+ is also fairly untouchable.
When all is said and done, both new Swift models deliver a very impressive set of features and design considering the price tags.
Those looking to spend as little as possible can take a look at Wileyfox’ Spark phones. Those wanting to make a saving but still have a modern, capable phone, should definitely have one of the two new Swifts in their shortlist.