At a Glance
For a brand-new smartphone maker’s first effort, we’re impressed with the Wileyfox Swift. It’s a stylish little handset which offers essentially the same specs as the Moto G for less money. We love the customisation available in Cyanogen OS but elements such as the cameras aren’t as good as rivals. Vodafone’s Smart Ultra 6 remains a better option for slightly less money – unless a 5.5in screen is too big in which case look at the Smart Prime 6 as an alternative.
A number of new smartphone brands have popped up over the last year or so and Wileyfox is the latest. The British firm is launching two budget phones and we’ve taken a look at the cheapest model so here’s our Wileyfox Swift review. See:
Best budget phones 2015.
As with other new phone start-ups, the company has been formed by a former employee of a big brand. In this case, Wileyfox’s CEO is Nick Muir, who was UK general manager for Motorola. Wileyfox also has staff from Kazam, another British-based phone maker.
Wileyfox says it exists “because people like you are tired of paying over the odds for mobile phones. Of being bound by contracts for phones that are past their best and of paying a premium for brands that spend a fortune on flagship stores and ubiquitous marketing campaigns.” Also see:
Best MiFi 2016.
Wileyfox Swift review: Price, release date and competition
Fitting in with the firm’s above statement, the Wileyfox Swift is a very affordable smartphone. At
£129 it easily fits into the budget category and will be available to buy on 22 September. It’s bigger brother, the Wileyfox Storm, is a more mid-range £199.
A low price is one thing but we’ve seen the competition at this end of the market grow tougher over the last year or so.
You might be reading this review since Amazon has the Swift for
just £99 in its
Black Friday deals. This is a great price and we don’t think you’ll be unhappy with your purchase.
Motorola continues to impress with its latest
Moto G, although it’s not quite as bargain basement starting at £159. However, the
Moto E 4G is just £89. Then consider the
Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 which has amazing specs for the asking price and the
Vodafone Smart Prime 6 which is just £79.
Can the newcomer compete with the big boys?
Wileyfox Swift review: Design and build quality
From the front, the Swift is quite an unassuming and plain handset but Wileyfox has made its mark – quite literally – on the back. We like the embossed fox-head logo and the subtle orange accent, particularly around the camera – something Motorola makes you pay extra for on the Moto G.
The rear cover, only available in Sandstone Black, has a similar look and feel to the
OnePlus 2 although the surface is smoother and nicer in the hand. It feels similar to those pencils made from recycled plastic cups if you’ve seen one.
We didn’t realise at first that the cover is removable but it is, giving you access to the dual-SIM slots, Micro-SD card slot and removable battery. The back is quite thin and flexible but the device feels solid with it clipped into place which is what fooled us.
The Wileyfox is a similar size as the
Nexus 5 so smaller than a lot of big name devices around at the moment. It’s a comfortable 135g and just over 9mm thick but doesn’t feel like it due to the curved edges of the back.
Overall, the Wileyfox Swift is a desirable little phone for the price on this front.
Wileyfox Swift review: Hardware, specs and performance
For less money, the Swift offers a very similar set of specifications as the new Moto G. In fact, it’s essentially identical.
That means the Swift has a 5in screen with a 720p resolution – a common combination for a budget phone. Like the Moto G, it’s fronted by Gorilla Glass 3 and uses an IPS panel. We’ve found the screen to be good quality with good, if not astounding, contrast and colour reproduction. It’s worth noting that the Vodafone Prime Ultra 6 offers Full HD for a few pounds less but you might not want a 5.5in display.
Staying in line with Motorola’s popular Moto G is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, Adreno 306 GPU and 2GB of RAM. Not a bad line-up for a phone this cheap – especially when you consider that the Marshall London also has this combination and costs £399.
Apart from a sluggish start when first turning on the phone, we’ve found the Swift to live up to its name when it comes to performance. Scrolling around the interface is smooth, switching between apps is snappy and the camera loads fairly quickly too. It’s not a huge surprise to find the benchmark results matching rivals. The graphics results don’t look great but you can play games like Colin McRae Rally on the Swift without any lag.
Where the Swift outpaces the Moto G is on storage as Wileyfox offers 16GB as standard whereas Motorola offers 8GB for the lower price which only has 1GB of RAM. As well as dual-SIM cards slots, the Swift has a Micro-SD card slot expandable up to 32GB.
The 2500mAh battery is removable so you can carry a spare if that’s your thing. Unfortunately our usual battery benchmark failed to run on the Swift but you can expect similar performance to the Moto G which has the same core specs and a marginally smaller battery. It will comfortably get you through the day.
As you’d expect, things are pretty basic when it comes to connectivity so you don’t get anything like wireless charging, an IR blaster or a heart rate monitor. What you do get is single-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 LE and A-GPS – the classic trio. It also has all-important support for 4G LTE networks.
That just leaves the cameras which match rivals at 13- and 5Mp for the rear and front respectively. The camera app is easy enough to get your head round and while the front camera takes pretty details selfies, the focus is often not quite sharp which is a shame.
In regards to the main camera, 13Mp sounds like a lot – that’s more than the iPhone 6S – but it doesn’t automatically mean it’s better. Overall the camera is ok but really nothing special and the Moto G and Prime Ultra 6 both outperform it. The Swift just doesn’t offer the same level of detail and crispness and the HDR mode (sample above) takes a long time to save each shot.
Wileyfox Swift review: Cyanogen OS software and apps
Often we don’t have much to say about software with a lot of phone makers going with mostly stock Android with a few pre-loaded apps. However, Wileyfox has gone with Cyanogen OS which gives us a lot to talk about – the
OnePlus One also runs Cyanogen.
The Swift is running Cyanogen 12.1 which is based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop so it’s not like a completely different experience – the biggest change is probably a vertically scrolling app menu. In fact, on the surface it looks like regular Android with a few styling additions such as the Wileyfox logo for the app menu.
A familiar Android layout and stock elements such as recent apps cards make the Swift easy to get to grips with. However, there’s a lot on offer which you don’t find on most Android phones if you look for it.
For starters, you can customise the look and feel with different themes which can be downloaded (some free and some paid), but furthermore, you can choose individual components like icons, controls, fonts and even the boot animation to create the exact style you want.
You’ll also notice a different drop down notification bar in which you can rearrange the tiles and choose whether you want elements like the weather info, brightness slider and the ability to quick pull down on the right side of the screen (instead of two fingers at once).
The status bar which houses the clock can also be manipulated with the position and style of the clock, battery percentage, notification count and whether you want to be able to slide your finger across it to adjust brightness (a really handy feature).
The list of customisation options continues with a left-handed mode (nav bar on the left when in landscape), control over the notification LED and even the pixel density of the screen which is unusual.
On the lockscreen you can choose what the shortcuts are for, if perhaps you don’t need quick access to the dialler and Wileyfox offers, by choosing Cyanogen, the ability to scramble the PIN code entry numbers so the pattern changes every time meaning people can’t work it out.
Other privacy settings include a blocked caller list which will come in handy for most people (no I haven’t been miss-sold PPI for the last time) and the Privacy Guard lets you control permissions for every app on the phone. That means you can make sure Facebook can’t access your location, for example.
Last but not least is the Audio FX app which provides various EQ settings such as folk and dance plus an individual bass control.
Wileyfox Swift: Specs
- Cyanogen OS (based on Android 5.1 Lollipop)
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 (MSM8916) processor with 1.2 GHz quad-core CPU
- Adreno 306 with 400 MHz GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB internal storage
- Micro-SD up to 32GB
- 5in, 720p HD (1280 x 720), 294ppi, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- 13Mp rear camera, LED flash, Auto-focus
- 5Mp front camera
- Micro USB
- 3.5mm headset jack
- Bluetooth version 4.0 LE
- Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n (2.4GHz)
- 4G LTE
- 2470mAh removable battery