Could an all-new brand have what it takes to beat the Moto G at its own game?
In 2015, you don't need to spend a ton of money to get hold of a decent smartphone. It's a point that's been proven over and over again by the likes of OnePlus, Xiaomi and Motorola, and today in London a new upstart aims to give all three a run for their money. With a quirky brand, competitive pricing, and a familiar software experience, Wileyfox has introduced the Swift and the Storm, Cyanogen OS-powered handsets costing just £129 and £199 respectively.
As much as we've praised the new Moto G in recent months, the new Wileyfox Swift matches it in terms of both internal horsepower and design, and arguably beats it on value for money. On the inside, the manufacturer has packed pretty much the same software as Motorola's entry-level champ — a Snapdragon 410 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, dual-SIM capabilities, a 5-inch 720p display and 2,500mAh battery. It's also worth noting that the 2GB/16GB is the standard configuration here, there's no cheaper base model with reduced RAM and storage. And the whole package costs £129 SIM-free.
It's kinda ridiculous how much phone you get for your £129.
The Swift's chassis is plastic, but it's done in a way that feels much classier than its price tag would suggest. There's a soft-touch shell not unlike the OnePlus One, which joins to the screen through a slim faux chrome trim. The soft-touch back is a good fit for the Swift — it's sharp yet understated, with sides that make it easy to one-hand.
The front of the Swift is featureless, save for a circular earpiece cutout, a 5-megapixel front camera and the usual sensors; meanwhile the back of the device bears Wileyfox's stylized fox logo. It's a far cry from the branding of most big-name smartphones, and Wileyfox tells us that's the point — it's supposed to be unusual, whimsical and disruptive. Of course it remains to be seen whether consumers will be enamored or baffled by Wiley's unique branding, but in an increasingly crowded market there's something to be said for thinking outside the box.
At the higher-end — think Moto X Play or Alcatel Idol 3 level — Wileyfox will offer the Storm, a Snapdragon 615-powered handset with a larger 5.5-inch 1080p display. Camera, memory and storage get bumped up too in the Storm, with 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal flash, a 20-megapixel Sony camera and 8-megapixel front-facer. It's not a million miles away from what Motorola's offering with the Moto X Play, albeit without the enormous battery. And the Storm's design, while still plastic, feels more premium than its smaller and cheaper sibling and a fixed internal battery at 2,500mAh.
This higher-end model also comes with capacitive buttons below the screen, as opposed to the Swift's traditional on-screen keys. It's a compelling package for just £199 SIM-free, a price point that places it closer to the Moto G than the Moto X Play in the UK.
Wileyfox won't have the scale of a Motorola or a Xiaomi, but the company hopes to carve out a niche of "savvy" consumers in the coming months.
On the software side, it's Cyanogen OS 12.2 running the show on both devices, based upon Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. In our limited time with both the Storm and the Swift, both seemed speedy enough for our needs, though we'll need to see how things hold up after extended use. The biggest visible difference is the orange-tinted Wileyfox theme applied to the OS as standard. Cyanogen's extensive Themes system gives you complete control over the look and feel of the OS, though, so it's easy to turn the UI into something less aggressively orange.
As we've seen from other Cyanogen OS-powered phones, the software takes the look and feel of stock Android, and augments it with a useful loadout of new capabilities. Worried about prying eyes spying your PIN code? You can randomize the layout of numbers in the grid. Fed up of cold callers? Cyanogen promises to help you unmask unidentified numbers. It's a step away from the lighter touch we've seen from Motorola of late, but still very much Material Design-influenced.
AC readers may be tempted by the higher-specced Wileyfox Storm, but in our opinion the entry-level Swift is the more interesting contender. In our limited time with the Swift we've been impressed with the sheer amount of phone you get for your £129 — it's slightly ridiculous how we're already seeing a device that makes the 2015 Moto G look slightly overpriced. Wileyfox won't have the scale of a Motorola or a Xiaomi, but the company hopes to carve out a niche of "savvy" consumers in the coming months. And if our first impressions of its new phones are any indicator, it just might have a change.
The Wileyfox Swift will land in the UK this September, priced £129 SIM-free, with the Storm following in October for £199.