Wileyfox Swift review

There was a time when when the lower priced part of the smartphone spectrum was a real chore to look at. Manufacturers were guilty of just not trying. Taking the approach that people who weren't spending a lot of money didn't want an experience on par with the all singing, all dancing range toppers. But that's not the case anymore. Thankfully. The experience you have with your smartphone should not entirely depend on how much you have in your wallet to spend.

The budget market is more exciting than ever, and this latest entrant is making a strong case to be one of the top dogs.

The quick take

Don't let the fact you've never heard of Wileyfox before put you off the Swift. This is one of the best budget phone experiences you'll find. The software is slick and bloat free, the hardware is solid and nicely designed and its price is almost too cheap. The budget smartphone arena continues to get more and more interesting and you should dismiss the Wileyfox Swift at your peril.

The good

  • It's £129
  • Nice screen at 720p
  • Dual SIM
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Good camera for a cheap phone

The bad

  • The notification LED is way too bright

Wileyfox phones

A ridiculously good phone

Wileyfox Swift Full review

The Swift is one of two phones that Wileyfox has made its debut with and it's actually the lower end, cheaper model. But that shouldn't put you off. The budget smartphone market gets more competitive, more interesting, more compelling by the day, and the Swift has a lot of competition.

On the face of it though all the right boxes are ticked. Cyanogen is providing the software which means a stock-like Android experience, there's a 13MP camera sensor on the back, a nice display, removable battery, microSD card slot and even dual SIM support. It even looks pretty good with a sandstone textured back with orange accents. Not to mention that you can, for not a lot extra, buy a three year warranty.

And the company logo is pretty great, too.

Success of the phone, sadly, isn't just going to be based on how good it actually is. People still need to buy it. Read on for our full review to see whether it's worth your money.

About this review

We're writing this review after a couple of weeks with a UK spec model provided by Wileyfox. The software is Cyanogen OS version 12.1 and we've been using it with a single SIM on EE in the UK.

Facts and figures

The Specs

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Display5-inch IPS full lamination, 1280x720 resolution (294 ppi)
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
OSCyanogen OS 12.1
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 410 8916 quad-core @ 1.2GHz
Adreno 306 GPU
Storage16GB, SD card up to 32GB
Rear camera13MP Samsung S5K3M2 BSI, dual-LED flash
1080p video capture at 60fps
Front camera5MP
Battery2500 mAh removable
ColorsBlack Sandstone
ConnectivityDual SIM, Cat 4 LTE 800/1800/2600, HSDPA 900/2100, WiFi b/g/n 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 4.0
Sensors3D G-sensor, proximity, ambient light, Gyroscope, E-compass
Weight135 g
Dimensions141.15 x 71 x 9.37 mm

Wileyfox Swift

Getting a feel for it

The Hardware

We always say that specs only tell a small part of the story, and the same is true of the Wileyfox Swift. On paper there's nothing that really stands out and grabs your eyes. But on closer inspection, and considering the price of the phone, things aren't so, well, dull.

For the most part the Swift offers comparable hardware to the undisputed king of the budget Android, the Moto G. That alone should be cause for celebration. There are differences, but the combination of a Snapdragon 410 and a couple of GBs of RAM hasn't been a bad experience in the past.

Thankfully that's also the case on the Swift. Be it the hardware, or a combination of the hardware and the Cyanogen OS, but this is one slick phone. Dare I even say that the experience matches the name? (Terrible pun alert).

Yes. It's Swift.

This is one slick phone

At least it is when it comes to regular smartphone stuff. If you're into the latest, graphics-heavy games, maybe save up some more and buy a more powerful phone. You can play them on the Swift, but they don't look so great. Some of that is the display, some is just raw horsepower.

For the most part the hardware is the bread and butter of what we'd expect for a decent phone in this segment of the market. Wileyfox chose wisely and the Swift makes excellent use of every single component. Just as the Moto G does.

Boring internal stuff out of the way, what about the stuff we can actually see? Well, it's very nice for a £129 phone. As with the Moto G you're clearly not holding a premium smartphone, nor does it feel particularly cheap. The front is a stealthy black rectangle unbroken by any logos with its only real feature the Nexus 5 styled earpiece.

Around the back is where the Swift's looks take a step up. The black Sandstone back has slightest of textures while the color monotony is broken up by subtle orange highlights where the company brand sits and a ring around the camera. And Wileyfox has itself a pretty kick ass looking logo sat there in the middle. Again, in black, but embossed into the sandstone.

It looks very sleek, it's great to hold with that little bit of texture but all round is quite a subtle, understated look. The one drawback to the sandstone texture would be that it seems to be a magnet for, well, anything in your pocket.

There's a lot of 'bang for your buck' here

Flipping back around to the front and what you're looking at is a nice, vibrant IPS display. Yes, it's "only" 720p but it's also "only" 5 inches. Remember when 5 inches wasn't the small option? But as far as quality goes, it's very nice. Great colors, bright and honestly, 720p at this size is still plenty adequate.

Is there anything bad to say about it? Not really, and if we're picking (which we are), the notification LED is too bright. Way too bright. Set this thing down at the side of the bed and night and make sure to put it face down.

So, to sum up. Nothing extraordinary but a solid piece of hardware. There's a lot of bang for your buck here.

Android by another name

The software — Cyanogen OS

So here's this about that. If you're an average, £129 smartphone buying consumer, the fact it's Cyanogen and not "Android" probably doesn't matter. It still looks mostly the same, you have access to the same apps and services from Google, it's still Android. Just with a different name.

What you get on the Swift is an excellent experience. Everything looks mostly like stock Android, just with a theme over the top. The stock theme is the "Wileyfox" one and it's pretty subtle. In place of the regular app drawer icon, for example, you get the Wileyfox logo. And since the logo is pretty hot looking anyway, it's a nice fit.

Themes are of course a big part of Cyanogen and to get new ones you'll need a Cyanogen account. But if you're OK with leaving it alone you'll be just fine with a regular old Google account.

And boy is the Swift, well, swift. Sorry, again. But it's true. As with the Moto G the internal hardware doesn't tell the story of the experience. Whether it's the coding or the 2GB of RAM or witchcraft doesn't matter. What you have here is a £129 phone that feels nicer to use than a number that cost three times that and more.

Cyanogen is a little different in places to regular Android, but fortunately we've got you covered there.

All about Cyanogen OS

Cyanogen has gone from an enthusiasts custom ROM to a bona fide operating system that you'll actually be paying money to buy phones with it on. If you need to know more, we've got you covered.

So, it all sounds pretty good so far. My only concern with Cyanogen as the chosen OS would be longevity. There's nothing to say that things might go wrong in the future, but there is a precedent. OnePlus started out the Cyanogen way and then moved to its own thing. Same story with the Yu Yureka in India. Whatever the business, political, technical reasons behind those changes, they're changes that happened.

Fingers crossed that the Swift doesn't fall down the same rabbit hole.

Wileyfox Swift

Snap snap snap

The Camera

In 2015 it's entirely possible to get a good camera experience on a cheap Android phone. The Moto G showed that and the Wileyfox Swift continues the trend. Hardware wise the rear shooter is a Samsung sourced sensor, which in itself is good news to hear.

It's a 13MP unit with BSI (Backside Illumination) and it's not half bad. It's paired with Cyanogen's own camera application and the results are decent. Consider the price of the phone and they're decent. In low light the quality slips as you'd probably expect, but it's perfectly possible to take good pictures with this thing when the light is better.

Words don't tell the story though, so check out the sample gallery below.

The stock camera app has a bunch of settings to tweak and fiddle around with as is now pretty much the norm, but personally speaking I didn't like it much. On the face of it you might think it as simplistic as Motorola's, but it's not quite the case. But since this is Android you've got a ton of choices in the Play Store to choose from.

Wileyfox Swift battery life

It can go all day

Battery life

If you're expecting more than a day from something that costs as little as this does then you're barking up the wrong tree. But, the Swift does have several things in its favor. That 2500 mAh battery isn't the smallest we've ever seen on a 5-inch phone and the fact it's removable should do away with any fears of hunting for an outlet since you can pop in a new one. Or you can so long as Wileyfox provides spares to purchase. So far that doesn't seem to be the case. Cyanogen does at least give you some battery saving features for when things start getting towards the lower end of empty to try and help you get to a power outlet.

What you have though with a 720p display, Snapdragon 410 and a reasonable sized power plant is a phone that should easily make it through your day. The usual caveats apply but the Swift hasn't let us down during the review period. Phones around here are used pretty hard for email, Slack, Skype, Hangouts, social media and more besides, and the Swift has been perfectly capable of standing up to the tasks at hand.

To add a little further context, the Swift's battery is the same size as the non-removable one in its bigger brother, the Storm. And that phone has a 1080p display and a Snapdragon 615 in it.

We'd be much happier though if we knew for sure we could get hold of a spare battery or two. Sort of defeats the object of being able to take it out if there isn't a new one to pop in.

Wileyfox Swift

Wrapping up

The Bottom line

Despite the number of phones that come across our desks in the course of a year, one that's hard to fault on any level is still a rarity. Incredibly, Wileyfox has managed such a feat at its very first attempt. When the biggest flaw you can find on a phone is that the notification LED is too bright (and trust me, it really is) you know you're looking at something special.

Special in this instance refers to the balance of experience and price. Motorola set the ball rolling with offering top notch phones at low low prices and others are catching on. Wileyfox has put its name to something that certainly has a bit of visual style, a superb Android experience and that won't run away with your wallet.

If a cheap phone is what you're after you'll be hard pushed to get much better than this right now. If you're bothered about software updates at £129 you're probably looking at it wrong, and Cyanogen's support and upgrade path is probably the only shadow looming over the Swift. But then, is the Moto G exactly safe on that front, either?

Should you buy the Wileyfox Swift? Yes

If you're in a market where you can buy this phone (as in, not North America) and it's in the price bracket you're considering, absolutely give it a try. Sure, there are things missing on the hardware front and always something you'd want a little better. But, balance what you're getting here against the price and it represents superb value and a great smartphone experience. The brand might be new but with phones this good there's no reason not to give them a chance.

Buy the Wileyfox Swift at Amazon UK

Richard Devine