Wileyfox Storm review: We review the new British-made Wileyfox Storm, a 5.5-inch phone that offers strong value for money at just £199 with a Full HD screen, 20-megapixel camera and the feature-packed Cyanogen OS.
It’s been a bit of a wait since UK phone firm Wileyfox first unveiled its introductory flagship mobile, the Wileyfox Storm – just over two months, in fact. Since then I’ve reviewed the Storm’s little brother, the Wileyfox Swift, which impressed with its excellent Cyanogen operating system (essentially a souped-up highly customisable version of Android). However, it’s the Storm that really stirs my undercrackers thanks to its 20-megapixel camera and spacious 5.5-inch screen.
The Wileyfox Storm sports a very similar design to the Swift, on a bigger scale. From the front it’s once again no nonsense, with a plain black finish, although the row of physical shortcut buttons beneath the screen gives off an attractive blue glow while the home button doubles as a notifications light. That dark design continues around the back, with a soft-touch rear that feels nice and helps to add a bit of grip.The centrally positioned 20-megapixel camera unit sits high up on the centre of the phone’s back and its edges are accented with orange – the brand’s signature colour.
In fact, that splash of orange aside, you could definitely say that the Storm looks and feels a lot like the OnePlus 2, although subtle differences such as that funky notifications light help the Storm to stand out.
At 155g, this almost phabletesque phone is quite light compared to some rivals and also feels quite slender, although that’s just an effect of the curved rear – the Storm actually bulges to 9.2mm in the middle. As far as one-handed use goes, that’s obviously quite tricky. You can just about get away with it in a pinch, but the sizable 5.5-inch screen means that operating the Storm with two mitts is much more comfortable.
The hardware controls for volume and power are milled, metal components with a nice level of feedback built into them. On the left edge you have a pin drawer which hides the incredibly long SIM tray. The reason it’s so long is that it holds two SIM cards, as well as a microSD memory card. That means you can slip both your personal and work SIMs inside, to avoid carrying two devices around.
Screen and media
That 5.5-inch IPS display is good for the price, offering sharp HD images and pleasingly warm colours. Wide viewing angles and the spacious screen area makes it a comfortable way to watch movies with a mate on the move, while a suitably powerful maximum brightness means you won’t be squinting in sunlight. Contrast levels could be stronger, but otherwise this is a great panel for everyday use.
Audio quality is good too, despite the fact that the solo speaker is housed on the back, so sound iis blasted away from your face. The speaker is pretty powerful for a simple mobile effort and does the job for enjoying video without headphones.
OS and features
I’ve already gone into great depth about how awesome Cyanogen 12.1 is, so check out my full Cyanogen review for more info on the great privacy features and impressive level of customisation (there’s a video to show the features in action too).
Besides the fantastic OS, there’s not a great deal to talk about in terms of the Wileyfox Storm’s stand-out features. There’s support for 4G but no NFC, just like the OnePlus 2, and no fingerprint sensor for increased security. Although to be fair, that would be an impressive feature at this price point – the cheapest phone we’ve played with recently that rocks a scanner is the £250 Honor 7.
Performance and battery life
The Wileyfox Storm is powered by a Snapdragon 615, backed up by a very welcome 3GB of RAM. As a result, it’ll happily play the latest games and everyday performance is pleasingly slick. The Storm never crashed or struggled, although it should start to show its age in a few months if you pile on a load of apps.
Battery life wasn’t a strong suit of the WIleyfox Swift and it’s the same case here, sadly. You can typically make it through the day without needing to recharge, but only if you resist streaming video or gaming on the commute. Overnight our review sample dropped almost 20 percent, with just WiFi and Bluetooth turned on. And if you use two SIMs at once, the Storm will die even faster, just about scraping through the day with restrained use.
If you do stream video non-stop, you can expect around five and a half hours of playback from a full charge. That’s about average for a modern phone.
On the back of the Wileyfox Storm you’ll find a 20-megapixel camera which happily performs even better than expected, easily competing with and in some cases beating the Motorola Moto X Style and Moto X Play.
The focus can take a short while to analyse the scene before taking a shot, but the results are almost always good. Touristy photos of monuments, streets and buildings are packed with detail and well lit thanks to the effective HDR, with only the occasional slight oversaturation of colours. View your snaps back on a big screen and you’ll find that they’re still pleasingly sharp. Close-up shots also look fantastic, with plenty of macro detail and no fuzziness.
The Storm’s camera can also handle artificial lighting without making everything look a strange hue, while low light situations can be tackled via a handy Zero Shutter Lag setting. And if you’re trying to shoot in very dark conditions, the dual LED flash will light up your mates’ faces without making them look ethereal.
Video results aren’t as strong sadly. You’ll have to tap to focus a lot as the autofocus often craps out, while there’s no kind of stabilisation to cut jerky motions. Audio quality could be better too, especially when there’s a lot of background murmur.
As for different modes and camera settings, Wileyfox has kept things nice and simple. You can take a panorama shot as well as the standard photos and video, with the ability to add a filter or timer to your shots. And that, as they say, is that.
The 8-megapixel front-facing camera is just as great as the rear camera, capturing your face in plenty of detail, including every wrinkle, sag and mole. Nice. The viewing angle is also wide enough to capture plenty of faces all at once.
Wileyfox’s Storm is a solid £199 mobile phone, offering a spacious, crisp and colourful screen for media lovers (as well as expandable storage, hooray) and a surprisingly strong 20-megapixel camera that blows away most rivals. Cyanogen is perfect for anyone who demands strong customisation or privacy features, while only the ropey battery life detracts from the otherwise decent user experience.