Wileyfox Swift review: This 5-inch Cyanogen mobile is a well-specced £125 Moto G rival from an exciting new British manufacturer, packing Cyanogen OS. But can the 13-megapixel camera and highly customisable interface live up to our weighty expectations?
British brand Wileyfox just launched two new phones, packing strong specs at a great price: the Storm, which packs Moto X Play-like features for just £199, and the Swift, which only trims back a little to achieve its impressive £125 asking price.
But with the likes of Voda’s insanely good Smart Ultra 6 costing the same, plus hot competition from the likes of Motorola’s Moto G, can the Wileyfox Swift do enough to sway consumers? Here’s our full review.
The Wileyfox Swift is a non-assuming little 5-inch phone that at first glance appears to be your standard black brick, but strong usability and some neat little design features help to elevate it above many other low-cost blowers.
Like the Moto G, the Wileyfox Swift is easy to use one-handed thanks to its slender bezels and slimline build. Of course, you can’t switch up the Swift’s look and feel like you can with the Moto G, which supports a range of coloured back plates. But the black design isn’t overly businessy, and little effects such as the round, indented speaker grille and cool fox head logo make it an attractive value handset.
Prise off that back plate and you’ll find a removable 2,500mAh battery, a microSD memory card slot and – surprisingly – dual SIM card slots. This allows you to insert a work and personal SIM, for instance, and choose which one to use at any given time for messaging, web browsing and so on.
Annoyingly, the Swift’s USB port seems to be a little loose when using a standard charging cable. My personal long-serving USB charger cable kept slipping out of the phone when I moved it, despite working fine with other mobiles. Thankfully Wileyfox’s bundled cable, which is a funky non-tangle effort, fits into the Swift firmly and doesn’t drop out.
Screen and media
The 5-inch Wileyfox Swift screen is a direct 720p competitor to the Moto G, and just as pleasing to the eye. You have to get in close to see individual pixels, while colours aren’t oversaturated, standing out nicely. Contrast levels could be better, as blacks come out more as a dark grey, but the super-bright screen can be clearly seen outdoors and viewing angles are as wide as you’d like.
Sure, the Smart Ultra 6 has an even sharper screen, packing a Full HD resolution (as well as more viewing space at 5.5-inches). But high-def movies still look the biz on the Swift, proving once again that a near-£100 asking price no longer means crappy visuals.
The Swift’s speakers are built into the bottom of the phone, which makes them a little easy to smother when holding the handset in portrait or landscape. They aren’t exactly going to blow your face off with incredible power either, but audio quality is perfectly fine if you don’t have headphones to plug in.
And if you’ve got a decent-sized media collection, the 16GB of storage can be expanded by a further 32GB via the microSD memory card slot.
Cyanogen OS: Android evolved
The Wileyfox Swift is the first phone we’ve fondled to rock Cyanogen OS 12.1, and if that means nothing to you, don’t worry: it’s basically a new, re-jiggered version of Android with even more awesome features packed in.
With an emphasis on customisation and user privacy, Cyanogen OS 12.1 is a very dense but enjoyable mobile OS that we heartily stand behind. It’s also nice and stable with very few quirks or bugs, which is refreshing. Here’s our full Cyanogen OS 12.1 review.
Performance and battery life
Sadly any dreams of an all-round winner start to crumble a little when you come to performance and battery life.
The Wileyfox Swift isn’t a chugger by any means, but I did see a fair few elongated pauses when tapping an app before the thing actually flashed up on the screen. I still managed to play plenty of games with a decent frame rate, but the Snapdragon 410 processor – backed by 2GB of RAM – definitely struggles to keep up on occasion.
As for battery life, the Swift will see you through the day but no more than that, unless you only occasionally switch it on to check for messages. You can pretty much watch the battery meter tick down when you’re using the thing, although the final few percent always seems to last longer, which is a blessed relief when you’re desperately trying to do a dozen things before the phone dies.
And if you want to stream video non-stop, expect less than four hours of life before the Swift dies.
With its 13-megapixel camera ripped straight from the Nexus 6, the Moto G’s optics made it the all-new king of budget smartphone snappers. And while the Wileyfox Swift can’t quite compete with its own 13-megapixel camera, it’s not a bad snapper by any means.
For a start, the Swift’s Camera interface isn’t as pleasingly streamlined as the Motorola effort, with an autofocus that takes a second or two to snap onto your subject and plenty of settings icons clogging up the screen. Thankfully you can manually focus with a tap, if your subject hasn’t been cleanly picked up.
Everyday shots came out well in general, with plenty of detail packed in, especially with close-up macro photos. The Swift’s lens only seems to struggle with high contrast shots, with lots of detail being lost in darker areas.
The Swift’s lens also struggles in low-light conditions, although the strong dual-LED flash does counter this in intimate scenes. However, the flash doesn’t always activate in auto mode and we found that even with the flash in play, some of our night shots ended up quite blurry if our subject was in motion.
HD footage shot on the camera is perfectly serviceable, despite the lack of motion stabilisation. As for the 5-megapixel selfie cam, it’s a similar story. Our solo shots weren’t particularly sharp and often blurry if we were pissing around at the time, but the wide-angle lens means you can comfortably take a shot with three or four besties, without straining your arm.
The Wileyfox Swift may lag behind close rivals such as the Moto G and Smart Ultra 6 for performance, battery life and all-round camera excellence, but it’s still a well-specced and likeable handset that boasts impressive privacy, security and personalisation features.