Wileyfox Swift 2 review

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PROS

  • Great value
  • Attractive metal rear
  • Decent fingerprint scanner

CONS

  • 16MP camera has entry-level performance
  • Alternatives have 1080p screens

KEY FEATURES

  • 5-inch 720p display
  • Snapdragon 430
  • 2GB or 3GB RAM
  • 16 or 32GB storage
  • microSD slot
  • Android 6.0.1
  • Metal body
  • 13 or 16-megapixel camera
  • USB Type-C and Quick Charge 3
  • Manufacturer: Wileyfox
  • Review Price: £159.99/$239.99

WHAT IS THE WILEYFOX SWIFT 2?

The Wileyfox Swift 2 is an affordable Android phone. It’s the sort of device you might consider buying from the likes of Amazon, after deciding you’ve had enough of signing up for expensive contracts to get you hands on the latest in-fashion phone.

Prices for the Swift 2 start at £159/$238.5 for the standard version; the Swift 2 Plus will cost you an extra £30/$45. The Plus has a higher-resolution 16-megapixel camera and 32GB storage instead of 16GB.

The Wileyfox Swift 2 doesn’t set any new standards for already hyper-aggressive budget phones, but it’s a decent choice if you’re desperate for a handset that’s made of metal instead of plastic.

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WILEYFOX SWIFT 2 – DESIGN

The original Wileyfox Swift is a plastic phone, one that tries to stand out with an almost furry textured finish. This new model is quite different, stepping up a league or two in the classiness stakes.

Its back is aluminium, curving around to meet the screen surround. Some cheap metal phones just use a flat metal plate and plastic sides, so this rear is much more like one that you’d see on a decent mid-range model.

It’s not all-metal, though. The top and bottom parts of the rear are plastic. This is common practice, since it stops Wileyfox from needing to go through the expensive process of cutting into the aluminium to make the various sockets and grilles. You’ll see that Huawei and Honor take the same approach.

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I’m fairly impressed by the look of the Wileyfox Swift 2’s rear, however. The way the aluminium plate circles up around the camera lens, and the bevelling around the fingerprint scanner and camera lens are really quite lovely for a phone at this price.

Side-by-side with the plastic Motorola Moto G, the Swift 2 seems much less prosaic. It’s comfy to hold, too.

It isn’t a flat-out design smash, though. The Wileyfox Swift 2’s side buttons are a little spongy, and front-on its screen surrounds are slightly thicker than we’re used to these days. It’s a looker from the back; just okay from the front.

The Swift 2 comes with a factory-applied screen protector. However, it doesn’t actually stick to the screen properly around the edges, giving it a weird-looking border. This may be because there’s a very slight 2.5D curvature to the sides of the screen (even though the protector doesn’t appear to reach the curve). You can always take it off, but it’s a shame.

Beneath the protector, the Wileyfox Swift 2’s display is covered with Gorilla Glass 3 – a very good, if slightly dated, toughened glass. We’re on to Gorilla Glass 5 now, making this two generations behind. But at this price, it seem silly to complain.

Storage will vary according to the version of the phone you opt for: 16GB with the standard Swift 2; 32GB in the Plus. I’m using the Plus version, whose storage is actually pretty quick, reading at 214MB/sec and writing at 77MB/sec.

As you can add a microSD card to either model, you don’t need to obsess to much over this storage difference.

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Both versions of the phone also feature a fingerprint scanner on the rear of the device. Similar to the one on the Huawei Mate 9 and other Huawei/Honor phones, it doesn’t need to be depressed; simply place your finger on there and it will do the rest.

It isn’t as fast as the scanner on a £600 phone, but it does get you from “sleep” to the homescreen in less than a second.

My only issue with it, however, is that since the Wileyfox Swift 2 is a fairly petite phone thanks to its 5-inch screen, the scanner can be a little niggly to use. Such scanners work best on large phones, as your index finger tends to naturally rest right below the scanner. Here, it tends to find its way to the left, making you shuffle your hand over to reach it.

It’s pretty low on the league table of first-world problems, though.

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WILEYFOX SWIFT 2 – SCREEN

The Wileyfox Swift 2 has a 5-inch screen. Most of the basics of its screen tech are great. It’s a fully-laminated IPS screen, meaning the image appears to be right on the top of the display, and there isn’t much in the way of brightness drop-off when you look at the screen from an angle.

Switching from a 5.5-inch phone, I did find that typing accuracy was pretty awful to begin; if you use swipe-style typing, you’ll have no problems. This is where you draw a line between characters, rather than tapping on each letter separately.

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Colour is less saturated than most top-end phones, but these days most expensive phones are oversaturated anyway. The colour tone here is pleasant, with a slightly warm temperature that’s easy on the eye.

The one niggling issue I’m finding difficult to reconcile is the resolution: 1,280 x 720 pixels. At the same price, the Motorola Moto G4 and Honor 5X offer 1080p screens, which appear quite a lot sharper.

This screen looks good, but the fonts below icons appear slightly pixellated, matching the third-generation Moto G rather than the current one. I could live with this kind of sharpness, but this limited resolution ensures the 1080p 5.5-inch Moto G4 is a much better gaming and Netflix phone.

WILEYFOX SWIFT 2 – CYANOGENMOD SOFTWARE

The Wileyfox Swift 2 runs Android 6.0.1 and the CyanogenMod custom interface. This isn’t something Wileyfox has made, but a community-produced piece of software that in recent years has become a much more commercial operation.

The slight issue is that since this commercial venture didn’t prove a huge success, the future of CyanogenMod in its current state is in doubt. However, Wileyfox has assured us the phone will receive updates. A version of CyanogenMod using Android 7.0 has already been released elsewhere too, so there’s plenty of update potential ahead.

CyanogenMod looks quite different to standard Android. If you’re new to it, take a close look at some of these screens.

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The Wileyfox Swift 2 retains the standard layout of Android: homescreens and an apps menu. However, the apps library has alphabetical labels across its side, where Android’s is a clean and simple scroll of app icons.

Don’t fret it you don’t like it, though. One of the core ideas of CyanogenMod is that you should have control over how your phone looks. As a result, if you head into Settings you can change this to make it look almost exactly like the regular Android apps menu.

The key is knowing that you can make the changes, and from where to do it (this particular tweak is found by long-pressing on a homescreen, by the way).

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You can also re-skin the Wileyfox Swift 2 using themes. It can look as much or as little like a native Android phone as you like. Personally, I like CyanogenMod over a number of third-party Android UIs.

WILEYFOX SWIFT 2 – PERFORMANCE

CyanogenMod feels super-quick, too. It’s responsive, and uses clever app-load animations to make cached apps appear to launch instantly.

On a few occasions the Wileyfox Swift 2’s keyboard input has lagged a little under pressure. However, a mid-test update seems to have made the phone less susceptible to this.

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This is likely an early teething problem, since the spec and gaming performance are very solid. Asphalt 8 is a game that on an under-powered phone is prone to frame rate problems, but it’s a real joy on the Wileyfox Swift 2.

The handset has an entry-level (or mid-range, if we’re being generous) CPU, but it’s a good one, and well suited to the 720p resolution. It’s a Snapdragon 430, an octa-core processor that has a new Adreno 505 GPU. This is actually more powerful than the one used in the Snapdragon 617.

On the whole, the latest 4-series Snapdragon processors are pretty punchy, and the Wileyfox Swift 2 seems to have power to spare with current-gen games. This is a processor designed to handle 1080p devices, after all.

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In Geekbench 4, the Wileyfox Swift 2 scored 1,989 points (613 per core), which is actually more than the Moto G4, which scored around 1,750 points.

The Wileyfox Swift 2 also has 3GB of RAM in the Pro version (2GB with the standard model), a decent inclusion at the price. It’s DDR3 rather than the DDR4 seen in a more expensive phones, but nevertheless, it does mean the phone is able to keep a good number of apps cached in the memory.

This is Android’s multi-tasking fuel: if there isn’t enough spare RAM, apps you used recently are closed fully, meaning you have to reload them from scratch.

WILEYFOX SWIFT 2 – CAMERA

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen an interesting shift in camera tech away from increasing resolution and towards computational photography and making sensor pixels larger. However, the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus we’re reviewing is a classic high-res, fairly small sensor camera.

It uses the Samsung S5K3P3 sensor, a 16-megapixel 1/3.1-inch model, which isn’t stabilised. Unfortunately, this makes it one of the lowest-spec 16-megapixel phone cameras I’ve seen.

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I haven’t had an opportunity to properly test the 13-megapixel camera of the Wileyfox Swift 2 (a Samsung 3L8), so all these observations only apply to the Plus.

As you’d hope of a 16-megapixel sensor, the Wileyfox Swift 2 can render plenty of detail in good lighting. As long as it can keep hold of a low ISO sensitivity setting, it’s pretty strong.

Since shooting in Auto mode is quick too, taking photos on a bright and sunny day is pretty good fun – as long as you’re not shooting closeups; the autofocus can be slow.

However, I’ve found that when shooting outdoors in the daytime, the sensor has to ramp-up sensitivity at times, resulting in a loss of fine detail. Colour performance is a mixed bag, too. It can be perfectly good, but I managed to take a number of undersaturated shots, even outdoors in daylight.

Here are some photos we took with the Swift 2 Plus:

Swift 2

Close-up your can see each brick of this church. Those megapixels aren’t just for show.

Swift 2 3

Even with HDR engaged, the Wileyfox struggles here, overexposing the sky while keeping the foreground fairly muted. There’s also some unwelcome green in the sky gradient.

Swift 2 5

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Colour reproduction here is quite cold-looking, an example of the Swift’s patchy performance

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This shot looks fine, but close-up there’s a slight fizzy noise due to relatively high daylight sensitivity; plus, a better 16-megapixel camera could offer superior bokeh

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Here’s an example of the Swift 2 Plus failing to read a scene properly. This was a shot of a residential road, but it looks like some dots in a field of black

Swift 2 19

With enough light and a very steady hand you can actually get some reasonable night shots (using the detail-boosting Night mode)

Shooting side-by-side with the Moto Z Play and OnePlus 3, two other 16-megapixel phones, the Wileyfox Swift 2 is unmistakably the worst of the three. Shallow depth-of-field shots are pretty pathetic in comparison; dynamic range is far worse, and most images simply look like they’ve come from a much lesser camera.

This isn’t a bad phone camera, but it doesn’t stack up to just about any other 16-megapixel phone of the moment.

Night performance is poor, too. The Wileyfox Swift 2 doesn’t radically alter the brightness of scenes to compensate for very low light, meaning you’ll often end up with an almost-black scene, even if you use the dedicated Night mode.

Delving into the settings that the camera uses, it makes some odd choices at times. I was a little surprised to see the phone slow down the shutter to 1/10 of a second in very low light, which is bold for a non-stabilised camera.

Sure enough, I’ve taken numerous blurry lower-light shots with the Wileyfox Swift 2. It’s just too long an exposure for carefree handheld shooting.

Swift 2 27

Its HDR mode isn’t that useful either, being far too slow .

The Wileyfox Swift 2 uses CyanogenMod’s camera app, which uses an annoying swipe gesture to switch between basic shooting modes. I say “annoying”, but this may be a personal thing given CyanogenMod has used it for years. Someone must like it.

I’d say the Wileyfox Swift 2 has fair camera performance given its price, but the Motorola Moto G4 with its Sony senson is a much more consistent performer.

The front camera in the Wileyfox Swift 2 is an Omnivision 8856, an 8-megapixel sensor that appears to be pretty decent – mostly because we don’t have the same lofty expectations that we do with the 16-megapixel rear camera. It’s a classic small 1/4-inch sensor, although it actually has larger sensor pixels than the front one.

In low or indoor light, fine detail such as eyebrows and beard hair gets a little soft and there’s some chromatic aberration, too – but the selfies are fair for a budget phone.

WILEYFOX SWIFT 2 – BATTERY LIFE

Both the standard and Plus versions of the Wileyfox Swift 2 feature 2,700mAh batteries. That may not compare to the 3,000mAh or more cells of other handsets, but remember that this device has only a 5-inch 720p screen.

A conventional-size battery is always going to result in somewhat-conventional performance, but the Swift 2 slides towards the better end of that spectrum. Playing 30 minutes of Real Racing 3 consumed only 10% of the battery, suggesting the device will last for a good five hours if maxed-out.

This is perhaps a sign of the efficiency of the new Adreno 505 chipset, which is made with a 14nm process: better than the last generation.

I’ve not doubt that the Wileyfox Swift 2 will happily see you through a full day, but that’s about it. The phone also supports fast charging; unfortunately, a charger isn’t included in the box, so you’ll have to buy your own.

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WILEYFOX SWIFT 2 – SPEAKER

All that’s left to cover now is the speaker. Like a lot of phones with two grilles on the bottom, the Wileyfox Swift 2 actually has only a single driver. The other grille is just for show.

It’s moderately loud, but also has quite a harsh tone that becomes grating at top volume. The treble is a little searing, openly welcoming sibilance.

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SHOULD YOU BUY THE WILEYFOX SWIFT 2?

The Wileyfox Swift 2 isn’t quite as good as the Motorola Moto G4 in several respects. Its screen isn’t as big or sharp, and the camera is less reliable and often produces significantly worse photos.

However, it’s unusual to see a £160 phone that’s made of metal, looks attractive with it too, and features a fingerprint scanner. This is the gloss lacking from a number of budget phones, plus it doesn’t appear to have the performance issues of the Honor 5X.

It perhaps isn’t the best deal at the price, however, and we’re not convinced by the Plus model’s camera upgrade. However, the Wileyfox Swift 2 is a solid budget phone and worth considering.

VERDICT

This isn’t the best budget phone, but it’s one of the best metal budget phones – if that’s what you’re after.

(trustedreviews.com, https://goo.gl/EhhURJ)

 

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