Wileyfox made a bit of a splash last year when they announced both the Swift and the Storm, their entry into the bustling Unlocked low cost smartphone arena, and they did really quite well, despite issues with the chipset on the storm, and some weird USB issues on the Swift, Wileyfox managed to make a phone that was consistently on the top sales charts on Amazon, and now they’re back at it a year later with the Swift 2 and Swift 2 Plus. We have the Plus model here, which has more RAM (3GB instead of 2GB) double the internal storage at 32GB and a 16mp camera on the back, but otherwise, the units are identical.
Disclosure: Wileyfox provided us with this retail Swift 2 Plus unit when we attended the launch on November 2nd, since then the phone has been our daily driver. Despite providing us with the unit, Wileyfox have no editorial control over the outcome of this review and no money exchanged hands. The Device was used on Three UK in the southeast of the UK for the duration of the review.
Speeds and Feeds
5” 1280×720 IPS display
Octa-core Snapdragon 430 8xA53
Adreno 505 GPU
32GB eMMC storage
MicroSD expansion slot
Dual-SIM, 1x NanoSIM, 1x MicroSIM
16mp rear camera F2.2
8mp front camera
For more information on the Swift 2 and Swift 2 Plus, head on over to the Wileyfox page, here
Understated but solid is how I’d talk about the Swift 2 and Swift 2 Plus. On my black, or Midnight unit, everything just subtly blends into the background, nothing ostentatious or wild, it’s there, and it is content just being there. Starting at the front, we’ve got the 5” 720p IPS screen, and it looks pretty awesome, 720p for me is fine at this resolution, if you start to pixel peep even remotely, sure it is not the most crisp screen by any stretch of the imagination, but once I stopped obsessing over numbers and just used it, I quite enjoyed looking at the screen.
Below the screen is nothing but a Wileyfox logo under the glass, It doesn’t do anything, it isn’t a button, it is just a logo there to make it look more interesting I suppose, It bores me and I wish It wasn’t there, I prefer cleaner and smoother fascias on
phones, as little branding or “fluff” possible, the Swift 2 Plus has a nice circular earpiece, already, to me that’s all the front needed. Above the screen is the 8MP selfie camera, the Ambient light and proximity sensors, the circular Earpiece and the LED notification light. Circular earpieces aren’t very common, the Swift has one, the Nexus 5 had one, but most don’t, and although this one is slightly more embellished than i’d like, the earpiece is still a nice little touch the the otherwise stale smartphone fascia.
On the left hand side we have the SIM/MicroSD tray, which goes in upside down. By that I mean that if you open the stay with the screen facing you, your SIM or MicroSD card will fall to the floor. I have no idea why they have decided to make it like this, but unless you’re a phoen reviewer and constantly take out SIM trays and MicroSD cards, you’re only going to notice this once every few years. A nice addition is that it is a proper tray, not just something that the outsides grip onto, it has a back piece , so on battered and broken NanoSIMs like mine, which often fall through SIM “trays” on other devices, it stays in its place here.
The right hand side has the power and volume buttons, and I wish there was something positive I can say about these other than their placement. They wobble, the rattle and they are very mushy, the power button after just under 2 weeks of use is essentially flush with the body. This is one of the only areas where the Swift 2 and 2 Plus feel cheap to me. It doesn’t seem too hard to me to make devices with buttons that have a decent amount of tactility, and that protrude from the chassis more than a fraction of a millimeter, but what do I know, I’m not an engineer.
The top of the Swift 2 has the 3.5mm audio jack and the secondary noise cancelling microphone. I wish I could say that this was normal, but it’s becoming increasingly harder to say that as the weeks go by. On the bottom is where Wileyfox has but the Main Microphone, mono speaker and USB-C data and charging jack. The USB-C port carries only USB2.0 speeds, but is certified for QuickCharge 3.0 by Qualcomm, which is cool because 15 minutes gives you 25% of your battery, and 45 minutes could give you 75% of your battery back, now that is nice to have on an inexpensive handset. Although wileyfox brag about the audio on their site, I can’t be as bullish on it as they are. It’s okay, it gets relatively loud and if you leave the top two or three notches of the volume slider out, it sounds relatively good, but that’s about it.
Lastly the back is somewhat crowded, the rear and most of the chassis is made of “aircraft grade aluminium” it is solid, with no creaks and no flex, which is once again really nice to have at this price point. There are two plastic inserts at the top and bottom for antennas and such, and they don’t really cheapen the feel of the device as you very rarely actually touch those bits. On the top of the back panel we have the 16mp Samsung made ISOCELL camera and dual LED flash next to it, and below that is the Fingerprint scanner which is recessed enough to find it easily, and is large enough that you aren’t struggling to get a reading. The Swift 2’s fingerprint scanner is actually relatively fast, it’s the waking the screen bit up, that’s on the slow side, but otherwise, the scanner is actually not bad for this price point.
CyanogenOS, what more can I really say? Based on Android 6.0.1 with the November 1st security patch the Swift 2 has a relatively recent android build, but Wileyfox execs promised us at the event that the Swift 2 would be getting Nougat in one way or another. This is interesting since Cyanogen has announced it’s intentions to leave the market as being an OS vendor and instead start providing “mods” or custom packs for other OEMs.
But otherwise, this is Android Marshmallow, which is really pretty awesome, Would I prefer nougat? Of course I would, but I’m not entirely upset that this is shipping with Marshmallow. The software is nice and simple, what I like the call stock+, it’s mostly AOSP with some Cyanogen additions on top, some nice little tweaks that should be there in AOSP but aren’t. For example, changing what your battery indicator looks like. Cyanogen lets you change it from a Circle, to a vertical battery, to a horizontal battery to text and then if you have either of the first two, you can also have a text version so you can know the exact percentage, not crazy customisation, but enough of a change to make me smile.
Cyanogen was never as bad as EMUI, MIUI,Touchwiz, Sense, or whatever the Hell LG calls it’s UI, but it has gotten cleaner since the last CyanogenOS device I checked out, the BQ Aquaris X5, and that’s what matters.
In a word? Respectable. The Snapdragon 430 is new to me, it is a 8 core Cortex A53 setup, similar to the much maligned Snapdragon 615, except that these have lower clock speeds, and a better GPU, oh and it is only running a 720p screen.
The Snapdragon 430 in the Swift 2 Plus paired with either 2 or 3 gigabytes of RAM fares really quite well, overall UI performance is consistent and fast enough to make me feel content with it. Let’s be clear here, this is not a speed demon, but unlike Wileyfox’s last device, released only a few months ago, I never once wanted to throw the Swift 2 across the room because I was frustrated by its glacial performance, Which, you know, is positive.
Would I have prefered a 14mn SoC? Sure, but then Wileyfox would have had to go to Samsung LSI, and something tells me that Wileyfox has a cushty little relationship with Qualcomm. Ideally the SD430 would be a 4xA35 SoC on a 14nm SoC with the same GPU, even lower power consumption, near identical performance, but even more efficient.
The Swift 2 Plus’ Camera is… Decent, That’s all I can really say about it. The Samsung made ISOCELL sensor is certainly capable, It’s a sensor I know relatively well, what is really hampering the camera in the Swift 2 Plus is the ISP in the SD430 and even more at fault is the piss poor post processing done by Cyanogen with their camera app.
Wileyfox claim an F2.0 aperture and for some people that may lead them to believe that the Swift 2 Plus’ camera is as capable as another phone with another phone with an F2.0 aperture, but that is just not the case. The Swift 2 Plus’ camera isn’t terrible, but unlike with my Honor 8 or P9, where no matter what the conditions, I’m pretty confident I’ll get a usable, shot, I have to have perfect conditions and perfect stability to get a shot from the Swift 2 Plus that I’d like to use or share.
Here are some test shots from the Swift 2 Plus, once again they aren’t all terrible, but unless I planned the shot, the likelihood was that it’d be a pretty meh shot.
Here is also a video sample from the Swift 2 Plus. The Swift 2 Plus can record at 1080p30, and once again, as with the photos, videos just look okay, nothing more, nothing less.
Despite Wileyfox bragging about their selfie camera on the Swift 2 Plus, it also, is just okay. It certainly isn’t in the same league as what Samsung and Apple provide in their devices, neither is it as good as the P9/ Honor 8, but then again the Swift 2 Plus is between 2 and 5 times cheaper than those devices, and when you put that into perspective, you see that the selfie camera is somewhat decent, though Snapchat processing definitely leaves something to be desired.
Wileyfox have slipped a 2700mAh Lithium-Polymer battery pack in the Swift 2 Plus, and it’s longevity is average to good, but it gets less impressive when you think that it only has to push a 720p screen, and it’s only running a 400 series processor, and this is pretty much the same size battery size as what Apple shoves in the 7 Plus, which gets ridiculously better battery life than this, whilst also being immeasurably faster.
Despite that, I didn’t kill the Swift 2 Plus in a single day during my testing, though I usually went to bed with the phone somewhere in the 20% range. The Good thing about all this though is the charging. Wileyfox and Qualcomm fitted the Swift 2 and 2 Plus with QuickCharge 3.0, meaning that a quarter of an hour gives you a quarter of your battery, and half an hour is half your battery back etc, and this works out up to 75%, then it slows down in order to save the battery and the device from heating up too much and decreasing the life of the device.
Sadly Wileyfox don’t include a QC3.0 charger in the box with the Swift 2 Plus, in fact all you get in the box is the phone, a USB-C cable, which is really nice, and some documentation. So whilst you can rapidly charge your Swift 2 Plus, make sure you buy a QC3.0 charger to take advantage of those speeds. I usually plug my Swift 2 Plus into a 5v2.4a port and it still charges faster than I need it to most of the time, so take that for what it is worth.
Radios and connectivity
The Swift 2 has an LTE cat4 modem in it, courtesy of the Snapdragon 430, and If you’ve read the rest of this review you’re likely going to be able to guess what I’m going to say here, performance is decent, but not amazing. On the Three network in the UK on the southeast coast, coverage was somewhat lacking when it came to indoors, but outside I had no issues catching and holding on to signal.
Where I had a bit more of an issue was with the WiFi. The Swift 2 has 802.11 B/G/N but only has a 2.4Ghz antenna, meaning it can only see the must older and much more congested 2.4ghz spectrum, a real shame. Noto nly that, but the Swift 2 just seemed to have trouble holding on to the WiFi in my house when I went to some extremities of the house.
Something that is a little bit of a novelty for Wileyfox is NFC, the Swift 2 is the first Wileyfox device If I remember correctly to have NFC, which means that along with the Fingerprint scanner, Android Pay just became usable to you. The NFC antenna of the Swift 2 is likely located in the top plastic portion of the rear and that is a good place to put it, when you have your finger on the reader for authentication, that top part is able to be tapped on the terminal.
Some miscellaneous things before we wrap up, the Swift 2 Plus has a fingerprint scanner located on the rear, It is recessed and large enough so that you can easily get your finger maneuvered into place to read. It’d be easy to write the Swift 2’s fingerprint scanner off as being slow, but if you wake the screen up, and quickly tap the scanner and remove your finger, it reads and unlocks it quite quickly, it just takes a while to turn the screen on. What is less easy to defend is the accuracy, In some ways it almost seems too eager to give a positive or negative reading, so if you out the top of your finger on the reader before the bottom, it might not recognise that as only a partial print and reject it before you’ve put the bottom half down.
But Wileyfox had the great insight to use the Android Marshmallow fingerprint API, meaning that apps like Paypal, Telegram, Focus and others that rely on the Android API for detecting fingerprints work great here.
I decided to add phone calls into the miscellaneous section as they’re becoming less and less relevant for some of the population, but I’m not omitting them altogether. Phone calls on the Swift 2 Plus are actually one of it’s strong points, the circular earpiece not only looks good but sounds really quite good, it’s loud and doesn’t distort all that much. The microphone is a similar affair, able to pick up my voice quite easily and others said that I sounded clear and crisp, with only one saying that I sounded a little harsh, but that could have easily been due to my location and signal degradation.
So how do I end this, the Swift 2 Is a cracking phone, as is the 2 Plus, but at £159 and £189 they do seem to be to be a bit pricey. The model they’re replacing was retailing for £130 but often times made it’s way down to £100, so I can hope that these drop to £130 and £150 in time, but either way, the Swift 2 Plus was a delightful surprise for this somewhat jaded tech reviewer.
Do I recommend you buy this over other devices such as the Moto G4 Plus, actually, kinda yeah, the software update situation is somewhat of a question mark, and the camera can be a bit of work, but honestly, I enjoyed reviewing this device, which can not always be said about this price point. The Swift 2 Plus isn’t perfect, and Wileyfox aren’t claiming it is, but as a successor to the storm at £10 less, I’d enjoyed this far more than I enjoyed that.
Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus£189.00
- Fingerprint reader
- QuickCharge 3.0
- Snapdragon 430 is a nice chip
- NFC for Android Pay
- Battery is only okay
- Screen is only 720p at a price where 1080p is normal
- Camera is wholeheartedly meh
- older version of Android