Short Term Review – Wileyfox Swift 2, July 2017
Fabolous baby! We British are known for lots of cool things. Our music scene is the best in the world, we drink copious quantities of tea, we have a Royal Family and once upon a time we made some of the best cars in the world – like Jaguar, Aston Martin, Bentley and Rolls-Royce, and we spell “colour” with a “u.” Right baby!
So when a British brand like “Wileyfox” bursts onto the scene, destined to show the world that we British still know a thing or two, it’s only right that we take it out for a spin. Wileyfox were formed in 2015 but have already released their third generation portfolio of smartphones. Today we are looking at the cheapest of the range: the Wileyfox Swift 2. Yes, the device was assembled in China, uses American software but it was designed and is based in Great Britain. The Swift 2 model was originally launched back in November 2016 running Cyanogen 13.1. Cyanogen is an offshoot of Android with roots in the Android modding and development scene. Cyanogen was based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, but for reasons beyond the scope of this article, Cyanogen has gone the way of Doctor Evil and is essentially no more. Cyanogen did what we, as Android fans, hoped it would do and have continued to keep their devices updated. Better yet, the plucky British company decided to replace the outgoing operating system with “stock plus” Android experience: groovy baby!
After I received the Swift 2 in late June 2017, and followed all of the software updates, the device was running Android 7.1.2 Nougat with the June 2017 security patch – the exact same software build that the Nexus and Pixel branded devices use. All this for £120, somewhere around the $150 point. Let’s add that the Wileyfox Swift 2 comes with a metal build, a fingerprint sensor, NFC and Android Pay compatibility, USB Type-C charging, a headphone socket, a 8MP front facing and 13MP main camera setup.
One important point is that the Wileyfox Swift 2 only supports British or EU LTE and 3G bands. The device only supports 2G in the United States of America. It also doesn’t feature 5.0 GHz Wi-Fi, which may or may not matter.
The Wileyfox Swift 2 is a conventional device. It has bezels and is large for a device with a 5.0-inch IPS LCD display. It feels solid in the hand and the distinctive embossed Wileyfox logo on the back has a real charm about it. The 5.0-inch screen is not as sharp as a flagship, but it has good touch response, displays colour well, and offers a decent range of brightness. Android’s “Adaptive Brightness” system requires constant adjustment because it puts the screen too dim or too bright for my tastes, but Wileyfox have given the Swift 2 the ability to have the brightness adjusted by swiping a finger along the notification bar, something borrowed from Cyanogen. There’s even a built-in, automatic night mode too, which warms the colour palette to help our brains relax at night.
Day to day performance of the Wileyfox Swift 2 is decent. It’s not a flagship, but it’s smooth, consistent and mostly lag free. The device is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 chipset. The fingerprint sensor works great too! It’s accurate and fast enough to have unlocked the device by the time you are ready to use it if you’ve pulled it from your pocket.
The software experience is close to stock Android on the surface. There are lots of additional features and menu items if you’re prepared to go deeper into the Settings, such as independent control of the phone ringer and notifications volume, and a scheduler for turning the ‘phone on and off. There are some additional apps included in the software including a built-in voice recorder, screen recorder, TrueCaller (a dialer and call manager, which comes with a free premium subscription, and is difficult to replace). Mostly, it looks and feels as though it was designed by Google, and this is a good thing.
Battery life is also respectable. The device easily gets me through a mixed day of use over LTE and Wi-Fi, with plenty to spare. In my use this could show 48 hours of use with some compromise. There’s quick charging if you have a compatible adapter, but be aware that there isn’t a charger in the box, only a tangle-proof USB Type-C cable. It has the same battery size as the LG Google Nexus 5X but the battery lasts considerably longer.
Let me write about the cameras. There’s a main rear camera of 13MP resolution with a dual LED flash, and an 8MP front facing camera. Results are mediocre and highly dependent on there being good lighting. Both cameras benefit from lag-free capture but all-too-easily capture blurry images. It’s certainly possible to take good photographs with the Swift 2, but this is no flagship camera.
Finally, the Wileyfox Swift 2 works great on a call, too. Signal and reception is good, volume and clarity is good. Although the Swift 2 includes noise cancelling technology, this is not as effective as some more expensive devices, but overall the device is a good ‘phone. It also has dual SIM slots with a combination SIM / microSD card tray. This means you can either use two SIM cards or one SIM and a microSD card. The combination SIM tray takes an unfolded paperclip rather than a proprietary tool to open. There’s almost 10 GB of free space when you first boot it so providing you don’t need lots of music, videos, or games installed, it’s realistic to use the Wileyfox Swift 2 as a dual SIM handset.
There are definitely cheaper smartphones available, but many of these come with a compromise somewhere. Perhaps they don’t have NFC, or come with an older version of Android? As it stands, the Wileyfox Swift 2’s biggest compromises are the lack of LTE support away from the European Union countries and an indifferent camera.
The Wileyfox Swift 2 is almost everything I need want from an Android device without the glamour of a flagship model – or the price tag. It only needs a frickin’ laser on the back! Much better than ill-tempered sea bass.