Wileyfox Swift review: The British smartphone hoping for a revolution

£129
Price when reviewed

Apart from outliers like the OnePlus 5, looking over a list of the best smartphones of 2017 shows the usual high-priced suspects. But sometimes shelling out £600 on a new phone – or entering a phone contract that spans an eternity – isn’t a viable option. The London-based Wileyfox is here to solve the problem.

Wileyfox is hoping to shake up the mobile market by offering reasonably powerful and customisable smartphones at affordable prices. This won’t be easy but, clearly, Wileyfox believes it has what it takes to dethrone the king of affordable Android smartphones, the Motorola Moto G4.

Wileyfox currently has five smartphones on the market and the Swift (along with the Storm) was one of the first phones the British company ever made. The major difference between the first two out on the market is the hardware. All subsequent phones have had style revisions and hardware boosts as they build better budget devices.

As we’re talking about the original Wileyfox Swift here, everything will be in comparison to models released at the same time. Our sister publication Expert Reviews has reviews for all subsequent Wileyfox phones.

Of the two launch devices, the Swift is a sleek and practical budget Android handset, while the Storm ticks the boxes of a mid-range unit for less than £200. Deciding which one is best for you is simply a matter of preference, and so without further ado, here’s my take on the Wileyfox Swift.

Wileyfox Swift: Design

Barring the Wileyfox logo branded into its rear casing, the Swift is rather unremarkable in appearance. That’s not to say it looks cheap – far from it – but it’s very much a slab of generic smartphone. It’s angular, boxy and incredibly simple.

Wileyfox Swift review: The Wileyfox logo adds to the unique look of the phone

It does have some nice touches, though. The removable back cover is clad in a faux stone effect, which is far more attractive than the cheap glossy plastic that many other budget handsets employ. There’s also a subtle bronze-effect trim around the outside edge of the camera lens, making the Swift look really swish when it catches the light.

It’s also lighter and slimmer than the Moto G 3, weighing 135g and measuring 9.3 x 71 x 141mm (WDH), while squeezing the same-size 5in display, and it doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy in the hand.

However, I do have a couple of gripes with the Swift. One is the placement of its volume rocker, which is right above the power button on the right-hand side; the other is the micro-USB charging port that’s ever so slightly recessed.

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It’s no fun accidentally turning the volume down every time you want to turn off your phone, or when you can’t find the volume keys when fumbling around in your pocket. Nor is it great when most of your spare USB cables just don’t fit. Countless times I’d check to see if the Swift was charging only to find that, because the connector hadn’t engaged fully, it hadn’t even made the connection.

Wileyfox Swift: Display

You’re never going to get a high-end display in a £130 phone, but as Motorola has proved, it is possible to specify one that doesn’t look horrid. The Swift follows suit here, with a 5in, 720 x 1,280 IPS panel (topped with Gorilla Glass 3), that does a good job of making images, videos and apps look fantastic.

The screen is bright, reaching a maximum of 504 cd/m2 in testing, making it not only brighter than the Motorola Moto G (2015), but also the LG G4 and a handful of other premium smartphones. Despite not having fantastic colour accuracy, its 994:1 contrast ratio is fine, ensuring onscreen images have presence and impact. Colours don’t always appear vibrant, but they rarely look washed out or wildly inaccurate.

Wileyfox Swift review: This 5in smartphone packs in the features, and costs a mere £129

And if you don’t like the way the screen looks, it’s possible to tweak it in the settings. For instance, you can scale the display to higher or lower resolutions, allowing more app icons to squeeze across the home screen, and you can also manually shift the red, green, or blue channels to tweak the colour balance to your taste.

However, the most useful modification in the Wileyfox Swift’s arsenal is the LiveDisplay feature. This automatically adapts colour temperature throughout the day to make the display easy on the eyes. It’s essentially like Flux, reducing blue light in the evening to help your eyes adjust to a screen at night without blinding yourself.

Wileyfox Swift: Specifications and performance

Wileyfox has tried hard to pack the Swift with enough tech to keep it feeling snappy and responsive, despite its bargain-basement price. The result? A Qualcomm Snapdragon 410, Adreno 306 GPU, and 2GB RAM, all running on Cyanogen 12.1 (a community developed Android distribution). If the baseline 16GB of storage isn’t enough for you, Swift also supports the addition of up 32GB via microSD.

The phone comes with the usual slew of connectivity options, including 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4, GPS, 4G, and micro-USB. You won’t find NFC support here, so it isn’t a candidate for Android Pay when that launches – nor does it support 5GHz Wi-Fi connections.

So how does with Swift compare with its closest rivals, the Motorola Moto G 3 and the 4G-enabled Moto E? Actually, not all that favourably. Despite having near-identical internals and 1GB more RAM than the Moto E, the Swift isn’t all that faster.

Wileyfox Swift review: The faux stone effect on the rear, and bronze-coloured trim around the camera lens looks pretty good

In Geekbench 3’s single- and multi-core tests it lost out to the Moto G, scoring 499 and 1,368 to the G’s 529 and 1,576. Even the Moto E bested it in the multi-core test with a score of 1,400. However, it does edge the Moto G for games performance, although that isn’t saying much as the Swift achieved only 9.6fps in the GFXBench T-Rex HD onscreen test and 4fps in the Manhattan benchmark.

It’s the Swift’s battery life that really disappoints, though. Despite having a similarly sized battery to the Moto G, at 2,500mAh compared to 2,470mAh, it falls short of the Motorola phone’s performance. Tested in Flight mode playing a 720p movie, the Swift’s battery capacity fell at a rate of 8.3% per hour, while the Moto G 3 used up its juice at a rate of 7.4% per hour. In our audio test over 4G, the Swift used 13% per hour, while the Moto G 3 was far more efficient, using up 4.7% per hour.

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