Wileyfox hasn't been around for long, but this British handset maker has bold aspirations. It wants to shake up the budget sector by offering the kind of design and functionality that is normally reserved for the higher end of the market.
After the likeable Wileyfox Swift, the company has returned with a sequel, this time looking to bring premium materials and everything but the kitchen sink when it comes to core features.
Retailing for just £159, the Swift 2 is fighting for the same turf as the Moto G5, LG X Screen and Honor 5C. It's also in competition with its stablemate, the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus, which has slightly better specs but retails for £189.
Rear-facing fingerprint scanner
While the original Swift boasted a plastic design which reinforced its status as a budget handset, Wileyfox has stepped things up with this sequel. The main bodywork is brushed aluminium with plastic sections at the top and bottom of the device – an effort to cut corners, but one that many other manufacturers have resorted to.
The use of metal predictably gives the Swift 2 a premium feel as well as some welcome heft in the hand; in terms of build quality, there's more positive news – this is as solid feeling as you're likely to get from a low-cost Android smartphone, with no movement or creakiness under pressure.
In terms of ergonomics, Wileyfox has scored another win here. The Swift 2 has gentle curves on the sides which allow the device to slip effortlessly into your palm, while the edges of the phone are angled slightly to increase grip.
The fact that Wileyfox has avoided turning the Swift 2 into a phablet means it's easy to use with one hand – not quite as easy as the likes of the , but still a damn sight more agreeable than many of the super-large Android phones currently hitting the market.
The front of the Swift 2 has lots of visual features, but no physical buttons or inputs – instead, all interaction is handled via the touchscreen and the traditional three-button, on-screen navigation bar at the bottom.
Where you'd expect to find a physical home button there's the rather fetching Wileyfox logo, while the earpiece is housed in a circular metal grille at the top. Alongside this you'll find the front-facing camera and ambient light sensor.
Turning the phone around reveals a configuration that is quite common in the world of Android – especially with LG's handsets. The fingerprint scanner and camera lens are positioned near the top of the device, while the Wileyfox logo sits proudly in the middle of the back panel.
The location of the fingerprint scanner means that your digit rests naturally on top of it; this is the preferred arrangement for Google's Pixel and Pixel XL phones as well, so you could argue that the Swift 2 is in good company.
However, there are those mobile users who point out – with some justification – that putting fingerprint scanners on the back of phones means you can't unlock them when they're lying face-up on a flat surface, like a table. It's a matter of preference to be sure, and we can see the benefits of both configurations.
On the right-hand edge of the handset you'll find the volume rocker and power button, both of which emit a satisfying click when pressed but nevertheless feel a little spongy under pressure. On the opposite side, there's the SIM card and microSD card tray.
The top edge is home to the 3.5mm headphone socket and what appears to be a noise-cancelling mic, while on the bottom you'll find a USB Type-C port and two speaker grilles – although only one of them actually houses a speaker; the other is where the in-call mic resides.
5-inch 720p IPS screen with Gorilla Glass 3
The Swift 2's 5-inch IPS screen has a 720p resolution and a pixel density of 294 pixels per inch, which is quite low when compared to leading Android phones – and many other low and mid-range challengers, like the Moto G5.
However, as any iPhone 7 owner will tell you, not having a 1080p screen isn't the end of the world. Sure, it's possible to discern individual pixels on the Swift 2's screen, but this is hardly a disaster, and the quality of the display in this case helps soften the blow.
It's reasonably bright and colours look convincing and natural rather than oversaturated; there's a warmth to the panel which is quite welcoming.
The screen is fashioned from 2.5D curved Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and has a smudge-resistant oleophobic coating. Corning is now up to version 5 of its hardened glass, but what's used here should be fine for most budget buyers.
Interface and software
Runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Comes with some extra apps and features
Wileyfox was one of the many handset makers which decided to embrace the Cyanogen dream, and when we reviewed the Swift 2 Plus a short time ago, the custom UI was present on the handset, sitting atop Android 6.0.1.
However, the company behind this software has now discontinued work and effectively collapsed, so the Swift 2 we’re reviewing here no longer ships with it. Instead, we've got a reasonably stock version of Android 7.1.1 that still has some trademark Cyanogen features, such as the alphabetised app drawer.
Android Nougat comes with its fair share of new features, despite looking very similar to the previous version of Google's operating system.
You can customise the quick settings options which appear in the pull-down notification shade, and the battery-saving Doze feature is more versatile this time around, quietly winding down processes which would normally drink your phone's juice when it's not in use.
It's also possible to run two applications at the same time via the split-screen mode, but in all honesty the usefulness of this feature is questionable on a device with a 5-inch display.
Having to switch from Cyanogen in the middle of a hardware cycle doesn't appear to have dented Wileyfox's enthusiasm for innovation, however. The Swift 2 comes with Wileyfox Zen, a service which sits on the far-right home screen and presents a curated list of news stories for your viewing pleasure.
You can pick and choose which sources to use and even block those which you don't want to see. Elsewhere, Wileyfox has included the Truecaller service which blocks calls from known spammers.
Fingerprint scanners are no longer the preserve of expensive handsets and the one which comes with the Wileyfox Swift 2 is pretty decent. You can use it to wake the phone from its slumber and we didn't notice any issues with it recognising our digits.
Movies, music and gaming
Comes with Google’s media apps
Solid gaming performance
720p display isn’t ideal for movies
Wileyfox has wisely used Google's own apps when it comes to fulfilling your media consumption needs, rather than needlessly duplicating functionality by introducing apps of its own.
There's a bespoke Gallery app which pulls together your photos and recorded videos, but outside of that it's all about Google Play Music, Play Movies, Play Books and Google Photos, the latter of which is arguably the best photo storage option available on any smartphone, full stop.
Not only does it allow you to organise, edit and share your images, it also offers unlimited cloud storage, so you can periodically free up valuable memory by backing up images from your handset. With only 16GB of memory included on the Swift 2, this is something you'll definitely want to take advantage of.
Google Play Music may not quite possess the same fame as iTunes, but it offers a massive selection of music tracks and also allows you to upload your own library to the cloud via a computer, which can then be accessed by any device running the service that you're signed into.
Purchasing music is a breeze, too – again, this is one of the best music options available in the Android ecosystem, and Wileyfox has been very wise in making it the Swift 2's default audio app.
Google's Movies app is the same story; the company has secured a wide range of films both for rental and purchase, and it's possible to stream them directly to your phone rather than download and soak up precious storage space.
The 720p display naturally doesn't do full HD films full justice, but the viewing experience is still pleasant enough; it's hard to be too picky when digesting a Hollywood blockbuster on a device small enough to be stored in your pocket.
You might assume that a sub-£200 phone is going to make a pretty dire gaming platform, but the Swift 2 defies that expectation dramatically.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 chipset is capable enough, but the fact that it's only pushing a 720p screen really helps performance – fewer pixels means less effort, after all. Every title we ran on the phone performed without any serious hiccups.
Specs and benchmark performance
Decent specs and performance for the money
Higher Geekbench 4 score than the Moto G5
The spec sheet for the Wileyfox Swift 2 is actually quite impressive. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 may not be a cutting-edge chipset, but it's more than up to the task of pushing pixels around a 720p screen and is aided by 2GB of RAM.
There's 16GB of memory included, with a microSD card slot which allows you to add 128GB more. There's also NFC support, which means you can use Android Pay to make contactless purchases in many retail outlets – the phone even comes pre-loaded with the Android Pay app, to which you can link your credit or debit card.
When you add up all of these features it's actually quite staggering how much phone you're getting for just over £150 – but it's also worth pointing out that the goalposts have shifted considerably over the past 18 months, as many other budget blowers are packing the same kind of specifications.
In Geekbench 4, the Swift 2 returns a single-core score of 667 and a multi-core score of 2,545. That certainly doesn't place it at the vanguard of the smartphone revolution, but the handset is more than powerful enough for a lower mid-range user, coming out slightly ahead of the 2,377-scoring Moto G5.
2,700mAh battery just about gets through a day
Quick Charge 3.0 via a reversible USB Type-C connection
There's a 2,700mAh battery beating inside the Swift 2 which has enough stamina to get you through a typical day of modern usage, but only just.
The phone supports Quick Charge 3.0 via its reversible USB Type-C connection, which means you can fully charge the battery in under an hour, or top it up quite dramatically with short-burst charges.
In our battery test – where we run a HD video at full screen brightness with the volume at maximum for 90 minutes – the Swift 2 shed 32% of its battery life. The similarly priced Moto G5 lost just 22% and the slightly pricier Wileyfox Swift 2 X lost 27%.
That's quite a lot of power gone in a short space of time then, so don't expect the Swift 2 to be the kind of phone you can avoid charging each night. Android's built-in battery saver helps prolong each charge by limiting certain features and functions, but you won't want to rely on that totally.
13MP rear-facing camera, 8MP front-facing camera
Poor low light performance
It's a bit of an odd time for smartphone cameras. A few years back the common belief was that the higher the megapixel count the better, but recently we've seen handset makers change their strategy somewhat; instead of ramping up the pixels they've focused (no pun intended) on giving their phones larger sensors which work better in low-light situations.
This has made it harder to differentiate the good eggs from the bad ones, and while the Swift 2 certainly isn't in the latter camp, it's not the best smartphone snapper we've seen.
The Swift 2 is equipped with a Samsung-made 13MP sensor that boasts Phase Detection Autofocus.
In optimal conditions this means super-fast focus and image capture, and we were constantly surprised at how fast the phone was able to snap a shot from a standing start, as long as the scene was well-lit.
The quality of the images is a little washed out, but the high megapixel count does at last mean they're rich with detail. So far, so good.
Where the Swift 2 really falls down is low light shooting – an area in which many leading phones are really starting to take big strides. If you're in an environment where lighting is uneven or dim, that Samsung sensor begins to struggle.
Focus time is drastically increased as the sensor tries to read the scene, and even the slightest movement causes the resultant image to blur quite badly.
It's amazing how much bang you can get for your buck these days. While the Wileyfox Swift 2 isn't in the same ballpark as the Samsung Galaxy S8 or LG G6, if you run down the spec list there is – on paper, at least – very little difference between them in terms of features.
The Swift 2 has Android Nougat, NFC, expandable storage, Quick Charge 3.0 and a half-decent screen, all encased in a premium-feel aluminium frame.
It lacks waterproofing, the battery life is average and the camera is disappointing in low-light situations, but it's hard to shake the feeling that the Swift 2 is punching well above its weight in practically every other department – especially for the £159 price tag.
Who’s this for?
Wileyfox isn't content with simply being a budget brand – it wants to create objects of desire that stand out against the other "me too" low-cost blowers.
With that in mind, it's fair to say that the Swift 2 is aimed at the more discerning budget shopper, the individual who craves the kind of design and feature set normally reserved for top-line handsets but lacks the funds to purchase the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy offering.
Should you buy it?
If you're limited by your funds then the Wileyfox Swift 2 is a solid option. You can take reasonably good photos, make contactless payments and expand the amount of storage available, as well as play 3D games and watch HD movies – all without any dips in performance.
When you consider the gulf in price between the Swift 2 and the best Android phones available, it's tremendous value for money.
If you're considering the Wileyfox Swift 2 there are a number of similarly affordable and full-featured phones you might want to consider instead, including the following three.
Motorola's Moto G series is perhaps the best-known in the budget Android sector, and with good reason – it has consistently tried to offer an agreeable experience at a reasonable price.
This latest offering lacks NFC, but does include a fingerprint scanner, powerful specs and a 1080p screen, wrapped up in a partially metal shell. It’s also ever so slightly pricier than the Wileyfox Swift 2, but just as good value for money.