The Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus saw the upstart British phone manufacturer hit its stride, and while it's now two years since its arrival this budget phone still offers great value for money.
Update:The Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus may be getting on a bit, but it's now even cheaper, and it's running the latest version of Android. It's still a cheap phone that's worth considering.
Of course, the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus isn’t alone in pushing the affordable smartphone envelope these days. It may not have been succeeded in the Wileyfox warehouse, but more recent rival devices from the likes of Motorola, Honor and Alcatel offer newer specs for a similarly low price.
That said, the Swift 2 Plus hasn't fallen too far behind, with a now even-lower price tag and a fresh update to Android 8.1 Oreo ensuring it's still worth considering in 2018.
Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus price and availability
Launch price: £189
Current price: £151.99
Launch date: November 2016
The Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus price at launch was a tempting £189, but that's now dropped to just £151.99 SIM free if you buy it direct from the Wileyfox website.
Shop around though and you may be able to find the Swift 2 Plus price closer to £100, making it fantastic value for money.
Doing a lot with a little
Reliable fingerprint scanner
No obvious rough edges
If you handed the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus to a casual observer, oblivious to the brand and unaware of its specs, we suspect they would consider it to be a phone that’s competing with Apple’s and Samsung’s latest flagship handsets.
We’re not saying that it’s as accomplished as the iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S7. It’s clearly not, and anyone with even a passing interest in phones will soon tell the difference.
What we are saying is that the Swift 2 Plus’s defining feature is a general sense of balance and poise. There’s a distinct lack of rough edges here, and the kind of attention to detail that’s typically missing from affordable phones.
You can see it from the moment you flip open the compact box to find the phone sat in a tightly sculpted recess, its only companion an artfully coiled orange USB Type-C cable.
It’s also in some of what you might call the phone’s ancillary components, such as its rear-mounted fingerprint sensor and its NFC capabilities. Neither are unique at this price point, but neither are they what you’d call default options in cheaper Android phones.
Of course, with cheap fingerprint sensors in particular we often wish the manufacturer simply hadn’t bothered, so unreliable or sluggish is their performance (hello ZTE Blade V7 Lite and Bush Spira E3X).
Again, Wileyfox’s careful consideration is apparent, as the Swift 2 Plus’s sensor is reasonably quick and reliable.
Then there’s the phone’s 32GB of storage, which is generally considered to be the default allotment for a flagship Android phone in 2016.
And though the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus is a triumph of small details, it does the big things pretty well too.
Design and display
Attractive and solid aluminium body
Display is bright but doesn’t wow with sharpness
We’ve already mentioned the impact the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus makes as soon as you open the box. Thankfully, that premium feeling continues when you pull it out.
Wileyfox has switched to a mostly aluminium body with this second generation of Swift handset, and it seems to have a natural touch with the material.
Our test model was the ‘Midnight’ one, which amounts to a slightly matt, deep charcoal tone. There are thin plastic sections along the top and bottom of the phone, but these - together with the fingerprint sensor and the Wileyfox logo - actually serve to give a subtle two-tone impression that’s far from unpleasant.
It sits nicely in the hand too, largely thanks to the gently curved rear edges. This is neither a thin phone nor a particularly thick one - at 8.6mm it sits somewhere in between the Moto G4 Plus (9.8mm) and the Honor 5X (8.2mm).
But its ergonomics, combined with a 158g weight, make it feel just hefty enough to seem premium without weighing down your pocket.
The volume and power keys, both located on the upper right-hand edge, have a pleasingly tactile texture that means they’re easy to locate and operate without looking.
There are no controls of any kind on the front of the phone - the Wileyfox logo is just that - so you’ll be relying on Android 6.0.1’s built-in virtual back, home, and menu keys for navigation.
One of the key reasons the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus gets its dimensions spot on is the size of its screen. Running counter to the prevailing 5.5-inch trend, the British manufacturer has stuck with the 5-inch display size of the original Wileyfox Swift.
We have no problem with that whatsoever, as it makes one-handed usage easier (though not quite iPhone-easy) whilst remaining big enough for extended YouTube and gaming sessions.
The screen is appreciably bright, too, which is often an aspect that suffers in affordable phones. We kept the display at around the halfway point for much of our time with the phone, which was more than enough for it to remain legible outside in these darkening UK autumn days.
It’s a fairly warm picture by default, but we’re not talking AMOLED-levels of redness, and we quickly adapted to it. Even if you don’t, the phone’s CyanogenMod UI provides a facility for tweaking the colour calibration to your tastes.
Just about the only complaint we have about the display isn’t really a complaint as much as an observation - it has a 720p resolution.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with 720p in sub–5-inch displays - just ask Apple with the iPhone 7 and Sony with the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact, both of which cost considerably more than the Swift 2 Plus.
But this isn’t a sub–5-inch display, it’s a 5-inch display, and we could tell that the picture we were looking at wasn’t quite at the level of sharpness we’ve come to expect from high-quality phones.
Again, the Swift 2 Plus’s display is far from bad. It’s good, in fact. It’s just that the phone as a whole does so well at punching above its weight in general, it stands out a little more when a component accepts its place.
Interface and reliability
Upgradable to Android 8.1 Oreo
Fast, fluid, and customisable
The Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus arrived running Android 6.0.1, which at the time wasn't the very latest version of Google’s operating system, but the good news is the software updates have kept following for this handset and it's now running Android 8.1 Oreo.
You get an almost stock version of the Android operating system, which keeps things fresh, but there are additional customization options in the settings menu if you like to tweak your handset to your personal preferences.
It’s the kind of Android customisation we wish there was more of, sticking with Google’s fundamentally sound design and adding unobtrusive layers that you can choose to exploit or ignore.
The app drawer is one of the better examples we’ve seen on Android, too. Apps are clearly laid out in vertically-scrolling alphabetical order, but there’s also the option to scrub horizontally to the letter you want, or to type out the name of the app you want.
We also appreciated the intuitive way you can lock individual app folders - perfect for those who frequently share their phones with kids, friends, or colleagues.
Because it’s a relatively lightweight interface, too, navigating through the home screens and menus on the Swift 2 Plus always feels fluid and fast - another touch that makes you feel like you’re dealing with a much more expensive phone.
There are annoyances, but they’re minor. We don’t see the need for a dedicated Bing search app, and less still for it to take up one of the default permanent app slots along the bottom of the home screen.
We also wondered why Google Keep - one of the most useful Google apps, we find - was preinstalled but not stashed in the Google folder. We said they were minor issues, didn’t we?
Movies, music and gaming
Strong gaming performance at this price
AudioFX app lets you fine-tune sound profile
The Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus is a perfectly decent media player that can handle more or less anything you throw at it. But movies, music and gaming aren’t exactly what you’d call its speciality.
That’s perfectly illustrated with its 5-inch 720p display. It’s large and bright enough to offer a clear, comfortable video-watching experience - particularly when it comes to the kind of short video content you get on YouTube and Facebook.
But its sub-optimal resolution means you probably wouldn’t want to stream too many Netflix movies to it.
Of course, at this price point, you wouldn’t expect the Swift 2 Plus to be a media powerhouse. So it’s gratifying to report that the phone handled all of the games we tested on it. From Reckless Racing 3 to PinOut and test favourite Dead Trigger 2, we didn’t feel like our gaming experience was suffering for using a cheaper handset.
Qualcomm’s capable 1.4GHz octa-core Snapdragon 430 chip seems more than up to the task of driving such advanced 3D games on this 720p display.
When it comes to music, the Swift 2 Plus is an accomplished player. You get Google Play Music as standard, as well as an FM radio player (once you plug a set of headphones in), but the real interesting software here is AudioFX.
This lets you switch between multiple sound profiles according to the sort of tone you prefer. There are options for Small Speakers as well as genres like Folk, Dance, Hip Hop and the like. Alternatively, you can use a custom setting.
You’ll definitely want to plug in a set of headphones, anyway. While it looks like there are two drilled speakers on the bottom of the phone, one either side of the USB-C port, only the right-hand example actually functions as such.
That’s a little disappointing, but premium stereo audio remains a luxury for a higher price band.
One little UI quirk that takes some getting used to when it comes to video and gaming media - but actually makes a certain amount of sense - is the way the volume button switches around according to which way up you’re holding the phone, so that the button always corresponds to the direction of the on-screen volume slider.
Specs and benchmark performance
Snapdragon 430 CPU and 3GB of RAM ensures smooth performance
Geekbench scores are unremarkable but par for the course
For the money, we couldn’t fault the performance of the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus. Its Snapdragon 430 processor, aided by a generous 3GB of RAM, has resulted in generally smooth experience.
Doubtless the phone’s 720p display and its lightweight interface help with this, demanding less of Qualcomm’s budget processor. Regardless, we didn’t notice so much as a stutter when navigating through the phone’s home screens. Switching between apps through the multitasking menu isn’t what you’d call snappy, but nor is it laborious.
As we’ve already mentioned, advanced 3D games pose no problem for the phone, while recent 2D action games like Burrito Bison: Launcha Libre and Dan the Man run smoothly too.
The phone’s Geekbench 4 benchmark results are hardly astounding, but they’re about average for an affordable phone. In particular, an average multicore score of 2073 puts it between recent cheap phones like the ZTE Blade V7 Lite (1164) and the Bush Spira E3X (2891).
Benchmarks aside, all you need to know is that the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus doesn’t struggle with any day to day tasks, which is precisely what you want from an affordable smartphone.
It’ll last you a day, but not if you push it
Supports fast charging
Wileyfox has bumped up the battery capacity of the Swift 2 Plus since the original Wileyfox Swift, from 2500mAh to 2700mAh. Rather than massively improving battery life, however, the phone appears to be treading water.
We weren’t exactly disappointed with the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus’s stamina, but nor were we at all impressed. About the best result we got was in the early days of usage, just before we switched to using it as our daily driver.
This scenario involves what we’d call light usage, with minimal screen-on time and only a little light gaming and web browsing to really strain the battery. On such an occasion we managed to get from 11am to 11pm using just 48% of the battery.
Naturally, when we started using the phone properly - if moderately - for regular messages, calls, emails, and a few snaps, the performance dropped. On one particularly long day we took the phone off charge at 8:55am, and received a 15% battery warning at 10:05pm. It died completely at 12:20am.
This was a little disappointing, but not downright poor. The phone’s underwhelming battery performance was reflected in the regular TechRadar battery test, which involves playing a 90 minute 720p looping video with the screen brightness cranked right up. On average, we found that the test took up 24% of a full charge.
Compare that to the Moto G4 Plus, which sheds just 17%, or the Honor 5X, which loses just 19%, and it’s a little sub-par.
If you do struggle to make the Swift 2 Plus last, there is at least fast charging through Quick Charge 3.0. Using an appropriate high capacity plug, we managed to get it from 15% to 65% in an hour. It then took a further 30 minutes to get to 91%. That’s pretty speedy, though slower than Wileyfox’s claims of being able to go from 0-75% in 45 minutes.
All in all, the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus’s battery life is far from impressive, but it should get you through a day of usage if you don’t strain it too much.
Punchy colours and reliable autofocus
Poor low-light and dynamic range performance
If there’s one place it’s impossible to hide your phone’s price tag it’s the camera. There are just too many sophisticated, pricey camera components in a modern flagship, and it’s impossible to take shortcuts without a loss in photo quality.
Given such limitations, the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus copes admirably. Its main shooter is a 16MP example with a Samsung 3L8 sensor, and in decent, balanced lighting it’s capable of some genuinely strong results.
Most affordable phone cameras produce washed out, flat photos, but we found that images from the Swift 2 Plus had genuinely punchy colours and decent detail. Shots were fired off quickly, and the autofocus was reasonably effective.
It shouldn’t surprise you to learn the two areas in which the Swift 2 Plus camera falls down: low light and dynamic range.
Low light shots were universally blurry and noisy, while indoor shots with moderate lighting were also noisy, but brightness and colour reproduction were actually pretty decent.
Give the camera any kind of balance of shade and light, however, and it simply can’t cope, leading to either blown out bright sections or extremely dark shade. There is no HDR mode to even attempt to compensate for this.
Still, as we say, our expectations for a cheap smartphone camera were generally exceeded thanks to those punchy colours and snappy, fuss-free performance.
You also get a better-than-expected 8MP selfie cam, if that’s your thing. Video capture is Full HD, which again is just fine for a phone of this price.
For £189, Wileyfox has did wonders with the Swift 2 Plus when it launched. It's now cheaper, but the competition boast more up-to-date specs. That said, the Swift 2 Plus is still a solid budget smartphone.
It looks and feels like a more expensive phone, with an attractive aluminium build and smooth performance.
Its camera is capable of taking decent shots, its fingerprint sensor works well, and with an update to the latest version of Android it's still relevant.
But for a slightly (and we mean slightly) underwhelming display resolution and mediocre battery life, the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus would be a true affordable classic.
As it is, it’s still an excellent phone and an easy recommendation to make if you’re looking to spend around £200 on a smartphone.
Who's this for?
The Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus is for those who want that effortless, friction-free experience that flagship phones provide without paying a huge premium.
If you’re obsessed by specs and pin-sharp screen resolutions you can do better, even at this price. But you’ll do well to find a sub-£200 phone that feels quite so assured.
Should you buy it?
If you’re shopping for a smartphone with just £200 in your pocket, the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus undoubtedly deserves your consideration. It has a sense of balance, poise, and class that’s hard to come by at this end of the market.
The Moto G4 Plus is a more capable phone all-round, but it doesn’t feel quite as special in the hand. It’s a quality that’s tough to pin down, but shouldn’t be ignored.
Perhaps the best thing we can say for the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus, is that our experience of moving across to it from an iPhone 6S wasn’t remotely grating. An absence of annoyance might sound like damning with faint praise, but this kind of careful, frictionless design is the toughest thing to achieve at any price point.
The Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus is a polished phone, with a low price, but there are other handsets which arguably offer as much, or even more, for the same sort of money. The following are three examples.
Motorola Moto G4 Plus
While we’re a little disappointed that Motorola/Lenovo didn’t differentiate the Moto G4 Plus a little more from the regular Moto G4, it remains the phone to beat at this price point.
For pretty much the same price as the Wileyfox Swift 2 Plus you get a larger, sharper display, a better camera, and a faster processor.
However, the Moto’s plastic design doesn’t come close to the Swift 2 Plus, and it also lacks NFC for Android Pay payments. Ultimately it’s far too simplistic to label this as a choice between style and substance, as both phones punch well above their weight.