The high end tech market tends to get most of the media attention these days, so you might be forgiven for thinking that there’s not much on offer when it comes to affordable high performance smartphones. But nothing could be further from the truth. The budget smartphone market is where the real action is, with more and more mobile phone manufacturers vying for the attention of the cost conscious consumer. The latest firm to join the fray is Britain’s own WileyFox, who aim to shake up the European market with a distinct line of low cost high performance smartphones. First out of the gate is the WileyFox Swift, and it looks to be a great start for the fledgling firm.
Inside the WileyFox Swift
With a suggested retail price of £129, the WileyFox Swift is an inexpensive mobile that boasts some impressive features. Similar in size to the Nexus 5 and the Moto G, it’s a lightweight smartphone that fits as comfortably in the hand as it does in the pocket. The Swift features a 5 inch display (made of Gorilla Glass 3 for added durability) with 720p resolution. While not true HD, the screen delivers strong colours and good contrast, especially for a phone in this price range. Under the hood is a Snapdragon 410 processor, Adreno 306 GPU, and 2GB of RAM; all of which easily matches, or betters, other phones in this class. The Swift also outclasses its mid-priced competitors by offering a standard 16GB of memory, expandable with the optional microSD card. It supports dual SIM cards, and the sturdy back panel can be removed for easy access to the battery (for those users who like to keep a spare handy just in case).
No smartphone, regardless of price point, would be complete without its cameras. The Swift’s 13 Mp rear camera is adequate to the task, if not exactly stellar. As good as the main camera is, it is slightly out performed by those on the Moto G and the OnePlus One. The available HDR mode improves results a bit, but at the expense of longer load and save times. The 5Mp front camera matches most others in this price range, delivering relatively crisp and detailed selfies. The camera app itself is fairly intuitive, and easy to come to grips with right out of the box.
While the WileyFox Swift is being marketed as a cheap Android smartphone, it is in fact running the Cyanogen 12.1 operating system. This open source operating system is based on Android Lollipop 5.1.1, and adopts a similar layout and many of the familiar stock elements of Google’s popular OS. That being said, there are some welcome tweaks that remove much of the bloatware associated with the Android operating system, while allowing for a greater level of customization. Users can download different themes (some free some for hire), and can personalize various components like icons, fonts, and boot animation to create the individual look and feel they desire. Tiles on the drop down notification bar can be rearranged to suit the user’s preference, and the status bar can be customized to feature any combination of notification icons. There’s even a left-handed mode that realigns the splash screen to accommodate the corrie-fisted among us.
Of course, there’s more to Cyanogen 12.1 than customization and the open source OS offers an appealing set of security features. The Privacy Guard lets users control permissions for every app on the phone, ensuring that apps can’t track their location or access unexpected parts of their smartphone. The blocked caller feature allows users to effectively avoid those annoying cold callers and robot salespeople. There’s even a feature that scrambles the numbers on the unlock screen so no one can eavesdrop on the user’s PIN number. These are smart security features that Google would do well considering incorporating into the stock Android OS.
The Final Verdict
All in all, the design and build of the WileyFox Swift belies its low cost, and with the promise of full local support to users (no international call centres here) it will be hard to better. There may be less expensive mobiles on the market, but they are likely to find it difficult challenging WileyFox on price as well as performance. As a first foray into the budget smartphone market the Swift is a definite contender, and with their flagship WileyFox Storm to follow, it looks like this upstart British firm may have a real success on their hands.