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Wileyfox returns to form with the £159 Swift 2

A fingerprint scanner, NFC chip and aluminium body are among the notable upgrades.
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Wileyfox's Swift made quite the first impression when it arrived around this time last year. At launch, it was easily one of the best affordable smartphones you could buy in the UK, and from an altogether new British brand, no less. This summer, Wileyfox muddied its own name somewhat, following up on the Swift with a trio of unexciting devices. Today, however, the company has announced what could be a worthy successor to one of last year's best budget devices. Or two successors, we should say: The Swift 2 and Swift 2 Plus (or +, depending on where you look).

Gallery: Wileyfox Swift 2 | 14 Photos

The Swift 2 features a 5-inch, 720p display, 1.4GHz octa-core Snapdragon 430, 2GB of RAM and 16 gigs of internal storage (expandable, of course). A new 13-megapixel camera (Samsung sensor) with phase detection autofocus is your main shooter, with an 8MP front-facer for selfies and the like. Move up to the Swift 2 Plus and you'll find 3 gigs of RAM, double the storage and a beefier 16MP primary camera (Samsung sensor, 1 micron pixel size). Otherwise, the devices are identical and by the numbers, not serious upgrades over the Swift.

The real differences between the generations are down to build materials and extra features. There's no textured plastic here. Instead, we're looking at aircraft-grade aluminium instead. Then there's the fingerprint reader and NFC chip -- hello, Android Pay -- as well as improved audio and the USB-C port with fast-charging support. These are where the Swift 2 really one-ups its predecessor, and it's reflected in the price. While the Swift launched at £129 last year, the Swift 2 comes in at a more expensive but still very competitive £159.

The Swift 2 Plus, with its better camera and higher RAM/storage capacities, is obviously a tad pricier at £189. Both are available to buy direct from Wileyfox today, with Amazon releasing its stock this time next week.

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Picking the new Swift 2 up, it feels like a different beast to last year's model. Built exclusively from metal and glass, it's rock solid, and 20 grams heavier than the Swift at 155g. Their footprints are almost identical, however. I'd prefer it lighter, but that's the trade-off for using more premium materials. And it does look significantly "better" in that sense. All the chamfered edges and light curves that make it comfortable in-hand speak of a pricier device -- definitely pricier than £159, anyway.

A neat SIM and microSD tray replaces the removable back cover of the original Swift. Gone are the slick plastic power and volume keys, with textured metal counterparts in their place. The Swift 2 is available in three colours: a darkish blue-grey, gold and rose gold. Fairly predictable options, in other words, and ones that suck a bit of the Wileyfox personality out of the new device. The simple, debossed Wileyfox logo may be present, but you won't find any bright orange accents this time around. I'm glad of the quirky, round earpiece -- a bit of character carried over from the first Swift -- but the Swift 2 feels like a step into slightly more generic territory for the company.

Moving on from the hardware, the Swift 2 is powered by Cyanogen OS 13.1, based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. Wileyfox has partnered with Cyanogen on all of its devices thus far, championing the OS's special features and customisable themes. Cyanogen recently announced it was stepping away from full OS development, though, which isn't exactly ideal when you're about to buy a new phone running it. Wileyfox wouldn't speak on Cyanogen's behalf, but the company did make guarantees that the Swift 2 will be updated regularly, including to Android 7.0 Nougat.

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After a bit of a blip with the Spark series, Wileyfox appears to be back to making the kind of devices that are undeniably good value. Not formally announced today, but incoming all the same, the new family will be joined by the Swift 2 X in due course. It's basically the Swift 2 Plus, but with a larger, 5.2-inch 1080p display -- and almost certainly a slightly bigger price tag to match.

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