Video output is more or less comparable across all the Swift 2 devices, regardless of sensor size. Clips filmed at 1080p/30 fps are clear, detailed and colourful enough, though audio is a tad muffled screen-side. None of the handsets present with overly fidgety white balance, exposure or focus, which are the kind of inconsistencies that can ruin even the clearest of videos. In low light, neither of the two sensors is particularly strong, but the Swift 2 definitely struggles with noise and maintaining focus a little more than the 2 Plus and 2 X.
All handsets share the same 8-megapixel front-facing camera, which is good enough for a selfie or video call, but colour saturation is again an issue here. Selfies are also not as detailed as I would expect from an 8-megapixel front-facer (just look at the shots you get from Google's Pixel smartphones, for example), but then, at least you can't see every pore and flaw.
All things considered, the Swift 2 family cameras are serviceable enough for devices at these price points; they just aren't particularly strong. I much prefer the 16-megapixel shooters of the 2 Plus and 2 X to the Swift 2's 13-megapixel sensor, but I could see why some people might not want to pay at least an extra £30 for a slightly more consistent experience. It's a matter of priorities, really.
Performance and battery life
Wileyfox has kitted out all the Swift 2 handsets with the same chip: a 1.4GHz octa-core Snapdragon 430 with an Adreno 505 GPU. The regular Swift 2 pairs that with 2GB of RAM and 16 gigs of internal storage, whereas the 2 Plus and 2 X push those to 3GB and 32GB, respectively. Storage isn't much of a concern, as all the handsets accept microSD cards as large as 64GB -- though you'll have to forgo dual-SIM functionality (the tray takes either one micro-SIM and one nano-SIM, or the former plus a microSD card).
The original Swift was working with a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410, and I had few qualms with that device. No points, then, for guessing that the Swift 2 performs even better. All right, so the user experience isn't as slick and polished as it is on, say, a Galaxy S7 Edge, but in terms of responsiveness, we're mostly talking differences in fractions of a second.
Besides, considering the Swift 2 family starts at £159, you're not being asked to compromise too much on the performance front. Sure, the devices occasionally freak out (show me a phone that doesn't), but these episodes are infrequent enough not to be frustrating. The vast majority of the time, the user experience is fast and fluid, provided you don't overwhelm the thing with too many commands at once.
The general standard of performance is reflected in how the Swift 2 handles resource-intensive games. After waiting out the 10 seconds or so of loading time, Real Racing 3, NBA Jam and Asphalt 8: Airborne all ran smoothly on the device, and I was particularly impressed with the high and stable frame rate of the latter on the maximum graphics settings. Unkilled, a relatively new first-person zombie shooter from the developer of the Shadowgun titles, started to drop frames only on the highest graphics setting (though the game did warn me that I was pushing the limits of the hardware beyond what it recommends).
There was no such deterioration on the 2 Plus and 2 X, though, which is the only time I've noticed the extra 1GB of RAM coming into play while testing the three devices. That's not to say extra RAM is unnecessary if you don't play 3D games. You're buying a buffer -- a reserve that can be tapped during heavy multitasking sessions. You're also buying time: going some way toward future-proofing your device against more demanding OS and app updates.
Further to the standard connectivity options, like WiFi (single-band, 802.11b/g/n) and Bluetooth 4.1, the Swift 2 range adds NFC to the mix. It's another important addition to this generation, since it opens the door to Android Pay and any other mobile wallet or payments system that might make your life easier.
The Swift 2 and 2 Plus are outfitted with a 2,700mAh battery, while the slightly larger 2 X gets 3,010mAh to work with. I've run the standard Engadget battery drain test -- looping a 720p video at 50 percent brightness -- several times on all three devices. The Swift 2 performs the best, lasting between eight hours and 25 minutes and eight hours and 40 minutes. The 2 Plus is the most consistent, staying alive for eight hours and 15 minutes or thereabouts (the shortfall gives you an idea of what toll on battery life that additional gig of RAM has). The 2 X produces the most erratic results, ranging from seven hours and 47 minutes to eight hours and 27 minutes.
I can't tell you why there's such a gulf between the best and worst counts, because the whole idea of the rundown test is to produce consistent results. All I can say is the bigger battery doesn't equal a longer lifespan when it's powering the more pixel-dense 1080p display. Scores in between the eight- and nine-hour marks aren't impressive by any stretch, but they're exactly what I'd expect at these kind of capacities.
Of the three phones, I've spent the most time carrying around the standard Swift 2, and battery life is better than the rundown tests might suggest. Don't get me wrong -- it isn't a two-day powerhouse, but it has gotten me through many a busy day and halfway through the next without begging for a wall socket. And I'm not just talking about a few emails, but calls, texts, maps, browsing, social stuff, YouTube, Spotify and a few hours of downtime in the evening.
When any of the phones do give up the ghost, Qualcomm's Quick Charge tech promises 25 percent charge in 15 minutes and 75 percent in under an hour. You only get a USB-C cable in the box, though, and I don't seem to have the right wall plug adapter (I've tried ones from Amazon, Apple and others). While the lock screens of the phones do announce that rapid charging is in effect, I typically get a slower rate from zero to hero of roughly two to two and a half hours.
You can't really argue with the price of any of Wileyfox's latest handsets. The Swift 2 is obviously the cheapest, at £159, while the 2 Plus and 2 X cost £189 and £219, respectively. Ever since the first Moto G launched in 2013, the fact you can dodge subsidised contracts and buy something outright that not only is affordable but does everything you need it to is a constant source of comfort (yeah, I'm weird like that).
There's just one problem: Wileyfox isn't the only company making smartphones for contract-averse, budget-savvy consumers. In fact, you could say Wileyfox got lucky with the first Swift, because it launched in something of a vacuum. With a launch price of £129, it undercut every comparable (or lesser) device on the market. But times have changed.
The Swift 2 range has many more competitors, and the situation may get worse when the Mobile World Congress conference kicks off later this month. Motorola's G4 range offers an alternative at every Swift 2 price point. The £130 G4 Play is specced similarly to the original Swift, while the £169 G4 is closer to the new Swift 2, albeit with a 5.5-inch 1080p display instead of a 5-inch 720p panel. At £229, the G4 Plus adds a 16-megapixel camera and a fingerprint reader.
None of these devices are notably better than their Swift 2 counterparts on paper, but they do come from a trusted brand you'd hope would keep the Android updates flowing. The two pricier handsets, though mostly plastic, can also be heavily customised through Moto Maker.
Leaks point to Motorola updating its G line in the near future. The G5 is thought to have the same Snapdragon 430 chip as the Swift 2 family, as well as a 5-inch, full HD display. The G5 Plus is rumoured to carry a beefier Snapdragon 625 and a 5.2-inch, full HD screen. These could end up being much more serious threats to Wileyfox's smartphones than Motorola's G4 trio, but that will depend primarily on pricing.
The new £225 Honor 6X is also a candidate at the top end of the price bracket. Powered by Huawei's octa-core Kirin 655 chip, the device boasts a 5.5-inch, 1080p display and dual rear cameras for playing around with focus and background blur. Alternatively, you can pick up an HTC One A9s for the same price, or a Huawei P9 Lite for roughly a tenner less, which is getting on a bit but still offers good specs for the price.
Then there's the LG Stylus 2 and HTC Desire 650 and LG X Cam and Blu Vivo 6 (et cetera), all of which can be bought for under £200. In short, there are plenty of options in the £150–£200 range, and there will likely be a few more incoming once Mobile World Congress has been and gone. Wileyfox's trio of devices are still competitive, mind, but that doesn't mean you won't find something that's more your style, or more focused on one feature that's important to you (like the camera), if you shop around online.
As far as next-generation upgrades go, Wileyfox has done an admiral job of maintaining affordability amid several significant improvements. The use of aluminium, a new fingerprint sensor and the NFC chip are all good decisions on Wileyfox's part, with the company doing more than just beefing up the spec sheet.
There is one downside to these improvements. The first Swift launched at £129, and it's this bargain price that made it stand out from other affordable smartphones at the time. This generation, pricing starts at £159 for the basic Swift 2, and each time you go up a model, you're being asked to pay another £30. I don't think this is unreasonable, as such, and I'd opt for the more expensive Swift 2 Plus if I had to make a choice. But paying another £30 for the 2 X, just to upgrade the display to 1080p? I wouldn't say that's worth it, but if you watch a lot of media or play games often, you might think differently.
As you go up in price, more potential competitors emerge, especially when you break the £200 barrier, as the 2 X does. Features begin to become ubiquitous, and so you've more chance of finding a handset from another manufacturer that might suit you better, for any number of reasons. And that kinda sums up my overall feelings about the new Swift 2 family. They are all good smartphones for their respective price tags, but that's where the first Swift was distinct: It was better than its price tag.