Wileyfox is aiming to prove that a new company can break into the smartphone market, even as Apple and Samsung maintain their vast marketshare. Based in the UK, Wileyfox introduced two new phones this year: the Storm, reviewed here, and the Swift.
Though both are budget phones, the Storm is the more powerful of the two. Beneath this phone's full HD 5.5-inch screen you'll find a 64-bit octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM and a 20-megapixel camera. Instead of running plain Android, it runs a modified version of Google's software called Cyanogen OS, which allows you to heavily customise the look and feel of the interface, while still delivering full access to Google's services and the Play Store.
All of that comes at the very affordable price of £199, and you buy it now from Amazon UK. Currently, the Storm is sold only in the UK, with no immediate plans to sell it in the US or Australia. If you were to import it, the UK price converts to around $300 and AU$420 respectively.
On paper, the Storm is extremely similar to-- a mid-range phone I was extremely keen on. You'll find the same size and resolution display, a comparable processor and similar camera and the Play's near-stock Android is similar to Cyanogen. The Storm does have a lower price tag, but you'll be making some major compromises to save that money. The Storm lacks the Play's waterproofing, the processor performance leaves a lot to be desired and the battery doesn't put up much of a fight.
Even at £199 though, this phone isn't a great buy. I'd absolutely recommend splashing an extra £80 and going for the Moto X Play -- it's a relatively small investment right now for a much better phone in the long run.
Design: A game of two halves
- 155 by 77.3 by 9.2mm (6.1 by 3 by 0.3 inches)
- 155 grams (5.4 ounces)
- microSD card support up to 128GB
I quite like the look of the Storm. Its back is clad in a rubberised, grey material that has the feel of compacted, recycled paper. A bright orange accent adorns the camera lens and the Wileyfox name is written in the same colour below. It stands out against the grey background and brings to mind the sort of colour scheme you might expect to see in the interior of a sporty car.
While I like the design right out of the box, I worry that over time its good looks will start to fade. Even in my few weeks with the phone, some of the matte texture on the back has started to wear away, leaving a smoother, shinier surface beneath. A few more months in a pocket and the aesthetic may be very different.
The front is a sheet of plain black glass, with no similar visual flair to liven it up -- place it screen down on the table if you want to flaunt the sporty orange accents. At the bottom are three touch-sensitive navigation keys. With its 5.5-inch screen, it's not a small phone by any means, but it's comfortable to use in two hands and the rubberised back keeps it from slipping out of your fingers.
You'll find the volume and power buttons on the right edge, the Micro-USB port on the bottom (no USB Type-C here), the 3.5mm headphone jack on top and there's a microSD card slot tucked into the left side. You can slot in a 128GB microSD card to expand the 32GB of built-in storage.
Its physical dimensions are much the same as the Moto X Play's -- they both have 5.5-inch displays -- but the Play has a trump card in the form of its waterproofing. While not submersible, if you spill a drink on the Play it'll shake it off and carry on as if nothing happened. But without waterproofing on the Storm, that same accident could result in the phone becoming a rather expensive lump of useless wet plastic. That's something to bear in mind if you're prone to carelessness after a few too many festive sherries.
- Full HD (1,920x1,080 pixels)
The phone's 5.5-inch display has a full-HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 400 pixels per inch -- more than enough for crisp text and sharp images. That's the same size and resolution as the Moto X Play's display, so you won't be able to choose between the two based on definition alone.
Though it's bright enough to use indoors without any trouble, it doesn't reach retina-melting levels so it might not fare as well under bright sunlight (which is hard for me to verify during an English winter). Colours are decent too -- not as punchy and vivid as some of Samsung's displays, but more than sufficient for watching some "Power Rangers" on Netflix.
Cyanogen is essentially a version of Android that adds a few features over and above Google's standard offering. Don't worry, though, it's functionally the same as Android, and visually almost identical. There are multiple home screens to lay down apps and widgets, an app tray and full access to the Google Play Store and all other Google services. It's an almost stock version of Android 5.1.1, so current Android users will feel right at home.
One of the main benefits of Cyanogen's version of Android is the deep customisation options. A themes tool allows you to download a wide range of pre-made themes (both paid for and free) which change everything from the app icons and fonts to the layout of all the menus. If you like putting your own stamp on your technology then you'll find endless joy in browsing the themes on offer.
The app tray is different from stock Android, too. It displays all your of apps in an alphabetical list for you to scroll through, or you can slide your finger over the alphabet at the bottom of the screen to quickly jump to a letter. There's an audio tool which lets you change the equalisation of your music, but mercifully, there's very little extra software preloaded. Despite the ability to make so many tweaks, the uncluttered interface makes the Storm a simple phone to use.