WileyFox have now announced their new devices - the £90 Spark, £115 Spark + and £130 Spark X. Seriously cheap devices, no question, and we'll be working on full reviews - but the entry level Spark has only 8GB of storage, 3.6GB of which is available on first boot, less than 2.5GB of which is available after updating just the built in apps. Is this acceptable?
Let's have a look at the specs of the 3 models first, to get a feel for the range.
- Android 6.0.1 based Cyanogen OS 13
- Mediatek MT6735 1.3Ghz quad core CPU with Mali T720 GPU
- 8GB ROM
- 1GB RAM
- 5" 720P IPS screen with dragontrail glass
- 8 Megapixel rear camera
- 8 Megapixel front facing camera
- 2.4GHz/5GHz WiFi
- Bluetooth 4
- FM Radio
- Dual micro SIM
- 2200mAh battery
Spark + additions over Spark:
- 16GB ROM
- 2GB RAM
- 13 Megapixel rear camera
Spark X additions over Spark +:
- 5.5" screen
- 13 Megapixel rear camera
- 3000mAh battery
Let's be clear up front that the Spark isn't the only device in Android-land with 8GB ROM on board. The (recently discontinued) Moto E actually shipped with 4GB. I also appreciate that the Spark is clearly engineered to a very aggressive price point (particularly given recent currency issues)... but does that make it OK? The point I'd like to argue in this post is that for Android manufacturers, perhaps there is a responsibility to uphold a certain level of user experience not just to keep the customer satisfied, but for the good of the platform... and I'm not sure the Spark delivers in that regard.
There's a lot to like about the Spark, from the smart yet simple bright orange packaging, through the soft touch, 'semi sandstone' back to the impressively bright and sharp 720P screen. The phone is impressively light (no doubt thanks to its fairly low capacity 2200mAh battery and largely plastic construction) and on the whole, I have no complaints about the overall hardware feel of the device at the price.
When you turn the device on and start setting it up, it's pretty clear that you're not using a flagship. Installing, updating and even opening apps feels distinctly lethargic. The first thing I did on turning on my device was launch the Play Store and update all the built in apps. This took a long time and rendered the device often unusable while installs happened in the background. Not ideal. I expected things to improve as background tasks stabilised and while they did somewhat, the experience overall remained sluggish.
Of course, sub 2.5GB storage space remaining on a device where no additional apps have been installed isn't good (and it's not far off the low storage warning), but one saving grace on the Spark could be adoptable storage. This allows the user to insert a microSD card (I used a 128GB Samsung Evo Pro) and use it for installation of compatible applications. The key here is compatible applications - only apps with the installLocation attribute set appropriately can be installed to the card. In reality, this means that while adoptable storage improves things on the Spark, it's not a complete answer to the capacity problem.
So should you buy the Spark? If you're reading this, then it's almost certainly not the device for you. I installed a handful of apps and synced a relatively small amount of data and came perilously close to running out of space.
Should you recommend the Spark for someone else? Personally, I'd be much more inclined to recommend the 16GB Swift, which is currently £10 more at £100 on Amazon UK.
Is WileyFox doing Android a disservice with the Spark? This might sound a bit dramatic, but I think perhaps they are (as so many devices have in the past). It's pretty feasible someone will be put off the platform due to the storage (and performance) limitations of the phone. Yes, it's cheap, but I'm not sure if people will make that correlation enough between the experience and the price.
We'll have our verdict on the Spark + and Spark X over the coming weeks, but until then I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the above. Would you buy a Spark?
Edited by PaulOBrien