You may not have heard much about them or even ever heard about them at all but Wileyfox, a United Kingdom company, is in the Kenyan market. The company which sells smartphones under the same name is keen on having a share of the growing smartphone user base in Kenya and the larger East Africa region.
Wileyfox happens to be owned by the Meridian Group, an organization that also has interests in other smartphone brands including Fly Mobile whose smartphone we sampled last year.
Wileyfox has previously been described as the OnePlus of the UK
Like every other new smartphone brand entering the Kenyan market, Wileyfox smartphones run on the Android mobile operating system. But there is a catch. Instead of taking matters into its own hands and customizing the Android experience to its tastes, Wileyfox has preloaded a forked version of Android from Cyanogen Inc.
Cyanogen is the company that has ambitious plans to unseat Google as the go-to platform for all things mobile. It has backing from some of the biggest names in the industry including Twitter, Qualcomm and China’s Tencent. Carriers like Telefonica are also in it.
Many may know Cyanogen Inc from its previous life as CyanogenMod. While the latter still exists as a community of open source Android tinkerers and enthusiasts, Cyanogen Inc is a private company that is focused on delivering a full end-to-end mobile device experience based on Android.
Cyanogen Inc has long been associated with Microsoft after it decided to incorporate some Microsoft mobile services like Bing, Cortana, OneDrive, Outlook and Skype into its devices in place of Google’s alternatives which it provides as part of its licensing procedures for Android. There were even rumours that Microsoft was interested in investing in the company even though that never happened.
Cyanogen has partnered with Qualcomm to provide reference designs. These make it easier for hardware partners like Wileyfox and others in its current fold like ZUK (affiliated to Lenovo) to base their devices.
The most high profile partnerships between Cyanogen and hardware companies include those with Chinese startup OnePlus which saw the OnePlus One become the first device in the world to ship with CyanogenMod (before the shift to Cyanogen OS happened). That was before the partnership ended and OnePlus came up with its own Oxygen OS which runs on subsequent devices like the OnePlus 2 and the OnePlus X. India’s Micromax is also selling devices running Cyanogen OS like the Yu Yuphoria through its Yu Televentures subsidiary.
In Kenya, Wileyfox is selling two smartphones, the Swift and the Storm.
The Wileyfox Swift packs a 5-inch HD display, 16 GB onboard storage (expandable up to only 32 GB via a microSD), 2 GB RAM, a Snapdragon 410 processor, a 13-megapixel camera with LED flash at the back and a 5-megapixel sensor for selfies on the front of the device.
The Wileyfox Storm, on the other hand, is the superior device. It has a 5.5-inch full HD display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615, 32 GB internal storage (expandable up to 128 GB), 3 GB storage, a 20-megapixel camera at the back and an 8-megapixel shooter on the front.
Both devices run on Cyanogen OS 12.1 which is based on Android 5.1 Lollipop, have 2,500mAh battery units, dual SIMs and are 4G-ready. The battery on the Swift is removable, though.
The Wileyfox Swift costs Kshs 19,000 while the Wileyfox Storm is a bit dear at Kshs 29,000.
The devices are available starting today through e-commerce site Kilimall as well as in Tricom shops in Nairobi.