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Mini-Review: SPB Mobile Shell 3.0

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#1
Alex (nedge2k)

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[teaser]

Call them what you will; shells, enhancements, replacement UI's, dashboards etc., I've never really been a fan of them. Don't get me wrong, the idea is nice but more often than not, the execution is poor and the software serves as nothing more than a large piece of software taking up valuable resources on your device.

Today, SPB have released Mobile Shell 3.0 and I'm going to take a quick look at whether it's really worth the hefty $29.99 price tag![/teaser]

The main problem with these "replacement" UI's is that they just don't go deep enough to cover up the lacklustre, standard Windows Mobile UI. Unfortunately, SPB Mobile Shell 3.0 is no different. In fact, the only full system integration this software seems to have is with the contacts - and even then you can't delete a contact. Messaging integration is limited to notifications, anything else and you're taken back to the standard Windows Mobile UI. There's a bit more integration with the calendar but again, for the most part you are taken back to the standard Windows Mobile UI. Finally, whilst all the device settings pages have their own SPB page, to access the settings themselves, you are again taken back to the standard Windows Mobile UI.

So, it's clearly not a "shell", more of a today screen replacement but what can it actually do? Well, feast your eye's on the following plethora of screenies :excl:

The Main "Today" Screen

This comes in two variants as standard; "professional" and "lifestyle". Both look pretty nice but the lifestyle layout is customisable with "widgets" and expands across three "screens" allowing you to have a wallpaper which is of a higher resolution then your device screen's standard resolution and then scroll from one side of it to the other with your finger. The included wallpapers have a resolution of 960x748px. This is obviously an idea borrowed from Android but that's no bad thing, I certainly like it!

Additionally, for those who are into customising, I had a quick look in the Program Files Folder the widgets are .dat files which, when renamed to .zip files contain nothing more than image files and .xml files. The .dat files are password protected but after a bit of digging, I've found that entering b0fm18zq does the trick :excl:

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"Page" Navigation

There are two ways to navigate the various screens/pages in SPB Mobile Shell 3.0. The first and default way is via the carousel. This funky, floating, 3D scroller is reminiscent of the Asus Glide "Multi-Home" UI, allowing you to flick seamlessly between screens/pages with the stroke of a finger. The other way is via a tiles view, similar to the Xperia X1's panels interface but not quite as swish.

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The Rest

With the main features covered, the rest it fairly self expository so have a gander at some eye candy....

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Conclusion

So, am I converted? Is it worth $29.99? In a word, no.

The lack of integration depth is a big let down. Especially when you consider the great job HTC did with TouchFlo 3D. The other let down here is the standard theming/skinning. It seems that software developers these days have run out of imagination and are content to just make everything look like an iPhone or Vista. Granted that's not always a bad thing but still... Obviously, fans of SPB Mobile Shell 2.0 will love pulling all the new features of version 3.0 apart for their customising needs and further down the line there will most likely be some rather nice user contributed themes available but fiddling about with things like that isn't for everyone and it's kind of unfair to expect people to pay $29.99 and then make it look better themselves....

Overall the interface was very smooth and didn't seem to affect the device's performance much at all. I tested this out on a Touch HD which allowed me to take advantage of SPB Mobile Shell's hardware acceleration feature and although I haven't tried this on any lower spec devices with limited RAM etc., I would imagine that without the hardware acceleration, it wouldn't feel half as smooth.

If you were a fan of SPB Mobile Shell 2.0, you'll most likely love version 3.0. If you're looking for something to replace TouchFlo 3D, walk on by...

You can download a trial version of SPB Mobile Shell 3.0 here and give it a try yourself. Let us know what you think! :excl:

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#2
gemx

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Thanks Alex,
that was a really nice - and over all a truly honest report :excl:

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#3
eckertb

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Thanks for the nice review Alex! May I add some thoughts here:

+ Wonderful idea with the customisable layout scrolling like android, more widgets would be appreciated though.
+ It runs really smooth on my Omnia without any 3D acceleration at all.
+ The kinetic scrolling mechanism is one of the best what you can get on WinMo in my opinion.

- The lack of integration is really annoying, one would expect a nice SMS interface for that money.
- The caller ID screen which could show a bigger picture.
- It could have an own locking mechanism, something cool like S2U.

Now i have to use more products together, like the VITO SMS-Chat for SMS messaging, resco photo explorer and so on...
Why can't SPB make a really complete shell where you have all the most important stuff in one software, like Touchflo?
I think we all have the same goal, to forget the finger unfriendly and ugly interface of WinMo 6.1, that's what we need software like SPB Mobile Shell for, not just some fancy 3D scrolling stuff and today replacement. We need more integration.

If you guys can recommend me another product instead of SPB Mobile Shell which accomplishes these goals better then please respond. Until now i'll use it and wait for SPB to implement all the missing features... or maybe i'll have to keep just dreaming of them?

regards

eckertb
HUNGARY

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#4
Alex (nedge2k)

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Thanks guys :excl:

@eckertb

I can't think of anything that has the integration of TF3D but there's plenty of choice in this market so it might be a case of just hunting around and finding one that can tick most of your boxes. Have you had a look at Point UI Home 2?

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#5
benjitek

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I've been using it a couple days now. As I've tried the previous versions, I guess I wasn't expecting as much as you. For the most part I like this version -- enough to keep it installed. Previous versions didn't last a day...

It's a great alternate to navigate the device -- really wish it had an interface with SBSH Calendar Touch, with luck that'll come. It interfaces well with other Spb products that I already have: Time, Weather, and PhoneSuite. The seamless integration pretty much transforms it into an even bigger product.

There are a couple annoyances though -- my biggest gripe is the Weather. On the home screen, as with the weather-widget, a visual representation of the weather as well as the high/low forecast are shown. No current temperature, or current condition info is displayed -- you have to tap the weather icon/widget to activate Spb Weather for current temperature info. Small detail -- huge oversight :excl:

It's way overpriced -- $19.99 seems much more appropriate. Fortunately, they ran a promo when the product was announced, and combined with another Handango coupon, it wound up costing around $15...

Overall though, it's better than the plain (not 3D) TouchFlo that came on my Touch Cruise. It interfaces well with other Spb products I already use. While I think I'll much prefer the 'shell' of WM 6.5, this is a great alternate until then...

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#6
DarkWanderer

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While I think I'll much prefer the 'shell' of WM 6.5, this is a great alternate until then...


I've been trying out a WM 6.5 build on my old Wizard and can't say it's great. The main screen list of functions (phone,email, calendar etc..) is ok but once you leave there it's pretty much the same WM fare. I've installed CMContacts to add a decent graphical UI to the contacts list and SMS. I hope the final build will be an improvement.

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#7
forelli

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As Alex said, it lacks a deeper integration, for me, I'll have a look at Point UI2 (thanks bro for the link) but I already deinstalled spb3, back to winmo 6.5 and Touchflo 2D on my omnia. For the time being, it's what I need. Well, it's not a matter of money, because you can try spb3 15 days long so at least it's fair but still a no go for me, although the work is great, it just doesn't meet my expectations.

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#8
Omega Ra

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I've been using it a couple days now. As I've tried the previous versions, I guess I wasn't expecting as much as you. For the most part I like this version -- enough to keep it installed. Previous versions didn't last a day...

It's a great alternate to navigate the device -- really wish it had an interface with SBSH Calendar Touch, with luck that'll come. It interfaces well with other Spb products that I already have: Time, Weather, and PhoneSuite. The seamless integration pretty much transforms it into an even bigger product.

There are a couple annoyances though -- my biggest gripe is the Weather. On the home screen, as with the weather-widget, a visual representation of the weather as well as the high/low forecast are shown. No current temperature, or current condition info is displayed -- you have to tap the weather icon/widget to activate Spb Weather for current temperature info. Small detail -- huge oversight :excl:

It's way overpriced -- $19.99 seems much more appropriate. Fortunately, they ran a promo when the product was announced, and combined with another Handango coupon, it wound up costing around $15...

Overall though, it's better than the plain (not 3D) TouchFlo that came on my Touch Cruise. It interfaces well with other Spb products I already use. While I think I'll much prefer the 'shell' of WM 6.5, this is a great alternate until then...


There is temperature on my weather widget...do an edit layout and click on the widget and make sure there is text for it enabled

my widget is the one that was on there stock when I installed. It asked while I Was installing if I wanted to try weather and I sai yeah...what version of weather do you have?

Edited by Omega Ra, 23 April 2009 - 09:24 PM.

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#9
benjitek

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Whatever the current version of Weather is, I just downloaded and installed it. I didn't spend as much time with the widget, as I don't use that screen -- I use the stock one primarily, and it's the weather there I'm more interested in having the current temp. Thanks for the tip on widgets though :excl:

There is temperature on my weather widget...do an edit layout and click on the widget and make sure there is text for it enabled

my widget is the one that was on there stock when I installed. It asked while I Was installing if I wanted to try weather and I sai yeah...what version of weather do you have?


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#10
efjay

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Great review and my thoughts exactly. Once you get past the flipping and scrolling it really doesnt do much apart from put you back to WM (which under 6.5 I dont find as ugly as everyone else seems to think) and compared to something like PointUI or Yrgo doesnt really compare to intefaces like TouchFLO and Acer's Shell 2.0.

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#11
drsandy

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Yes today screen loks great with applicatin. SPB people you are requested to make a comlete sell replacing the winUI

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#12
mikewtw

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After using SPB Mobile Shell 3 a few days, I find it to be the best Windows Mobile interface so far - with room for improvements.
PointUI Home 2 is still a work-in-progress and abit too buggy at the moment. TF2D and TF3D is nice is some ways but I dont like the black/grey layouts with no ability to have a background of your choosing. SPBMS3 is more customizable and makes for a refreshing, fast and smooth interface. Keep up the good work SPB team!

Toshiba G810 user

Edited by mikewtw, 02 June 2009 - 12:31 AM.

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#13
bassamais

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i just want to say::


very nice work spb team - continue the good work!!!

and one more thing:

all messages with critical voice, are welcome, because of you all the next versions wil be made, and will be better

tanks

João Silva
Portugal :D

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