SPB Mobile Shell 3.0 – Initial Review

SPB was the first company to introduce gesture navigation for the Windows Mobile after the launch of the iPhone application. The iPhone caused a massive paradigm shift in the mobile world when it intuitively thought that a mobile device was much more usable by navigating using your fingers rather than using a stylus. It was one of the most frustrating things using a stylus such that when HTC introduced the Tytn, the fact that you could do most of your navigation via either the scroll wheel on the side or the d-pad, it instantly became the most popular Windows Mobile device of it’s time.

HTC then introduced TouchFlo 3D with the Touch line of devices (i.e. Touch Diamond, Touch Pro) and it became the interface of choice. HTC did a decent job but the reality is that it is better known as a hardware company rather than a software company. The features are actually awesome on TouchFlo 3D. However, I found it extremely unstable. One of the first things I noticed right after I got the Fuze was that it would crash Manilla (the application name for TouchFlo 3D) and cause annoyances. It was frequent enough that it caused me to start looking for ROMs to ease some of the frustrations.

Enter SPB Mobile Shell 3.0. I had purchased 2.0 earlier but stopped using it because of TouchFlo 3D. After finding the Energy ROM, I was pretty happy with TouchFlo. However, being someone who enjoys tinkering, I couldn’t help but want to install Spb Mobile Shell as soon as it was publicly released. And after 3 days, I have to say it is a great piece of software.

While there are 13 screens, the application is actually broken down into a few major sections. There is the home screens which summarizes your information, there is the phone screens which manages things like phone profile and dialer, contacts screens helps manage your quick dial information and the address book, the programs and settings screen, and lastly the weather section that gives you weather information.

The software impresses right away. On first load, Spb Mobile Shell takes about 10% less RAM then TouchFlo 3D. Other things that I really like are contact integration with Facebook. I also like how I can easily switch between professional layout to info layout at a flick of a finger. With some minor hacking, you can have more than 3 info screens. The nice thing about the info layout screen is that they are completely customizable. The idea is that in the future is to enable third-party widgets to be built. Another thing that impressed me as well is the seamless transition from portrait to landscape mode. It works exactly either way (for the most part) without any rendering issues.

One of the things I would have liked is to have better integration with existing SPB Products like Wireless Monitor and Phone Suite. One of the really nice things that I liked about the previous version of this product was that I could embed the Today screen plug-ins as a tab. I think it would be reasonable to have more SPB products generate new screens. I really like the Facebook integration and would love to see the functionality extend to more than just downloading of photos but also of contact information such as email and phone numbers. This is more minor. When I added all of the icons I wanted for a particular screen in portait mode and then flipped to landscape mode, there were some minor misalignments that I could fix. Once it was fixed, it remembered the settings.

Overall, this has been an impressive product. There were no issues that made me even once consider going back to using HTC’s Touch Flo. For me this is the killer UI that I’ve been waiting for.