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SPB Mobile Shell or How to Transform the S60 Interface for Touchscreen Phones
SPB Software traditionally offers SPB Shell for Windows Mobile devices and the version for S60 5th Edition (touchscreen models from Nokia and other manufacturers) was released without high expectations, but not by chance either. The first weeks after the software became available emphasized an immense demand. The customers would like to change their Nokia interfaces and prefer something nicer. Without any alternatives they can have only SPB Mobile Shell. As its name suggests this shell can be installed on your phone to replace the standard home screen, add new interface functions and improve its looks. The software costs $30, which is not minimal, but if you want to change your phone you will have to pay completely different sums, while SPB Mobile Shell provides your old phone with the new interface, which is more attractive and has more features. This shell can be compared to HTC Sense, MotoBLUR and other similar applications. The only difference is that it was created outside Nokia, but is offered for its models.
On SPB website you can download a trial version to understand what you are going to pay money for.
After downloading the software I installed it on two phones – Nokia N97 and Nokia N97 Mini for the integrity of the test and to compare the impressions from the shell. I can honestly admit that in both cases the software requires around 20 MB of main storage, which is quite a lot. At the same time this is necessary for swift and flexible performance. The interface uses a lot of animation, is attractive and works well. The interface itself looks excellent.
On Nokia N97 I started experiencing problems in the first hours of use. For example, the shell could not start certain features and showed the previous screen. It was helped by the reboot alone. N97 Mini worked much better and it must be explained by the technical limitations of the models. Miracles do not happen very often and Nokia N97 looked weak. I did not test the software on many models and as there is a free trial version you can easily try it yourself on your particular model before the purchase.
Let's look at the modes of the shell and see what it can do. By default you start with the main screen with two available variants – Lifestyle and Professional. In the first case the icons are large, they provide notices about events and several contacts for quick access to different features (calls and SMS). The second style is simpler, the icons are smaller and you have more information there. If you don't pay attention to the names of these styles then I can say they are both quite convenient and the choice will be very individual. Each style and the whole interface work both horizontally and vertically.
In each style you can choose up to 5 screens and each can be used for the offered widgets (around 20 in total – weather, events notifications, clock, photos, calendar, etc). The choice is not very rich, but it is more than enough for all the available phone features. Weather, photo contacts, profiles switch and Wi-Fi should be mentioned as particularly successful.
Contacts – the screen was changed to improve the finger control, in particular we have large icons for people and the possibility to search in the phonebook by entering the name from the usual keypad. You do not have to choose every letter until all of them are on the screen – just select letters that are in the name. For example, to enter the name Agni press 1 (abc), 4 (ghi), 6 (mno) and then 4 again. That is all. The same scheme works for longer names as well.
The calls list was also revised – the icons look nice and everything works faster. In popup menus all icons are in the same style as the entire shell. You can hardly see S60 standard interface. The repeated events can be deleted from the list.
The bookmarked contacts can be displayed as tiles or a 3-D carousel. The latter looks cool and works fast, but the list with contacts icons is more convenient.
3-D carousel is also available for the switch between the shell functions and is excellent here as well. There are no complaints and it is really convenient.
Launcher is an application available by default from the screen (as are the contacts) and is used to launch other applications. In the simple mode each icon has a note and in the second option the icons are large, but have no notes. Icons for all standard applications have been revised and moreover, they are classified in accordance with understandable categories, which makes the resort to the S60 standard interface redundant. It is quite logical and convenient.
You can also create your own icons for applications and locate them at your discretion.
Some minor features deserve praise too. For example, you can choose wallpapers or themes.
My impressions from this software are purely positive. It offers a new interface, works fast, expands the standard features and boasts nice looking icons. On the downside we have to mention, that as the application is not integrated into the OS it requires considerable resources, which will not make happy those who use many resources hungry applications. Those who already have a S60 phone with a touchscreen should nonetheless try SPB Mobile Shell to understand what a quality mobile phone interface is.
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Published 17 June 2010
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