Today SPB Softwarehouse released a new version of their excellent user-interface application SPB Mobile Shell v3.0. This article will provide a step by step overview of the different, layouts, screens and highlight the main new features of this great add-on for your Windows Mobile powered device.
SPB Mobile Shell v3.0 Step by Step
1. 3D Carousel or Tiles View
During the Mobile World Congress 2009 the SPB Mobile Shell v3.0 was first announced, and one of the features that ended up on youtube was the 3D carousel feature. This graphical representation provides an easy to use way of srolling through the different screens. However if you don’t like this 3D carousel mode you can switch to the Tiles view, which is also shown in the screenshots above. This looks very familiar, since this approach was also used in the Sony Xperia X1.
Although the 3D carousel is very cool, I personally do prefer the Tiles View, since I find it easier to manipulate with your fingers. And you are never one-click away of all the screens.
2. Home Sceen(s)
In this new version of SPB Mobile Shell, there is not just one homescreen layout but two homescreen layouts: (A) professional now screen, (B) lifestyle now screen.
“Windows Mobile devices are traditionally popular among mobile professionals, users that need the power of this platform in their daily lives. Very often you need the professional features of a Windows Phone at work, and in your free time you still want to use the same phone, but with a more generic “consumer-ish” angle.” [ref01]
This reasoning makes sence, and is in line with thoughts about the strategy of Microsoft Windows Mobile and HTC. You don’t have separate devices for work- and for private use, and therefor you need to combine both into one device or application. Furthermore it is one of the drivers why Microsoft would like to move a little more into the consumer space. However let’s focus on the features of the SPB Mobile Shell application:
Of course the professional home is optimized for power and usability, having all your important information in one single overview and accessing it with one tip of a finger. Although it looks similar to the home screen of the previous version there are made some clever improvements under the hood:
- “There is an algorithm to choose which account to open: if there are unread emails, it will open the first account with unread emails; if there are no unread emails, it will open the account that had unread emails last. As result, it will almost always open the account you want to use.
- Shared space for upcoming events, today’s all-day events, graphic calendar, and the next alarm. The challenge is to show all important information in limited space, but nicely. This algorithm can be tweaked in Spb Mobile Shell settings (“Calendar Widget”). ” [ref01]
Both are very useful in every day life and help you to work more efficiently with your Windows Phone.
The lifestyle home is aimed at customization and personalization, so you can build your own home screen for personal use.
- “Three screens with horizontal scrolling (so there is more space)
- Widget-based (so you can also put shortcuts, photo contacts, indicators for power, specific email accounts (e. g. gmail) etc.)” [ref01]
Looking at the features of the Lifestyle home, I could find similarities with the Homescreen on the Google Android based T-Mobile Google G1 . The T-Mobile G1 device also provides three screens, with horizontal scrolling and the use of widgets. However the number of available widgets is limited, while SPB softwarehouse has done an excellent job a offers a wide range of avaialble widgets.
The professional home and the lifestyle home are the first two screens in the 3D Carousel.
3. Applications and settings
The next two screens in the 3D carousel are aimed at quickly launching applications and/or having access to your settings. These two screens are (A) Launcher, and (B) SPB Menu.
“On any home screen (Widget-based or Professional) you always have a big button called “Launcher”.”[ref01]
This launcher has a simple- and an advanced mode, and is used to quickly (re-)open the last used applications. In practice this is a scenario that occures very often. The SPB Menu on the other hand is a feature that is familiar from SPB Mobile Shell v2.0, and it perfectly integrates with the start menu. However next to the programs and settings you can quickly access applications and settings around central topics, for example “internet” or “messaging”.
The next three screens in the 3D carousel are all centered around the keyword “contacts”: (A) Call Log , (B) Favourite Contacts and (C) SPB Contacts. In the version 3.0 release SPB softwarehouse has focused on making the process of working with contacts efficient and enjoyable, with an optimized dailing scenario. The reasoning behind this is outlined below:
- “Most likely the contact you want to call is in your favorites list (since most people make 90% of all calls to their ten top contacts). This scenario is solved by the center tab (Favorite Contacts)
- If not, there is a high chance that you want to return a call, or call somebody you’d recently called. In this case, you can easily switch to the left tab (Call Log)
- If neither of the situations is the case, then you can still go to the right tab (Spb Contacts) and quickly find the right contact by using T9 search” [ref01]
Contacts Carousel and Facebook Integration
“Photo Contacts is a central component of contacts management in Spb Mobile Shell” [ref01]
This approach is already supported with the development of the widget based favourite contacts screen, however the contacts carousel also proves the easy of use of this concept. Analogue to the easy manipulation of the 3D carousel for switching between the different screens, the contact carousel is aimed at switching between your most important contact.
Furthermore a custom ringtone can be set, or the contact picture can easily be changed (even cropped or rotated !!!) via “change picture”. It is not only possible to get a picture from teh Windows Mobile Phone’s camera, but also from the social network Facebook !
“We found that most users don’t have good pictures for their friends in their phones. We think that today, social networks are the best way to get great high quality pictures for your contacts. I like to say that “It is hard to make good pictures of all your friends, but fortunately, your friends take good picture of themselves”.” [ref01]
6. The other screens: Weather, Agenda, Time & Edit Profile
In the 3D carousel there are four screens left, however the most significant changes were in the screens described above. The Weather- and Time screens form excellent opportunities to perfectly integrate with SPB Weather and SPB Time, while the Agenda en Edit Profile screens are new in comparison to the previous version of SPB Mobile Shell.
The Agenda screen seems to have some elements of Mobile Shell v2.0 Homescreen, however it provides a more detailed and extensive view of your calendar and agenda. The advantage is that you don’t need to open the underlying applications, but you have direct access to the information needed. The Edit Profile screen makes it possible to easily change the settings of your phone profile, without have to click through two levels in order to acces the settings you need to change. Also this screen can be perfectly be integrated with SPB Phonesuite.
Below a short video overview of SPB Mobile Shell v3.0 is shown, which is released today on youtube. It is a good complement and summary for the written review above.
Conclusions and first thoughts
Personally I do think that SPB Softwarehouse again has released a great application, which builds further upon the success of the previous versions. SPB Softwarehouse keeps on improving their applications, resulting in very clever improvements which make your device even more usable. In other words the bar is raised again with the release of version 3.0 of SPB Mobile Shell.
On the user interface level, SPB Softwarehouse is doing a great job. One of the results is that SPB Mobile Shell v2.0 has been shipped on Acer, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba, O2, E-ten and Pharos devices. If I have a look at the great potential and eas of use of version 3.0 I think there is a good chance that some OEM’s (except for HTC) will embrace this application as the user-interface-solution.
With only HTC having a mature user-interface in the form of TouchFLO 3D, it’s self-evident that SPB Mobile Shell will be a must-have application for a lot of Windows Mobile users. I thinkthat SPB offers a fair price for the value you get from this application, and for current SPB Mobile Shell users, they offer an upgrade program.
The only minor point for improvement I can find is the relative large footprint / size in ROM of 4,87MB for the QVGA version and 7,70 MB for the VGA version.
Windows Mobile 6.5
“As a close partner of Microsoft and Windows Mobile device manufactures we had early access to Windows Mobile 6.5. Therefore, we kept it in mind when we were designed Spb Mobile Shell 3.0. As result Spb Mobile Shell 3.0 complements Windows Mobile 6.5 features without any conflicts.” [ref01]
So also on the medium- / long-term SPB Mobile Shell v3.0 is a good investment on your device. SPB software house always keeps surprising me with clever improvements, so keep up the good work building great software !!
Price and upgrade policy
The price has not changed with the new version. Spb Mobile Shell 3.0 will be available from www.spbsoftwarehouse.com for USD 29.95.
If you are an Spb Mobile Shell 2.x owner, you can upgrade to 3.0 for 50% off the retail price. If you purchased previous 2.x version within 90 days of the official release date – you are entitled to a free upgrade.
- SPB Softwarehouse: SPB Mobile Shell Additional Background Information
- SPB Softwarehouse: Work-Life Balance with Spb Mobile Shell 3.0: New Version of World’s Bestselling Mobile Application
- SPB Softwarehouse: SPB Mobile Shell Product Page