Spb Mobile Shell is one of my favorite applications on the Windows Mobile 6 Professional platform combined with Spb Pocket Plus it makes the UI and usage of the phone much easier. Allowing me to see and access the information on my phone that is important to me at a glance. Well the folks at Spb Software House have improved on the product even more with their latest version Spb Mobile Shell 2.0.
There are three main Panels in Spb Mobile shell as well as a Today screen plugin. The three main panels are the Now Screen, Spb Menu, and Speed Dial Panel. There is also a new way to interact with the panels and call them up as well that makes this program a joy to use.
Spb Mobile Shell 2.0 makes some improvements on the the previous version by making some updates to how the "Now Screen" operates. The Now Screen if you are not familiar with the product is the first screen you see when you turn on the device.
The Now screen is customizable in that you can change the color and from two different looks - Professional (on the left) and Classic(on the right). The layout of each is a bit different with the most notable being that the Professional has a digital clock and the has an analog clock, but the UI is also different. My personal favorite is the Professional, since it displays the information I need, yours may be different. Its good to have a choice!
Each of the screen has customizable settings to tailor its look and functions of the Now Screen under settings.
The Professional screen comes with the very top bar with a battery indicator, signal indicator, and cellular provider information. Beneath that is a larger iconed bar that displays the local weather, phone functions of new messages, text messages, missed calls, and also has a volume indicator. Tapping on each of these icons displays detailed information and controls of each.
The Classic has similar icons with a larger icon for battery and weather and depending on your preferred setup options the placement will vary with how you have configured the display of your upcoming appointments.
Tapping the weather icon brings up a new detailed Now screen with the weather for that day with the times of weather and temperatures for that day with a 5 day forecast for the week. Tapping on the subsequent day icons will bring up the detailed information. Selecting the settings gear allows you to set your local city.
Selecting the Volume icon will bring up a Profile screen to set the volume of your device, which is great when you entering a meeting or place where you need to quickly silence your phone.
The next bar on the Professional screen is the local time in nice easy to read numbers with the current date. Tapping on this icon brings up an even larger time, great for those over 40 who have macular degeneration or thickening of the cornea and need to extend the device away from their body in order to see it clearly will really appreciate this. This Time screen also shows your next alarms as well as time zones in three customizable cities.
The next bar is your next three appointments from your calendar or calendar for the current month. Depending on the number of appointments you have or how you configure it the amount of calendar you see will vary, so if you have no upcoming appointments you will see 3 weeks of the current month. Notice the picture is different from the one above.
The last row is new to Spb Mobile Shell 2.0 panel bar that has quick jump icons to jump between the different panels. One for launching applications called Spb Menu, One for quick dial by Picture ID from your contacts called the Speed Dial Panel, and Close. Some cool things I found when using the software is the ability to toggle between the three different panels via the soft keys on your device for quick on handed use. Pressing the left soft key advances the panels to the left and pressing the right soft key advances the panels to the right. You can also access the same Now screens by using the new kinetic interface by dragging your finger across the screen from left to right will bring you to the Picture ID contact screen, from right to left will bring you to the application launcher and if you keep going in either direction it will keep rotating through the screens. The way the screens and UI work are very similar to the HTC’s TouchFLO interface.
You can customize the kinetic animations in the settings menu under the Animation tab.
You can also access the Panels of Spb Mobile shell by making a gesture from the top of the Taskbar down with your finger or Stylus. This too is activated in the Settings of Spb Mobile Shell and is called taskbar smart gestures. Once the panels are on screen moving left or right will allow you to select and launch the panel if your remove your finger from the screen you will cancel the operation.
Spb Menu Panel
Spb Menu is a great program in itself and showcases some cool animation when launching the larger iconed buttons.
The smaller icons at the top are similar to the icons that appear on the Today screen with both pinned applications (you can pin an application in a position by tap and holding it- see picture above) and recently opened applications.
One of the icons is the screen brightness icons that is always there and it allows you change your screen brightness on the fly.
The larger icons bring up a large iconed list that allows you to easily launch programs in that category.These are customizable in the Spb Mobile Shell Settings->Advanced Tab->Menu Button. Here you can add remove items.
You can also choose the layout in either One by one list, Grid view (if you have alot of items), and choose whether to have the most used items first.
There is one for Spb Organizer that launches Spb Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Notes, and allows you to beam your contact information. Each item has a sub menu to allow you more granularity, but quickly and easily with out having to grab a stylus.
Here is the Spb Contacts that allows you to search your contacts by phone number or by name by using the touch screen keypad it searches both numbers and names (first or last).
The Calendar allows you to add a New Appointment, view Today, Tomorrow, This Week and This Month with a press of the screen or selection of the directional pad.
The same goes for Tasks that allows you create a New Task, view All Tasks, and view Active Tasks.
Notes allows you create a New Text Note, New Ink Note and to Show Notes.
Beam My Contact provides a simple way to beam your contact information to another user. It brings up my Contact and you select from Spb Contact what you want to set as your default contact or to select which contact you wish to beam. It then brings up Windows Mobile Beaming which turns on your IR and Bluetooth ports(if you have them) and proceeds to scan for devices to beam to and you just beam them the contact.
The large Internet icon allows you to launch your Favorites, History, Internet Explorer and Live Messenger.(This will vary depending on what you have installed on your device)
The large Multimedia icon allows you to launch Media Player, Camera, and Pictures. I added a few that I use regularly.
The Tools icon seems to integrate well with the Spb Pocket Plus I have installed that allows me to use the Task Manager, Soft Reset, Rotate Screen, and Theme picker from Spb Pocket Plus.
If you don't have Spb Pocket Plus you can change the theme in the settings of Spb Mobile Shell under the theme tab there is a drop down list of theme colors.
You also have a nice menu to Browse Files as well with quick links to My Device, My Documents, Storage Card and previous visited directories.
Speed Dial Panel
The Speed Dial Panel allows you to add up to sixteen photo contacts of your choice mine was auto-populated with Contacts from calls I made that were in my Call History.
Selecting the contact will bring up their contact information with their phone numbers and allows you to send off a quick sms text message or open their contact information for a more detailed view or to access another phone number if its isn't listed.
To edit the list a simple tap and hold on the contact will allow to remove, add, edit contacts as well as add a quick launch icon shortcut for Spb Contacts.
Spb Mobile Shell Today Screen Plugin
The Today Screen plugin consists up to six tabs that can be displayed on the Today screen from a predefined list of options. A nice feature is that you can hide the tab so it won't steal screen real estate when it isn't in use . When you press on tab it will open up the Today screen application and any quick launch short cuts to applications you add to it. Here are few that I placed in mine.
The Home Tab indicated by the battery % indicator brings up the same programs found in the top of Spb Menu of your pinned items and recently opened items.
The Alarm/Time Tab lets you see the 3 different time zones you selected and upcoming alarms. Here you can also add items to the bottom of the tab and change your preferred cities.
The Contact Picture ID allows you to place 5 of your most frequently called numbers and with this new version you can have more tabs of contacts than just the five. If press and hold on the contact you get a list of their numbers which you wish to call or set as the default indicated by a check mark by the number. I also added some icons to launch connection manager, phone, contacts and Internet Connection Sharing.
I added a Windows Live tab that utilizes the today screen plugin from Windows Live that allows me to toggle between Live Messenger, Live Mail, connect to Live Messenger and sync mail. I also added some items to the bottom of applications similar in nature that I use frequently.
I added a Windows Media Player tab from a Today screen plug in that allows me to control Windows Media player and view what is playing from the today screen as well as launch my media applications and applications that use it. I was also able to place some buttons on the tab to increase, decrease, and mute the volume.
The last tab is the weather tab, that allows you to quickly glance at weather on your today screen as well as see a four day forecast. You can also customize this tab. I was thinking of adding the Weather Channel and some satellite feed links to the bottom tab. To add items to any of the tabs, all you need to do is tap and hold and it will allow you to arrange items in the tabs as well as add items, files and folders.
You can customize the today screen tabs and soft keys in Settings to fit your personal needs. I had upgraded from Version 1 and found that none of my tabs are there in the Tab setting even if I added the tabs I already have. The only one that was there was Device Lock which I don't have in my tabs. Hopefully this will be fixed in an upcoming version.
Spb Mobile Shell 2.0 Features
- NEW! All functionality in one tabbed window
- NEW! Full screen dialogs for Weather and Time
- NEW! Animated transitions
- NEW! Contact cards
- NEW! Navigation with gestures
- NEW! Quick panel selection with taskbar gestures
- Now Screen: the most important information at one screen
- Spb Menu: phone style menu
- World time
- Weather forecast
- Photo speed dial
- Color based themes
- Spb Contacts: smart contact search
If you can't tell this program is great, hopefully the will come out with a Windows Standard version that allows you to customize Smartphones like SBSH's Facade. This is a one of those must have programs for Windows Mobile 6 Professional owners paired with Spb's Pocket Plus it makes for a great user experience that I wish was inherent in the UI of Windows Mobile and now I have it!
I think its amazing that the folks at Spb were able to add functionality as well as reducing the memory consumption of the first version by about a half. If you have the previous version you can upgrade at 50% off the retail price. If you purchased a 1.x version within the last 90 days, you are eligible for a free upgrade. If you are new to purchasing you have 30 days no questions asked refund of your money if you aren't satisfied with the product.There is currently a special offer for Spb Mobile Shell for $6 off at Handango here so you get it for $23.95.
For more information and for other reviews by others in the community head here. Also check out Matt Coddington of Pocket PC Louisville's video review of it here as well as Arne Hess of unwired's review here.